ST. CATHARINES, Ont. – Tommy Baker never wanted to be a truck driver. Not really, anyway.
Before getting behind the wheel of his purple dump truck, Baker first decided to pursue a career in professional ice hockey because playing was a hobby he enjoyed growing up. He played for the greater part of his life and though he was talented, he went undrafted. Baker then decided to go to college to become a police officer – but that wasn’t in the cards for him either. He finished his program and didn’t want to waste his time because of how tough it is to get in, even after graduation.
It wasn’t until his father Billy, a veteran in the transportation industry, parked a practically brand new truck in the driveway just as Baker was coming home from school four years ago that he even considered a career in trucking.
“That day I came home and the truck was in the driveway and I happened to walk by it and he had my name on the door and I kind of smirked,” he recalled. “That was his way of taunting me into doing this.”
He finished up the remainder of his classes at college and then set out in the truck like his father had wanted.
Tommy Baker has been driving truck for four years, doing local work at construction sites between Toronto and Niagara. This year, at only 23 years old, Baker made the Shell Rotella SuperRigs calendar – something his own father accomplished when he himself was the same age.
“I never thought that my truck would compete at a show like this because guys have money dumped into their trucks and mine is in and out of the dirt everyday,” said Baker of his 2006 Peterbilt. “I’m not going to lie, I have one of the best looking trucks in the area, but I never thought it was show-worthy.”
Baker said showing was more of what his father was into and that it was something he never thought about until he was approached by Shell.
“My dad is kind of like an icon in the show circuit,” he said. “He’s always been a truck fanatic and it’s been his passion his whole life. He’s built a few sweet trucks over the years. He showed his one truck he’s had for 35 years all over North America. He’s won best truck and I remember going to shows with him growing up.”
Baker said he was proud and humbled to be featured in the calendar this year and that he might work towards winning in the future.
“It felt really good to make the calendar. Coincidence was my dad his first time on the calendar was when he was 23, too. He was on it again in ’99. So I might have to do again to keep up with him.”
Baker is still a truck driver at the company that is in his name – Tommy Baker Trucking – in St. Catharines, Ont. where Baker’s father is president (who is semi-retired, joked Baker), but that may change in the near future.
“My dad sticks around a lot but I try to run as much as I can but he’s always around and he’s always there for me,” said Baker. “He doesn’t want me to make the same mistakes he did. He’s still around and enjoying it. But soon, I think, in a couple years I’ll want to take over and give him the retirement he deserves.”
Though it was never something he considered, Baker said his career choice is something he’s happy with doing while he’s still so young even if his peers don’t see the benefits of working in the industry.
“There aren’t a lot of young drivers,” he said. “A lot of drivers get their license in their mid- to late twenties and early thirties. For me, I grew up around it so it’s been in my life for all these years so that’s what persuaded me to get into it. A lot of guys my age don’t see it as being a good job or they think it’s too much of an inconvenience for them to learn how to drive a truck properly and want to do it. I’d like to see more people my age do it. Everyone thinks I just sit in a truck and drive all day but of course it’s not just that. Mentally, it’s exhausting. Maybe people don’t view it as a hard or challenging job.
“I’ve always been brought up with my dad and to take pride in trucking and I’m sure it’s stereotyped as truckers are guys who wear track pants and have long, scraggly hair and are grubby people and yeah, there are those people but there’s also many well-dressed men and women that take pride in it and dress the same way they’d go to the office.”
You can watch the video Shell put together about Baker and his father, Billy here:
Sonia Straface is the associate editor of Truck News and Truck West magazines. She graduated from Ryerson University's journalism program in 2013 and enjoys writing about health and wellness and HR issues surrounding the transportation industry. Follow her on Twitter: @SoniaStraface. All posts by Sonia Straface