ALBERT LEA, Minn. – Deep in the heart of Minnesota, two Manitoba truck drivers have brought their rigs to the Shell Rotella SuperRigs show to take part in a competition that honors the best of the best in truck transportation.
Barry Kasdorf has been a driver for 17 years with Jade Transport out of Winnipeg, Man., and hopes to repeat his success of 10 years ago, when he made the Shell Rotella calendar after attending SuperRigs in Oak Grove, Mo.
Kasdorf has a love affair with trucks and truck driving, one that was sidelined in 2013 after he suffered a health issue that required cardiac surgery, halting his driving career, but revealing an opportunity that he otherwise would never have had the chance to explore.
In Canada, as Kasdorf explained, any Class 1 driver who goes through a cardiac procedure has their license suspended for a period of three months. Only after their doctor informs their insurer that they are fit to drive can the driver get back behind the wheel.
During this period, Jade moved Kasdorf to a dispatch position, one that was supposed to last for just three months, but turned into a two-year stint.
It was during this time that Kasdorf gained a better understanding and appreciation of the job of a dispatcher.
“Everyone should spend at least a week or two in there to better understand why a dispatch does what they do,” said Kasdorf. “A lot of drivers think they’re picking on them…no they’re not. They’re trying to make it efficient.”
During his time away from driving, Kasdorf also entered a program with the Reh-Fit Centre, where he learned healthier eating habits to hopefully avoid similar future cardiac issues.
On the technology front, Kasdorf spends the majority of his time in the U.S. and is well-versed in how to use electronic logging devices (ELDs). He was one of the first drivers with Jade to start using the device.
“I consider myself to be an old-dog, so if I can adapt, almost anybody can,” he said. “There’re changes in everything…it’s just a matter of rolling with it and if you’re going to fight it, you’re just going to get frustrated.”
Kasdorf said planning ahead has never been more important for truck drivers and there will certainly be a learning curve for both drivers and dispatchers once ELDs are mandated in Canada.
“Everybody says with ELDs that they can’t get here or there…well, to me you just didn’t plan ahead,” he said. “With the ELD you need to plan more than you did before.”
As for his hopes at SuperRigs, Kasdorf said the key to keeping up the appearance of his truck is to be on top of it every week when it comes to washing and polishing.
The event is a special one for Kasdorf, who sees a lot of familiar faces when he attends the SuperRigs shows.
“Once you’ve done it for a while it almost becomes like a family gathering,” said Kasdorf. “And when you don’t show up, guys are asking, ‘Where is he?’”
Another Winnipeg-based driver, Jay Palachuk, has brought his 1996 Kenworth, with all of its 2.5 million miles, to be judged in the SuperRigs competition.
Palachuk doesn’t come from a trucking family, and attributes his love of the industry to his sister’s boyfriend who taught him everything he knows about trucking.
“He taught me everything I needed to know about trucking and that’s why I’m here today, because he taught me the right way,” said Palachuk. “I’m a first-generation truck driver…it’s not a family business or anything like that. I was young, needed a job and unemployment said, ‘How would you like to drive a truck? We’ll send you to school.’ Don’t ask me why I love trucking, because I have no background in it or anything.”
Launching his career in 1979, Palachuk bought his Kenworth from Krenkevich, the company he hauls for, in 1999 when it had tallied a mere 1,500 miles.
Like Kasdorf, there’s nowhere Palachuk would rather be than behind the wheel of his rig. He loves to see a nice truck, a sentiment he believes is rare these days, particularly with young people.
But there are exceptions.
Palachuk purchased his first truck from a friend whose son is now 25 years old, and is dedicated to the trucking industry.
“He’s 25 and he has a really big trucking heart,” said Palachuk. “You don’t see that today. Everybody just wants into this for a paycheck. I want a paycheck, don’t get me wrong, but I still love the truck. I couldn’t do this if I didn’t love the truck…what would be the point of going to work if you didn’t love what you are doing?”
Palachuk believes the industry needs to go much further when it comes to how it trains new drivers, and said mandatory entry-level training programs in Canada don’t go far enough.
“When I came out of school, I had my license but I didn’t know how to drive,” Palachuk said, again recognizing the influence his sister’s boyfriend had on his career. “I wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for him.”
And now, he is hooked on truck driving.
“As long as I can,” Palachuk said of how long he intends to continue driving. “I like a nice truck.”
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