As the great Paul Harvey used to say, “And now the rest of the story…” I had a dream, a dream I had held for many years, and that dream was to drive a truck. Not just any truck, but a big truck, the alpha male of the highway, so to speak. But was this dream possible. Finances were really tight and the training was over $6000! Something that just wasn’t possible. But I had heard that there was government support available to the right people and so I applied. I went through the consultation process and left without a solid answer. A few days later my councillor called me back and told me that although she didn’t have full confidence in my commitment (which I assured her she was mistaken), she was approving my funding in the amount of 75% of the cost of the course. My cost now was just over $1500. And while that amount was still hard to arrange, it was possible!
My first hurdle was my written test, and so I went to write it. Writing it was kind of a misnomer because the test is taken on a computer. When I went for the test, the computer asks you questions and if you get too many wrong, the test stops. Unfortunately the first time I took the test the test ended before I had completed it and I had failed! Failing tests was something I wasn’t familiar with because I had never failed a test previously! Something else I had never done before was cram (or study) for a test, but now I had to! I needed to get my beginners license the next day, and so I stayed up most of the night taking the test over and over again on my personal computer until I had studied like I had never studied before.
In the morning, extremely nervous, I headed back in to take my written test again. I sat down and began to answer questions and about 3/4 of the way through, the screen went blank again and the test stopped. I figured I had failed again, but this time the computer stopped the test early because I had done so well that with the remaining questions left, I couldn’t fail even if I got them all wrong. I had passed, I was now a beginner truck driver.
A couple of days later I was off to my first day of eight weeks of training. The full day course consisted of 1/2 day classroom and 1/2 day in the truck. The truck had an extra seat installed in the sleeper that allowed two trainees and a trainer. Classroom was pretty basic teaching us logbooks, procedures, rules of the road, etc but getting behind the wheel was unique. I figured I had an advantage because I had driven manual shift vehicles for most of my driving experience, but I soon learned differently.
Aside from starting and stopping, the clutch is rarely used in semi-trucks and I found out pretty quickly that my trainer didn’t appreciate my continued use of the clutch. At one point he told me that if I didn’t stay off the clutch, he would staple my foot to the floor. It worked for the most part but my shifting was far from smooth. The first day we spent in a parking lot with no trailer, going back and forth just to get use to the feel of the truck. The next day we added a trailer to the mix and were taken to a quiet highway and I took over the wheel. The road was so narrow I couldn’t believe it was wide enough for me, let alone any other vehicles around me. We crossed narrow bridges that meant (in my mind) that I had to drive down the middle of the road, and we went around curves that we no where near large enough for my truck. All this at a maximum comfortable speed of about 60km/hr (35mph)! I just couldn’t go any faster and feel safe.
Its amazing though that after less than a week, that highway suddenly felt much wider and the bridges and curves had much more room and I was cruising along at 90km/hr (55mph)! I was also doing turns in the city with traffic all around me, avoiding scuffing the tires on the curbs, and learning where the trailer was going to go as I made the turns. Although I was behind the wheel of a semi-truck, I wasn’t a truck driver yet.
After about six-weeks of training, my instructor felt I was ready to challenge my test, and while I wasn’t as confident as he was, I took his advice. On the day of my test I was supposed to be he second in our class to take the test that morning, but the person going first had a small issue on the truck that needed to be repaired, and so without much warning, I was moved up by about an hour and my test began. I don’t know how long my test took, but it seemed like an eternity. My shifting was rough but everything else was going well. My dock backing was completed and as I went to pull away from the “dock” I put my truck into reverse instead of first, but quickly realized before I had done any damage. I returned to my starting point and the tester told me that while my shifting was rough and needed improvement, and aside from a couple of other minor issues, I had passed my test and had my truck drivers license! I was a truck driver, NOT!
I still had a lot to learn, but I immediately contacted a large number of trucking companies, and amazingly I was offered a job the next day. They would wait until I had completed the remainder of my eight weeks of training, but I had a job. Eventually I was put into a truck with a trainer and went for my first trip. We went through into the states and took a load to Baltimore, MD then back up through Toronto, ON to Calgary, AB and ultimately back to Winnipeg, MB. Aside from the first day and the trip through Chicago, IL, I drove most of the trip with the trainer in the passenger seat. I knew I still had much to learn, but I felt more confident with each passing mile.
After a few days off, I was rolling again, this time in a truck by myself, but with three other trucks from the same company. We were heading off to Laredo, TX which felt like another world to me! We went through a major snowstorm in Nebraska and Kansas which was intimidating but exhilarating too! I made it safely, unloaded and reloaded to head back to Mississaugua, ON all by myself. GPS and maps ready, I made that trip safely and eventually got back home. In the two years I worked for that company, I drove through 38 US states, 6 Canadian provinces, through the Rocky Mountains a number of times, and to Texas, Arizona, and California too many times to count. It was wonderful to see the countries, but I really didn’t get to enjoy it except for through the windshield,
As you should know by now, things went badly for me in July 2011 and I ended up losing that job. I have regrets, but it also allowed me to branch out and explore other trucking jobs. I hauled bulk liquids for a couple of years, including dangerous good in super b tankers, and for the last four years have been hauling grain and fertilizers in super b hopper bottoms.
I’m living my dream, is it easy? No! But its a dream I had for many years, and fulfilling it made me very happy. Live your dreams, enjoy what you do, and make the most out of every day.
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The Great Controversy Ended :
The Great Controversy gives a startling overview of the mighty conflict between Christ and Satan from its origins in heaven thousands of years ago to its conclusion on earth in the days just ahead of us. This still-timely book reveals how God will ultimately rid the universe of evil and make all things new.