Rookie Lady places Third!

I watched Kelly weave her way through the serpentine, not with ease but with a competence that impressed me.

Every year there’s usually a rookie or two in the Manitoba Truck Driving Championships. This year there was 9. Almost a third of the field was made up of rookies. Unless they’ve had great instruction and read the rules package very closely, it’s tough being a rookie. The course is designed to make inches cost you your shot at a podium finish. It can be quite daunting to see the course for the first time. We are led on a walk through before competition but it looks very different from behind the windshield.

I try to take time to talk to some of the rookies before the day starts as well as during it to try and help them. Those that I’ve talked to I watch with great interest to see how they perform under pressure.

I didn’t meet Kelly M. before she was on the track but I knew that she was a rookie and she had a great mentor who was competing in my class. I had a couple minutes to watch so I got to see her in the serpentine. The serpentine is made of 3 barrels in a row. You drive past all barrels and then reverse through them, weaving in and out. You have to back up far enough so when you go forward again you can weave through them again, just on the opposite side. Sound easy? Not so much! Why was I impressed with Kelly? Firstly, she was a rookie. Backing up and weaving around obstacles is not part of your daily recommended routine. Secondly, she wasn’t in her own truck (you never drive your own, trucks are supplied and everyone in your class uses the same truck, or a twin to it). Thirdly, she was driving a straight truck (a city type truck with a box on the back, only 2 axles total, no hitches) which reacts very differently from her normal semi. Fourthly, it was a tight course and a judge told me later that no one made it through without some sort of issue.

I wasn’t able to see her on the rest of the course but I had a good feeling that she would perform well. At lunch time I looked for her and told her that I was impressed with her serpentine. She was surprised, thinking that she hadn’t done that well but I assured her that she had.

After the competition we go to a semi-formal banquet where awards for first to third in each class, grand champion, team winners, as well as other industry awards are given out.

I wasn’t surprised that Kelly won third place in Straight Truck Class.

Let me emphasize how huge this was. Kelly, a rookie, woman driver won third place! This is the FIRST time in Manitoba history that a woman has made it into the top three in ANY class.

To say I was excited was an understatement. I was so happy for her.

She is a huge credit to her employer, Bison Transport. She’s exactly who we need more of in our industry.

Congrats Kelly!  

Typist to Trucker!

Daniel
Daniel (Strubes) Strubhar

Here’s an example of busting the image of a regular truck driver!

I have known Daniel (Strubes) Strubhar for decades. When I heard he was going to become a truck driver I thought I had heard wrong. Throughout his training and early driving career I still wondered if it was all a dream. I knew he liked driving and I had no worries about his skill; I just had a hard time picturing him fitting in with most drivers. Apparently it was a dream, his dream.

Here’s his story in his own words. Enjoy!

“After working in offices for give-or-take 25 years, I have been driving truck now for the last 3 years – took my driver training at 59 years old. I still think of myself as an office person who drives a truck, don’t actually feel like a “trucker,” and apparently – as I’ve been told several times – I don’t look like a trucker! Yet – much of the time I do enjoy driving, and it is nice getting to see, and get a feel for, areas of the US and Canada that otherwise would be unknowns.

Why did I switch to trucking? In all honesty, it was that I needed more income – that proverbial “bottom line.” Even though I have a bit of the explorer in me, I also have no problem with a 7′ x 7′ office cubicle, so it wasn’t “to get out of the office!” But the reason will be different for different people – that was mine.

How did I find the learning curve and the adjustment to trucking life? It was not easy, actually – the trucking world can have the stereotypical rough, harsh side.  However – there’s no reason anyone has to become anything other than what they are! Most of the time you are by yourself, so you are free to set the tone and tenor of your job however you wish.

What pointers would I have for anyone going into trucking? Here are a few, just based on my limited experience so far:

1) Treat the job with professional respect. Don’t think it’s just getting behind the wheel of the truck and driving into the sunset! It is actually a skilled profession – and treating it like that will allow you to be successful as a driver. Do a good job. And don’t think you’re going to get away from computers! My truck’s onboard computer is an essential part of my job. Learn to use it properly.

2) Don’t get discouraged with the learning curve. I read that it takes 5 years before the job has thrown you pretty much all the curves it has! Every mistake you make, every time you bump something, bend something – and nobody gets by without any errors – should be considered as just steps in the learning process. Try not to make mistakes of course – be teachable – but above all, try not to make the same mistake twice!

3) Never be in a hurry. You’re not in any marathon, it’s more important to be safe than anything else. (Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.)

4) Always keep a good attitude – toward your fellow drivers and your company (including your dispatch). It’s a job with many aspects that are going to be totally beyond your control. Find something useful to do with down-time – there will be some, and sometimes a lot! Learn to sit back and be a bit philosophical and/or see the humor in the situation, instead of getting uptight! Being uptight and stressed accomplishes nothing, and can make your job miserable unnecessarily.

5) Don’t let yourself be pushed by anyone into doing anything that you feel is unsafe, and don’t feel that you have to work and work with no break! Ask for regular home time – the truck is not your life, give your family, your friends and yourself the time that all of you need. Despite a truck driver’s often erratic schedule, he/she needs a life independent of the job, as much like everyone else as possible. Use technology, get a good unlimited phone/text/data plan, and keep in contact – just keep it hands-free!

Good success!”

Driven to succeed

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“IDK if you want to mention I’m a cancer survivor or not.”

 

After a long telephone interview Angela Price sent me this message. I was blown away. Angela is a newer truck driver with just over a year of experience. Her road to trucking was definitely not like many the veterans complain about. She did not go from driving a small car to a semi in a short 6-week course at a questionable school.

Life has presented her with enough challenges that surviving cancer wasn’t something that came up right away. This self-proclaimed Country Girl has done many things in her life so far. She’s raised a child who’s now a university student, done bylaw enforcement, casino security, card dealer, just to name a few of her jobs. Angela has done what’s needed to provide for her family.

She was looking for a change in her life and after having been a “co-pilot” with a trucker friend occasionally, she decided to try trucking. MicroSkills accepted her resume from a long list that included an aptitude test and started her with some courses.

Here’s where it gets interesting. Do you think you have a challenge?

No money for heat in her house. No running water. Barely able to get to school. Would you give up yet? There’s more. After seven or eight weeks of courses, the funding dried up. No money to continue into practical training. Angela bears no ill will, it was just a fluke that at the time she was taking her courses the money wasn’t there to finish.

Angela heard of Ontario Truck Training Academy where Yvette Lagrois could possibly find money to help. Lagrois was able to work a miracle for Angela to continue her schooling.

Yvette had this to say “Angela has the spit and vinegar to be successful in this industry. She decided to succeed ahead of time, this put her in the headspace needed for the transportation industry. It’s critical that people choose trucking and understand the jobs that they will likely be doing upon graduation. That allowed for her to concentrate on what we were requiring her to do, to listen, to demonstrate and think independently. We are very proud of Angela. We are a school that will work hard to find funding for those that are good for trucking, to OTTA this is how government funded should work.”

There’s no question that Angela was focused on becoming a truck driver. From the time she started the process until she was driving a truck for pay was over 2 years! Many people don’t survive competing for funding, not to mention her own personal trials on the way. When asked if she would do it again there was no hesitation in her willingness to do it all over.

Angela is thankful for her mentors and friends Kaelin and Joanne Mackenzie (current Trucker of the Year) and the schools for her training. “School is important. It really helped me with city driving because I’m a country girl.” “I use what I learned in school everyday…”

Angela also has a trait common to many women drivers, but sometimes too uncommon for rookies. She’s not interested in driving unsafe equipment or bending the rules. Even if it means losing a job she enjoys. Angela got her current job at Ajax Auto Wreckers by just walking in off the street and applying. Fortunately, her future boss sensed she had a positive attitude and had just got a new 2016 Kenworth and put her in it. She enjoys hauling scrap and her boss treats her very well but it can be very demanding on her time.  

Trucking can present some challenges on the home front and even though she is a local driver it still affects her. The hours can be variable so it’s tough on relationships and planning things together. On the other hand Angela says this I would like to say that it has also been good for my family life. My daughter loves to be my co pilot when she can. It has given us hours of one on one conversation and she also has a better understanding about commercial driving and the difficulties and dangers of careless passenger cars. I think it should be a requirement that all passenger car driving applicants spend a few hours as a passenger in a Class 8 truck before they write their G, or class 5 license.”

Away from the truck Angela enjoys spending as much time as possible outside. Follow her on Twitter @skinnybitch_ang and you’ll see posts of her with family and friends fishing, swimming, camping and geocaching.

 

When asked what she loves about trucking she said, as a true country girl, “I love the sunrises”. She went on to say that she loves it all. She loves being a trucker. There’s no doubt in my mind that she will succeed and be a tremendous asset to the trucking industry.