On Thick Ice

written by David K. Henry

  “Four North on 49, last one is wide”

  “Ok, Convoy we have a wet spot right after the portage and security is making sure we’re staying at 10, then we’ll be back to 25 at the half K sign. Keep your spacing in the slow zone”

  The instructions over the radio sound like a convoy operating with military precision, and it is that very thing. Mine resupply in Canada’s Arctic is an operation that lasts approximately 2 months in late winter. It is busy, closely monitored, and has no room for error. About 85% of the “road” itself is floating on water, with anywhere from 500 to 800 trucks cruising on top; the main stretch is 400 kilometres long branching out in spurs to various mines.

  This is extreme trucking that few in the world get to experience. And it is essential to the economy in Yellowknife and the survival of the mines.

  Every year since 1982 a road has built over ice-covered water to bring supplies northward. It’s been there so long it is even found on most Global Positioning Systems. The route can change a little from one year to the next but usually not by much. Once established it will support anywhere from 3,500 to almost 11,000 loads in a single season.

  The skills needed to drive the route are familiar, but a demand to closely follow the rules is exacting. Some experienced drivers arrive in the north with a cocky outlook. Before you know it, they head home for good. The next driver may be a rookie with very little experience who takes to the job and returns for many successful years.

  The pioneers of this road, and the ones in charge, have tested and proven what works safely. If you follow instructions from your convoy leader you are less likely to make a mistake that will lead to a warning or suspension.

Long hours, little wiggle room

  You must drive for up to 7 hours with no breaks; all at 25 kph. When loaded northbound you must slow to 10 kph when you go on and off the ice and follow the speed limit religiously. Any deviance from the posted numbers will land you in hot water, which is not good if you want an ice road career. 27 in a 25, or 15 going on or off the ice will net you a 5-day suspension and loss of a safety bonus. There is very little wiggle room and for good reason. A ‘blowout’, where the ice cracks and water flows up onto the ice, caused by speeding or unsafe actions can shut a road down to really slow speeds, or in the worst case, the closing of the road for the season.

  All loaded northbound trucks are dispatched from Yellowknife in convoys every 20 minutes. A convoy consists of at least 2, but usually 4 trucks. The first 70 km is on a narrow territorial road that twists and leaps over and around small hills. Drivers are required to stay 1 km apart from each other so you rely on the leader calling out the mileage markers and gauging where you are in relation to that. You will have security patrolling that road and watching for speed and spacing.

  Try to imagine that challenge. Narrow road. Each truck with different weights. Twists in the road only allow for the occasional glimpse of the truck ahead. Convoy leaders calling out locations. Maintain your speed and spacing. It doesn’t matter if you’re perfect for 69 km; if you slip up in the wrong place you could end up in the ditch or getting suspended by the ever-watchful security teams.

  Some people can’t handle the boredom. Hour after hour of avoiding cracks in the ice, straining to see through the blowing snow, hoping your truck doesn’t die in the -40C, or need a regen, takes it toll. Speed and spacing is the mantra. Follow the speed religiously and keep 500 metres away from the truck in front. Security is everywhere and listening on the radio. They’re in a pickup so they can travel much faster than you. It makes it seem like they’re everywhere.

  You do this for 60 days straight. Legally allowed 16 hours on duty per day, it is exhausting. No days off required. Yes, that’s 112 hours per week! You get to the point that you want a road closure to get some extra rest or you voluntarily take a day off in Yellowknife.

Solitude, yet closeness. 

  Constantly in a convoy with at least one other person, except in special circumstances. The solitude, yet closeness to the same people can cause some to crack. No foul language, harassment or bullying of any kind,is tolerated whether from drivers or security or other workers. People who act like that are quickly weeded out.

  During the season you’ll probably spend some quality time stranded on a portage in a howling blizzard, trying to keep warm and hoping you don’t have a case of diarrhea. (There are only 2 areas that have “bathrooms”) Cooking in a small area, no room for exercise, no one to talk to, except by radio which is constantly monitored by the authorities and hoping the truck keeps pumping heat and that you’ll have enough fuel to get to the next fuel stop. It is nerve-wracking.

  The fear of plunging through the ice is hard for some to manage. This is despite the fact that no resupply truck has ever gone through the ice into the lake below.  An ice worker vehicle has, but never the resupply trucks. It’s an amazing safety record for the Joint Ventures who manage the road. Still, many drivers have gone home early, never able to get over the tension.

  A good portion of the road is above the treeline so it is like a barren moonscape. Harsh, but beautiful. It’s wonderful to see the animals roaming, or flying around. Here the authorities are extremely strict. All of the land belongs to the natives and nature is king. If you throw a breadcrumb out the window to feed an animal you will be immediately sent home and banned for life. It’s the most important rule. Leave the land as you found it. The parking areas and the roads get scraped at the end of the season and disposed of in a safe manner. The same portage, or land crossings are the same ones every year and are quite narrow. No more land is crossed than is absolutely necessary. You are never allowed to approach wildlife, or honk your horn to get them to move. Burial grounds are gone around at slow speeds to respect the ancestors.

Road work

 Construction of the ice road starts as soon as there is enough ice to support an amphibious vehicle that maps the thicknesses of the ice using ground penetrating radar. These radar sleds are towed up and down the ice constantly until the season is practically over. This data is used to determine the weights allowed and where ice needs to be made better or thicker.

  In an area of poor or thin ice, a crew will go out with a truck-mounted auger. Usually they set up in the middle of the 150’ wide road and drill holes several yards apart. Others in the crew take special water pumps and suck water from the hole. Like flooding a backyard rink, they pump water over the ice, one side at a time. Traffic will pass by at 10 kph on the dry side. There are many crews constantly repairing the road 24/7. It’s a great system and they do a tremendous job, all at temperatures that would frighten most sane people.

  On any large body of water, pressure ridges can rise up and form as the ice freezes. This is where ice pushes together forming an impassable peak. The crews work hard to reinforce the ridges and shave them with graders. Traffic here can be reduced to 5 kph on a bad one. On rare occasions the road will have to go out of the planned route to find a better place to cross the ridge.

  Everyone sees the toll that heavy vehicles take on the roads made of cement and asphalt or stone. It’s no different on the ice. A loaded truck will cause the ice to deflect up to  3”, creating a wave effect. Have ever watched a train at a crossing and felt the road move up and down and the rails flexing? It is the same idea on the ice, except the “solid” roadbed is a minimum of 39” of ice. The approaches to portages are rarely straight in, but rather curved to allow the wave to dissipate away from where you need to land. All of this flexing also causes cracks in the ice. These cracks can swallow a tire if you’re not careful so you watch to avoid damaging your equipment.

  Sometimes as you’re passing near a crack, the flexing causes a snowball, or soccer ball to pop up and skid across the ice. These chunks can literally be as big as basketballs and if they haven’t broken totally free, can present a real hazard. The ice workers highlight them with reflective paint so they’re easier to see. If you’re sleepy and one fires up under your truck you will certainly sit up a little straighter for a few minutes!

Keep moving

  There are no special trucks for up here. Each trailer is loaded to the maximum allowable, either by weight or space. A super B unit on the ice with full weight allowable can be permitted to 67,000 kgs (3.5 tonnes more than most jurisdictions). Every vehicle must be stocked with emergency rations, spill kits, and have a working VHF radio. Extra insulation and belly tarps are used to try and keep the cold out.

  One main rule is to never shut off your engine. If you are in Yellowknife fueling, you can to check oil, but the hard rule is to leave your truck running. At -40 or -50, it doesn’t take long for it to freeze and not restart. No one wants to take the risk of freezing, while trying to re-fire a truck.

  At the end of the season you feel relief and may swear you’ll never come back. If you’ve made it the whole season with no suspensions or incidents you’ll walk a little prouder. But just making it is an accomplishment no matter what. The bonds with the other drivers is never forgotten and will continue when you go back home.

  It’s brutally tough, monotonous, frigidly cold like you’ve never seen before, rules strict beyond belief and the pay is decent.

  Don’t worry, you’ll come back for another “last” year just to do it all over again.

 This article was in the February 2017 issue of Today’s Trucking. 

Special Olympics and Injury



Another week is coming to a close and I have some time to reflect on a couple different topics.

Saturday Sept. 10th is the annual World’s Largest Truck Convoy benefitting Special Olympics. Truckers across North America get together for the Convoy in their own jurisdictions on the same day. Manitoba is usually one of the largest in North America with over 200 trucks. The spectacle of them lined up and then parading around the Winnipeg Perimeter is amazing. Police and Law Enforcement block off the route so we can travel without interference. As a long time driver, this is lots of fun! There’s lots of air horns blowing, shiny chrome, cool paint jobs and kids of all ages watching.

The connections we make with the athletes is what it’s all about. One of them who I took on the Convoy a few years ago, texts me almost every day. She’s amazing and I love helping support her and her fellow competitors. They love what they do and really appreciate our help.

I have many T-shirts from different functions and the Convoy shirts and hoodies are ones that get many comments and interest from people who see it. They’re also the ones I have the most pride in wearing.

Contact me if you want to help with any size of donation to a worthy cause.   


Summer is almost over! Seems like only yesterday I was planting corn and hoping for good weather. Kids are back in school, nights are getting cooler and it’s time to prepare the ground for next year’s crop. Wait, I have no kids in high school this year! Crazy, it’s not just the summer flying by I guess.

Every year we lose more of our older generation, but this year I’ve seen more people I know, who are younger, or close in age to me, who are no longer with us.

I haven’t said much about this, but I thought May 10th was going to be my last day. I fell off a load in the rain and landed on the back of my head. I don’t recommend it. It was my 4th major concussion and I had no idea why I survived. I’ve had some injuries in my lifetime and the worst by far is a head injury. Head injuries aren’t easy to talk about and here I am 4 months later just going public now. I still won’t say much though, except this; There’s never a time to give up. We get stronger, more resilient, caring and empathetic when we battle through what we’ve been handed. Life isn’t easy. Some deal with injuries, others with sickness, whatever the case, don’t give up. Train yourself to keep moving forward so when bad situations arise you only know how to keep forging ahead.

I don’t know any other way but forward. It’s what I’ve been taught and learned in my life. I’m thankful for my family and friends and for my boss at LCG Equipment who care that I heal properly. Week by week the fogginess in my brain is clearing. I’ll also give a special shout out to John G, Editor at Today’s Trucking for being patient as I continue to try to write coherent sentences for him.

I’m alive. I’ve avoided death once more. Here’s why I’m still alive; To give hope to others in tough places. To be here for my family who need me, warts and all. To prove that giving up is no way to live.
Off like a herd of turtles…

Ice Roads in Reality


  • Ice gets thicker the more you drive on it. As you drive over the ice, it’s pushed down into the water through the air pocket. After you pass and the ice flexes back up the water freezes to the ice, creating a thicker ice road. Hence we start out with light loads and work up to very heavy loads as the ice thickens. It’s also not like testing ice when you were kids… “Randy, go out on the ice, I’m sure its ok”. If Randy disappears we know it’s not good enough. He was expendable anyway. (just kidding, we all made it home… sometimes we were still dry)
  • Different coloured ice. I never really noticed ice having so many vivid colours. My favourite was a very bright blue. Some of the transitions to another colour were as abrupt as a 3 year old getting his toy taken away.
  • It was easy on my truck. Yeah, I know, how can -40 be easy on my truck? Obviously my brain didn’t get close enough to a heat source right? Let me explain. I drive the Canadian Prairies in the winter where -40, especially this year, is not uncommon. On a regular highway I bounce along like Tigger at 100kph pulling up to 137,500 pounds. Canadian roads are not smooth (bet you didn’t know that! ;-(  ). North of Yellowknife on the territorial highway, the fastest I went was 70 kph. Loaded, on the lakes, the max was 30 kph. The road was usually glassy smooth. So, slower speeds + smoother roads = happier “Honk Honk”.
  • Give a guy a radio and lead spot in the convoy and suddenly he becomes a play by play announcer. “Watch out for the hill… rock beside the trail… 4 wheeler coming atcha… speed changes to 10 kph here…” Good gracious Nellie! I can read signs that say “Hill ahead, increase speed”. I also drive with my eyes open and I can spot rocks, speed signs and sometimes even other vehicles! Take your hand off the mic button… PLEASE!!!
  • They “freeze” the gravel roads. Silly me, I thought the roads were already frozen. Pretty tough roads eh? It’s -40 and the roads aren’t frozen? What they mean is they water all of the gravel roads to make them a sheet of ice which can be maintained better. Actually works great. Unlike Torontonians, they know how to drive on ice. A little sand or stone chips is all they need. No one is in a big hurry to go anywhere anyway.
  • I’m in awe of the natural beauty up there. It’s a very harsh climate, and surprisingly, it really impressed me. It’s a different kind if beauty than the mountains, trees and rivers that I’m normally attracted to. Watching caribou graze above the treeline, ravens floating effortlessly through the air beside your truck and little foxes scurrying around the scrub brush was simply amazing. How they survive is beyond my comprehension.

It would take too much time to describe being on the Ice Roads (Tibbitt to Contwoyto), but the most surprising thing to me was that it wasn’t all about working hard in a tough environment… I enjoyed it more than I expected! I can better understand why people work, and stay up there.

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 (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!”

CTM Truck and Bike Show June 4 2016

I attended the CTM Truck and Bike Show at the Red River Ex Grounds on Saturday. It was a great show!

Dave Mackenzie and his gang of diehard supporters put on a show that continues to get better every year.  While it wasn’t an overwhelmingly crowded event, the attendance was consistent and steady throughout the day.

Representatives of several trucking companies were there along with several different suppliers and some unique vendors, such as a gentleman who makes amazing wooden models.  Several enthusiastic rockin’ bands provided music that appealed to many interests.

Every Mackenzie-run production requires something special, so Big Daddy Tazz MC’d the event, Chrome and Steel Radio was there and Marc Springer from Shipping Wars brought his larger-than-life personality. Fionn MacCools sponsored a chicken wing eating contest, Champion Towing flipped a full semi from its’ side back onto its’ wheels and several amazing local bobtails showed their shiny sides.

It was an enjoyable, affordable show with a good grassroots feel to it.

Kudos to Dave Mackenzie who is a tireless and enthusiastic supporter of trucking.

The digital version of his magazine is at www.canadiantruckingmagazine.ca or find one in your local truck stop after the 15th of every month. Check it out!


Driven to succeed



“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.


Dream BIG or lay low!

I have some big ideas and plans for this new blog. I hope that someday I’ll look back and be amazed at where it all began.

I believe in mentorship as the direction that we need to go to make our industry better. It doesn’t matter which industry. It works in all aspects of life.


Some years ago I really started paying attention to this. I started small. Little things like waving to kids as they passed by. Helping someone who doesn’t seem to know the rules of the road via CB radio, chatting at a truck stop or business that I find them in. Doing it all in such a way that leaves a pleasant memory for them. I participate in Truck Driving Championships where I meet very good, upbeat drivers who I learn a lot from by watching and competing against.

That works, but it’s limited to the few people I meet everyday. So I started a website. www.crazycanuckdave.com . I started writing a few articles for Today’s Trucking. Under the handle of Crazycanuckdave I participate in Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.


This blog is the latest evolution in my desire to continue mentoring not just drivers, but all people who can benefit from my experiences. While I have experienced many things, I also realize that there’s far more out there.


My exciting new idea for this blog is to reach out to people I know that can also participate in this journey! I’ll be featuring different people who have unique ideas, challenges that I haven’t faced and followers who I don’t normally reach.

My goal for the blog is to be fresh, readable and relatable to many people.


In the trucking Industry I have been everything from a company driver to owning my own company with authority in 5 Provinces and 48 States. I have hauled virtually anything there is, except for bulk tankers. I have driven in the hot South and crawled along the Ice Roads in the Arctic. Challenging times and great times.

In my personal life I have survived severe head trauma, near death, and illness which all pales in comparison to the joy I have gotten from raising and providing for a wonderful family. I have been blessed beyond what I deserve.


If you need advice, a speaker on a topic such as Surviving Brain Injury in the workplace, Driving on the Real Ice Roads, or even a specific article for your needs please let me know.


As always, comments and suggestions are welcome!
Off like a herd of turtles …

Fort McMurray – May 8 2016

What started as a small brush fire south of Fort McMurray (Fort Mac) Alberta has turned into the largest wildfire in Alberta history, and prompted the largest evacuation in Canada.

Fort Mac is a pivotal city in oil-rich Alberta and is a major economic engine for Canada. Fort Mac has taken a beating over the last two years with the downturn in the global oil market. Tens of thousands of people have been laid off in the oil sands projects. Others in the city who rely on the oil sand workers to buy trucks, groceries, or ATV’s, also lost their jobs. It’s been bleak to say the least. Fortunately, the oil sands is not like an oil well that can be turned off so while new projects were put on hold, there was hope that it would all come back as oil prices rise again.

Tuesday, May 3 all of this ceased to matter. What mattered was getting out of the city alive. The brush fire turned into a monster. Voluntary evacuations turned into mandatory. Fort Mac resident Ken Carpenter said to his fiance “We aren’t under mandatory evacuation yet but we’re leaving NOW! There’s one way out of town and we’re not getting stuck in this inferno!” At 1530 (3:30 pm), with flames all around them, they left everything behind except their pets and a few possessions. Taking the only road south they headed to a friend’s place in Edmonton, 5 hours away. They couldn’t have made a better decision. Others who waited for officials to tell them to leave sat for hours in snarled traffic. Some didn’t make it to a place of refuge for days, running out of gas, food and other essentials. Trapped on a smoky highway with flames nearby, their cars stalling from lack of oxygen, Fort Mac residents faced a very uncertain future.

Today, May 8th, their future is more bleak than ever.

My heart breaks for them. I’ve been to Fort Mac many times, as have most in flatbed/equipment hauling like myself. I have friends there. My oldest son had lived there only a few months back. I understand the importance of that city to our country’s financial well-being.

The leaders of the Alberta and Canadian governments chose to take a backseat, leaving the city and neighboring municipality to fight the fire. Other communities, cities, and regular people jumped in, offering assistance immediately. Carpenter himself took a relief load of supplies to Lac La Biche where some residents were welcomed with open arms.

Canadians of all backgrounds pitched in while leaders who cut essential services like forest firefighters and ignored the danger to an important city, went on vacation and refused to declare a state of emergency until the city was razed.

Fort Mac will rise again. Canadians are resilient, hardworking and generous.

Fort Mac needs our thoughts and prayers and whatever assistance we can provide. All some have left, are memories. All will have to deal with the trauma of the fire and the endless details of insurance, rebuilding, and getting life back to a semblance of normalcy. I doubt that the city will be the same, but I believe it will be stronger. The residents are heroes to me.

No other city could have evacuated all residents, some 88,000 strong, and only lost two lives in a traffic collision fleeing in the smoke.

Stay strong Fort Mac.

off like a herd of turtles…

The origins…

I have been blessed with a little talent as a writer. At least that’s what my English Teacher used to say many years ago. My parents also said that but I always assumed they were just biased.

Life leads in many interesting ways. I ended up being a truck driver very early in my working career. I was very fortunate that when I started in the later 80’s to have a few great mentors to add to my original teacher on a small farm in Ontario.

I have always loved anything with wheels and motors. Truck driving was a natural fit for me. I love the rumble of horses under me, I can’t sleep sitting up, and seeing our beautiful continent has never grown old.

Trucking has evolved in the years since. Mentorship has gone by the wayside, but is becoming a “new” buzzword to use to show how companies are doing their part.

Who is at fault here? Where has the camaraderie gone? I pondered on those questions throughout many miles and lonely nights.

Scrap those questions!! Better yet, What can I do to make it better? When I had this epiphany I realized a few things. Drivers such as myself with 20 years or so tend to be very critical of new drivers. Yes, most drivers today, unlike my era, go from a small car to a large truck in a matter of weeks through a driving school. Companies are leery of lawsuits or harm to their equipment and drivers, so drivers have been told not to stop and help stranded motorists. I realized that unlike my mentors, I wasn’t doing enough.

There are many ways we can help today. It’s so simple that it’s embarrassing. At a truck stop, help the person backing up. If they don’t know what to do, explain it to them rather than bitching about them (put the video phone down!). At your company, help junior drivers. Talk to dispatch about problems, not to other drivers. Wave to people on the road. Dress and present yourself with pride. Be a professional in all aspects. At a weigh station be courteous and have your paperwork in order. Slow down by stopped vehicles. Give people room. Don’t throw your trash out the window. Are we going to let a few ruin it for everyone else? Many things are done from ignorance and if everyone helped as our mentors did in years past our industry and our public perception would be much better.

I work at this every day. Helping others leaves us open to criticism but I can learn from that also. I have no idea how much I have made a strangers day but I do know what a strangers kind words mean to me so I continue on. Have you ever seen those stickers on trucks “Call 1-xxx-xxx-xxxx for comments or complaints”? I have 3 MBA’s (Moving Billboard Awards) from those and zero complaints. I guess it does work…

off like a herd of turtles…