Then and Now

Posted By Glen Millard : Glen was born in Saskatchewan. He has driven trucks for 50 years. On 2021-09-10 17:07:28

After five decades of learning to
be a professional truck driver,
I can look back and see how the
early years are very similar to what
new people go through today. We all
started with no idea of what we were
doing but were eager to do a good
job and to learn as we went along.
The only real difference that I see is
that there were fewer roads, a smaller
population, less communication, and
less of a game plan back then.


Also, there were lots of small truck
companies that had under ten trucks.
Each driver was assigned a truck, and
nobody touched your truck unless
you said it was okay. There was also
fierce company pride. Your company
was the best right up until the day you
told them where they could shove
their job.

Today the companies have hundreds
of trucks, with several companies
running over 1000. A driver is just a
number, and there are few assigned
trucks. Also, drivers are paid by the
mile. If the truck is not moving, the
driver is not getting paid. Then, of
course, the government has its fingers
in governing the hours of service,
telling you when to sleep and when to
wake up - often making drivers drive
when tired and trying to sleep when
wide awake. Their regulations also
limit the amount of money that can be
made in a day.

In the early days, the highways
were not asphalt. They mainly were
gravel washboards without shoulders
and one lane each way. We didn’t
need speed limiters. I dare anyone to
go over 80 – 90kph, with no load, on
those old roads.

As the years went
by, the gravel slowly
turned to asphalt.
Then you started to
see strange things
like four long black
marks here and there
on the highway. I was always told it
was just a Swift driver that had run
out of hours.

Since then, the equipment and tires
have changed from re-tread tube tires
on Dayton wheels (Chicago wobblers)
to Budds and now radial tubeless tires
on hub pilot wheels. This has really
improved the tire maintenance time.
No more rubber alligators lying
on the road. The equipment also
improved with more power, longer
trailers, bigger loads, auto shifts, air
conditioners and radios that allowed
communication with other trucks and
home terminals. At one time, you had
to have a pocket full of change as you
searched for a payphone to make a
call.

The better companies back then
supplied uniforms and coveralls that
had to be kept clean. Unfortunately,
the knowledge of equipment for a lot
of drivers today is limited, and the
uniforms can be anything from clean
and presentable to jogging pants
coupled with a week-old t-shirt with
graffiti on it and even flip flops.

Back then, you, the driver, had to
look after and take care of the load,
the truck and trailer and yourself. Are
you stuck in the middle of nowhere?
You better know how to fix a tire, an
airline, or anything else that would
allow you to limp into the next
town. Now, in some instances, you
don’t even have to think. There is
satellite tracking, interior and exterior
cameras and GPS so that you don’t
even have to know how to read a map.
Big brother in the office is aware of
where you are and what you are doing
at all times.

The culture has changed also.
Nowadays, few old, grizzled, tobacco
smoking, beer-drinking drivers are
left who know how to maintain their
truck.

Don’t get me wrong, back then,
there were good drivers and, of
course, roster fillers too. Along
with that, there were good and bad,
wealthy and poor companies too. A
company out of Winnipeg ran Astro
GMC cab overs that later changed
over to blue Peterbilt cab overs. He
hauled from Winnipeg to Vancouver,
and man, was he cheap! His weather
fronts were cardboard boxes flattened
out with a hole cut in the centre.


Also if we are going to compare
times, we have to take into
consideration the customers. They
have changed too. In the early years,
the customers were happy just to get
their goods in the same condition
they had bought, new and not broken. 

Today some freight companies
want tomorrow’s orders delivered
yesterday, and it doesn’t matter if it
gets damaged because insurance will
cover it.

Now there is a higher population,
advancements in technologies,
more customers, more roads, more
of everything. On the downside,
there is less driver appreciation –
few companies still have a driver
of the month, and even fewer have
company picnics in the summers. In
addition, the bonuses are often less
attainable, which creates less pride in
the company, the equipment, and self-pride in how you present yourself to
others.

I have no idea of what the next 50
years will bring. I’m sure that I will
not be around, but I remember the
past and would not change anything
- neither the low or the high points. I
am happy to have had a life as a long-haul truck driver. I was away from
home a lot, but now I’m retired. I’m
at home all the time, and the part that
I don’t like about retirement is, there
are no days off.


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