On the Road

Voice of Experience

August 19, 2010

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Welcome to the new "On the Road" blog for owner-operators and professional truckers, from Truckinginfo.com and the editors of Heavy Duty Trucking magazine.
Your scribe -- between writing assignments last summer -- out earning his keep on the big road with 55,000 pounds of frozen waffles.
Your scribe -- between writing assignments last summer -- out earning his keep on the big road with 55,000 pounds of frozen waffles.


Many of you won't know me from Adam, but there's a chance that sometime in past 32 years we might have shared a CB conversation or broken bread together in a South Dakota truckstop. Perhaps you've read me in a magazine or heard me on the radio. I'm a journalist now, but for the 20 years before I made my career change, I rode the blacktop just like you. I've been a company driver and an owner-operator, and I even had some skin in a small fleet venture for a while. Mostly, I pulled chemical tankers, but I've done time on flats and vans too, and I toured with a few inconsequential rock and roll bands for a while.

My Trucking Beginnings

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I started driving in 1977, working for a grocery distribution outfit in southern Ontario. I was a route driver on a straight truck, and usually had about 18 to 20 calls a day, mostly at corner stores where the owners would have us stock the shelves if they could get away with it. Typically, it was up or down a flight of stairs with a two-wheel hand cart stacked with cases of soda, breakfast cereal, cleaning products, and the like. I'd usually have 44 hours in by Thursday, and management was loath to pay us overtime, so I often got Fridays off.

We had a few tractor-trailers in the fleet as well, and those guys got to deliver to grocery stores where the loads came off on pallets, mostly. When I learned that, I asked if I might ride with the tractor-trailer guys and have them teach me the finer points of steering and gearing a big truck. They liked that idea, because they got to sit there all day and beat me up for grinding gears and running over curbs. Fortunately for everyone who shared the road with me for the next 2.5 million miles, I had a patient and skillful instructor. I believe he taught me well.

I got my CDL in June of '78, and as they say, never looked back. I hired on with a tank outfit in September of that year, and pretty well made a career out of pulling non-baffled chemical tanks all over North America. I like to say I've been from coast to coast to coast to coast - counting a couple of trips to a place called Inuvik in Canada's Northwest Territory on the shores of the Beaufort Sea.

Overall, I'd call my driving career fairly unremarkable. I won a few safe driving awards, had a couple of minor crashes, bent a few bumpers, and pulled a few people from sticky situations just because I happened to be in the right place at the right time. I would say, unabashedly, that I was good at what I did, and looking back, I can think of only one company that might have regretted hiring me.

A new career

I started writing in earnest in the mid-'90s, and actually got paid for a story for the first time in 1998. I started earning a living behind a keyboard rather than a steering wheel in 1998, with a Canadian recruiting magazine called rpm Canada, which was associated with the American version of the same name.

My next gig was with Newcom Business Media, which published HighwayStar and Today's Trucking, two of Canada's finest trucking rags. I became the editor of HighwayStar in 2004, contributing to Today's Trucking at the same time. Over my nine years with the company, I earned half a dozen business journalism awards, and left the title proud of the bond we established with the men and women who keep Canada moving forward.

Those who read Heavy Duty Trucking will have seen my byline on those pages for a couple of years now. As a freelance writer, I contribute to several magazines in Canada and the U.S. I also serve as the technical and regulatory affairs adviser for the Owner-Operator's Business Association of Canada, I'm a fill-in anchor on Sirius XM trucking news, I regularly conduct business seminars for owner-operators, fuel management and fuel economy workshops for fleets and drivers, and still carry my own garbage to the curb every Thursday night.

Getting to know you

One thing I've noticed about doing this for a living; it's not terribly different from what I did all those years out on the road. I loved talking on the CB and chatting with other drivers in the cafes. I do that still, just on a larger scale, but the feedback isn't as immediate. I hope you'll chime in here and let me know what you think of the stuff I write.

Normally, my blog won't be quite so long, but this little introduction isn't worthy of a cliff-hanging part two. So, stay with us and check back here often. I'll be updating the blog a couple of times a week, sharing my thoughts on things that go on the industry we all love and hate in about equal measure.

Comments

  1. 1. Dispatch Paul [ September 27, 2010 @ 03:30PM ]

    I just read your first blog from 9/15 and I work as a dispatcher for a food service distributor much like the one you worked for in your beginning years. Tell me, what would have kept you at that first job? Anything?
    Was it the better pay that sent you out on the highway, or was it the lure of the open road and the freedom that dragging two-wheelers up stairs could never match?

    We don't have a big problem with turnover, but I'd like to know what other drivers think about driving a straight job on local runs with no more than a night in a motel. We deliver all over New England and upstate New York and mostly our drivers seem pretty content.

    Thanks for a good blog. We'll be reading more.

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Author Bio

Jim Park

Equipment Editor

Truck journalist 13 years, commercial driver 20 years. Joined us in 2007. Specializes in technical/equipment material (including Tire Report), brings real-world perspective to test drives.

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