Like some of you, many a trucking day has started for me around 3:30 am, doing a pre-trip inspection in an industrial part of some city or town. Whether winter or summer, the work must be done, and those of us in the transportation industry do our jobs to keep our world working the way we like it to.
Many times, I have spent the night in my sleeper berth close to rail yards and worked on my truck silently alongside railroaders. The roar of my engine fan and the hiss of my airbrakes makes a nice harmony with the echoing clank of a locomotive taking up a train’s slack. We are all part of a global transfer that is almost incomprehensible to the average person in its scale and complexity.
I find it difficult to get angry at a late shipment like I might have in the past before I was a trucker. Now, I’m surprised that supply chains work as well as they do, as often as they do, and I’m proud to be a part of it. When I haul freight, I know that my efforts create a tangible, measurable benefit to others. Those who work in the yards, docks, ships, trains, trucks, planes, and do their work at whatever hours society needs them, are all members of a tired, weary, dusty club. I feel a connection to the rail workers who are working hard to ensure their train runs on time, and although none of us have the time to stop and talk about it, I feel a sense of fellowship and camaraderie with everyone who works in transportation.
It’s a lonesome sort of camaraderie. There is ever-present competition, tight profit margins, labour disputes, and sometimes the trucks curse the trains and the trains the trucks as we wrestle for the right of way and compete for freight. But in all of this, I feel that different transportation industries are bound together at some level. Maybe it’s because such an industry is poorly understood and taken for granted - I won’t say unappreciated - by most people, like a tired nurse getting off night shift who just finished caring for the terminally ill. Maybe it’s because the industry works so well most of the time that most people don’t pay it much attention, making for a behind-the-scenes feeling shared amongst its workers.
For me, this bond is the result of a feeling of kinship I have with all those throughout history who have taken up the ancient trade of moving products from one place to another. I’ve trucked from Fort Benton, MT to Lethbridge, AB and felt a connection to the bullwhackers and steamboaters who shipped freight east to west in the 1800s travelling that same route. While chaining up in a winter storm, I’ve felt a connection to those railroaders who worked hard to clear snow from the tracks in the Roger’s Pass in British Columbia before the snow sheds and tunnels were built.
There is honour and dignity in any occupation, and I certainly feel this way about my career in the transportation industry. There is also a deep sense of working towards a common goal and a sense of service in transportation and trucking. It’s just a little bit lonesome sometimes.