Nick Smith

Nick Smith

Posted on 2023-01-19 15:02:35

Editor’s note: I received an email from our writer Myrna Chartrand saying she knew a trucker who would be a great Rig of the Month and asked if she could write his story. I don’t think I know of any driver who is a better ambassador for the industry than Myrna, so I readily agreed. Myrna herself was our Rig of the Month in April 2019. She was recently featured in an excellent article from out of Arkansas. Our Jan/Feb Rig of the Month is Nick Smith, and this is his story:

Where do I begin? My love and fascination for
trucks started when I was three years old. I lived with my parents, my sister,
Nan and Grandad in Sydenham, South London, England. My grandad was a
lorry/truck driver. I remember sitting and waiting for him to return home. We
lived on the third floor of a block of flats. He would pull up and blow the air
horns, which was my call. I would run as fast as possible down the stairs and
cross the road to meet him. It was my job to apply the brakes (very excited!)
We lived on a steep hill, and one day after applying the brakes, he jumped out
to check the load. I remember looking at the blue brake by the steering wheel
(oh, the temptation!) I decided to release the brake, and the truck started
rolling. My grandad said he had never run so fast in his life. He stopped the
truck, and no doubt breathed a sigh of relief. Sometimes we would go around the
block, which was great fun. I remember looking down on everyone. I felt like I
was king of the road.

As time went on, I went to school and had a
few jobs, which were really just to get money to pay for nights out with the
boys. I finally got my car license and started a job driving around London in a
small van. I then moved up to a 7.5-tonne van which, at the time, you could
drive with a car license. I did everything possible to learn about the job,
routes, etc. I was offered a job going back and forth to Jersey and Gurnsey,
which was on the Channel Islands taking groupage, a complete mix of freight.
Both are small islands with a lot of history. You had to use a freight
boat/ferry to travel between the islands. The guy who met me when I arrived in
Jersey used to like a drink. I remember his wife not being happy when I was
there because he would get drunk and then blame me (thanks for that!). So many
great memories!

Plenty of trucks and cars were damaged on the
ferries due to the rough waters between England and the islands. You could hear
the cutlery in the kitchen smashing around while you were in your cabin trying
to sleep. I did that for a bit, just waiting to get my heavy goods vehicle
license. In the meantime, I did some building work in London.

 Finally, I turned 21 and had to learn to drive
again, this time pulling a trailer. Again, I took driving lessons and passed
the test. When I told my boss I had passed, BOOM, he gave me a trip straight to
Germany! I phoned a friend and said, "You need to come with me and read
the map. We are going to Germany!"

We were booked on the Olau Line ferry out of
Sheerness in Kent, England, to Vlissingen in Holland. There was a disco, free
food for drivers, and a cinema on board. When we arrived in Holland, I showed
my friend the map and asked, "Have you got it?" Within one hour of me
driving, he was asleep! Anyway, we got to the destination safely, no thanks to
him! The place in Germany was called Wuppertal. We loaded and returned to the
dock to catch the boat home. I drove this route for a bit, and then one day, I
was back in the yard when a guy pulled into the yard driving a brand new Scania
truck with a new trailer that was French registered. I started talking about
work with this guy. He was English with a French wife. He mentioned he was
running to Hungary. Straight away, my ears perked up, and he said I could go on
a trip with him. At this point, I was really excited! We set a day when he was
leaving, and he said he was returning to France but would pick me up in Calais,
a port in France. That was where the long-haul career started. Not bad at 22
years of age.


Left-hand drive truck, French license plates,
TIR placard on the front. I felt on top of the world! We drove through France,
Belgium, Holland, Germany, Austria then into Hungary. We changed route after a while,
and instead of going through Austria, we went through Germany to a border town
called Waidhaus in Germany to Rozvadov, Czechoslovakia. I remember that day
like the back of my hand. It was the day of the splitting of Czechoslovakia. I
got fined for driving as the police called it a "holiday." They took
us to a truck stop, and I had to buy them a coffee (honest truth). That was my
fine! From there, we went on to Pilson, Prague, Brno, Bratislava, on to the
border at Rijeka then on to Hungary. Once there, I would go to many points
within Hungary. I had a regular pickup from a town called Debrecen back to the
UK for delivery. That job lasted for a little while and was a great experience.


I was on the boat crossing from Calais, France,
to Dover, England, one day when I bumped into a couple of drivers I had
previously met on the Olau Line. They both worked for Birds Groupage Services
based in Oldbury, West Midlands, UK and Ballyclare, Northern Ireland. I managed
to get a job with them on a regular run to Germany. I made a couple of trips to
Spain, and that was a great company to work for. I was there for nearly six
years. I had a good time and made great friends there and in Germany.  


I remember taking my dad, Michael Smith, on a
trip with me...ha ha! We arrived at the dock in Sheerness in Kent, booked in,
and boarded the ship. We went to our cabin and dropped off our bags in the room,
and I remember my dad looked puzzled. We went to the restaurant to get some
food, then off to the bar to grab a pint. All was okay until the bar guy
mentioned the crossing time to my dad. It was roughly an 8-hour crossing - the
look on my dad's face was priceless. My dad never liked boats - my bad! I
remember we went back to the cabin after the pint, and my dad lay down. The
boat started rocking a bit, and he decided to return for another pint. In the
morning, he said, "I remember the boat going down but never returning to
the surface." He mentioned he hadn't slept all night and used a few choice
words in the morning to describe his displeasure with my snoring.


We arrived in Vllisingen and headed to our
destination in Duren, Germany. We made our delivery and then headed south to
Belfort in France to load. After loading there, we headed up to Epinal, which
is beautiful countryside. Next, we went to Luxembourg, Brussels, Belgium and
Calais to catch the train to England, which was called Le Shuttle at the time
and is now known as the Eurotunnel. I had travelled it countless times, and for
every 75 trips, you got a zip-up sweater with their Le Shuttle logo. Finally, we
returned to our yard, and my dad couldn't have been happier to have his feet on
solid ground. We laughed about that boat travel for days, and when we told my
mom about the trip, all she could say to my dad was, "You don't like


I ended up finding a job that had me around
home more often. It was time to settle down and start a family. I ended up
working at the BOC/Linde Gas that was contracted to a supermarket, Mark's and
Spencer's. I worked there for ten years, but in the beginning, one of the
managers noticed the work I had been doing previously to and from Hungary. He
had a position doing humanitarian aid to Belarus that he thought would be
perfect for me. Before even entering Belarus, I had to take numerous vaccines.
I was carrying goods to a school in Maryina Horka, which consisted of beds,
bikes etc. Although I had only made a few trips, it was enough to open my eyes
to see how poor some places were and what little belongings they had. It made
me appreciate how lucky I was and when I got home, I remember telling my kids
they had no excuse to moan about anything. Belarus and Poland were entirely
corrupt. We made sure we had plenty of cigarettes and chocolate when arriving at
the border to ensure a smooth crossing from Terespol, Poland, into Brest,


After finishing the humanitarian aid duties, a
couple of us had a day trip to Minsk, where I took photos of a post-WWII tank
on a concrete base. We had an interpreter with us who came up to me and told me
not to take pictures of the building behind, which I found strange only until I
turned around. There was a fleet of limos up the side of the building. We then
made a quick dash away from there.


We went to a market where we found many knock-off
goods. Next, we visited the train station in Minsk, where an armed guard was
holding an AK-47. He was just a young fellow, and this sight was quite
unnerving. He was guarding the man that was tending to the cash machine. We
spent the rest of the day there, having a great time and then headed to the
city of Gomel. The distance from Gomel to Chornobyl is approximately 200 km.
They told us the amount of radiation we would be exposed to in 2 days was the
equivalent of having two x-rays. We visited a vodka distillery, some churches
and a few other tourist things. We were invited by a friend of one of the guys
I was travelling with to a beautiful dinner. They must have worked two weeks to
pay for the spread they laid out for us.


I returned home from this trip and returned to
my regular run around the UK. I was in the yard one night talking to a co-worker,
and I told him I fancied doing some other work. Canada was always a place that
piqued my interest. I found out a friend of mine had previously moved to
Canada. I got in touch with him, and he provided me with some information and a
company to contact.


In 2014 I contacted Schroeder Freight in
Winnipeg, MB and found out they were doing work permits called LMOs at the
time. I met up with Ernie Schroeder, the owner, who was just such a fantastic
guy. I flew to Winnipeg to meet up with Ernie for an interview which went very
well. He started the paperwork, and I returned home to England to get my
affairs in order to move to Canada. While I was still at home, I found a
trucking school in Blumenort, MB, that I enrolled in to obtain my Class 1 as my
license from England would not transfer over to Canada. I then flew back to
Manitoba and settled in the town of Mitchell. The course at the time was a one-week
course. I obtained my air brake endorsement and completed the driving portion
of the course. I found out that I couldn't take the road test for another two
weeks, and I had to fly home the following weekend. Once I returned to Manitoba,
I took a few more lessons to refresh myself and then took the test soon after.
Once I had my license, I went straight to Schroeder Freight to report to work.
I hit the open road and had my first experience covering areas throughout the
US and Canada. I must say that the winter weather conditions I experienced were
not advertised in the brochure! For some reason, they left that part out.

 I used
a GPS for the first time in my life because I didn't have anyone to ask to ride
along and read a map that would fall asleep an hour later. I found it
unbelievable how I could drive so far without such congested traffic. You could
drive 11 hours and still be in the same country! I worked for them for over two
years, and then, due to unfortunate circumstances, I had to move on to another
trucking company.

In 2017 I started with Jade Transport in
Winnipeg, MB, pulling tanker. After driving a Scania, DAF, Volvo, Kenworth and
Freightliner, I was extremely happy to drive my first Peterbilt. Having seen
the long hood trucks, which I referred to as "the trucks with the dining
table in the front" in movies etc., I was so excited to work for a company
with many of them. It has now become my favourite make of truck. I started with
a sloped nose Pete then shortly after moved into truck 103, a 1998 short hood
Pete. That particular truck was used mainly in the city. The fellow that had it
before me didn't even want to take it past Brandon, MB, and I was all over from
Tennessee to Quebec to anywhere else they sent me. I took care of it like I
owned it and got so many compliments on the road about it. My boss, Larry, had
previously told me that I would get something special but that I had to be
patient. After returning from a trip, I got called into the office with Larry,
where he told me I was getting a Pride and Class. It rocked my world! I proudly
drove that truck until I left Jade Transport for personal reasons. I made so
many great friends during this time. One, in particular, is my friend Lee. We
did a lot of asphalt loads together and ran to Kankakee, IL, many times
together. We continue to talk regularly to this day.

 I joined Erb Transport in Winnipeg, MB and was
trained by John Gravline, the driver supervisor. I was doing city work as well
as shunting in the morning. I made some great friends there; they were a great
company to work for. They had a great team to work with, and health and safety
were top-notch priorities. I worked here for two years until I realized the
long haul life kept calling my name and that I really enjoyed pulling a tanker.

 I got in touch with Henry, driver services at
Jade Transport, who spoke to Larry and said I was more than welcome to come
back. So I hopped into truck 349, a long nose Pete. Not long after that, I got
truck 362, my second opportunity to drive another Pride and Class. I drove that
one until the winter of 2021 was over. That winter never seemed to end! I then
moved into truck 359, a yellow 2021 Pride and Class Peterbilt 389 with a retro-style
paint job. It has a 600hp Cummins X15 with an 18-speed transmission. It was my
first instance with the new digital dash, and thankfully, knock on wood, no
issues yet.

 I was always interested in getting into the
truck show circuit, and Larry pointed out that there was a truck show in
Kasson, MN. Truck 359 has a matching tanker trailer. The paint scheme on the
fenders of the trailer matches the paint scheme of the fenders on the truck. I
hooked onto the trailer and washed and polished the combo unit to make it show-worthy.
I was really excited yet anxious as I didn't know what to expect at a truck
show. One of the staff told me where to park next to the other combos, then
took me around the fairgrounds to see what was going on. This was when I met
Myrna Chartrand from Portage Transport. I had called out to her many times on
the CB to compliment her truck, and it was finally nice to put a face to the
person behind the wheel. She took me around to meet some of the friends she has
made over the years that she has attended that show. They welcomed me with open
arms, and I realized this type of camaraderie is really what trucking is all
about. It made me feel that I wasn't so alone in this industry.

 After the show, I headed to Illinois to load
for Regina, SK. En route to Regina, a deer ran out in front of me, bent my
bumper, busted the headlight, and scratched up the front fender. I did my
delivery and returned to the shop in Winnipeg that evening. By lunchtime the
next morning, I had a new headlight, new bumper, and repaired fender and was
off to the Busted Knuckle Truck Show in Tonkawa, OK. So much can happen in the
blink of an eye, including developing lifelong friendships.

 It was at this show that I met Ed Bothe. I was
in the 90-degree Fahrenheit sun trying to get my truck show ready when he
popped by to compliment me about the truck. I spent most of the day visiting
with them. He took me over to his truck and trailer, and the inside of his
trailer reminded me of a museum as it was full of different pictures etc, of
trucking history. I fell in love with a picture he had in there because it
reminded me of the movie, The Irishman. I just recently received a copy of that
photo in the mail. I was so overwhelmed that he took the time to gift that to
me. We have kept in contact since the show and plan to meet in the future.
Friendships like these are unexpected and priceless!

 I am really looking forward to seeing what the
truck show season in 2023 has to offer!

 Trucking is not a job; it's a way of life. I
have been lucky to have been able to see so many parts of the world that many
may never get the chance to see. This is with many thanks to Nan and Grandad
and Mom and Dad!