September 2020 - Kelsey and Spencer

September 2020 - Kelsey and Spencer

Posted on 2020-09-05 16:13:51

Over the years we have seen fewer and fewer young people train to become truck drivers. It seems the majority come from a trucking family and have grown up on diesel smoke like our September/October Rig of the Month driver. This is his story:

My name is Spencer Stewart and I am 24 years old. I was born, and currently live in Kamloops, BC. I haul logs under my company name, SS Logging. I was raised in Merritt, British Columbia, where I became interested in logging at a very young age. I can remember scrubbing logging truck wheels on the farm before I was old enough to go to elementary school. That is how and where it all started. Since then, I haven’t been very far away from a logging truck. For as long as I can remember, there has always been one parked in the driveway. My mother, Tiara Seitz, has been an owner/operator of Woodrow Trucking Ltd. almost my entire life. My Uncle Terry, Uncle Baron, and cousin, Dean Quaife, were owner/operators in Cranbrook, BC.

When I was young, I would jump in the logging truck beside my mom every chance I got. It wasn’t always easy, sometimes I would be squished in, side by side with my sister, DeLayla. Those early years were when I started to learn the ins and outs of log hauling almost by osmosis. Growing up, listening to the rhythm of the engine, and watching mom shift gears made it so that it was second nature to me when it came time to get my license and start driving on my own. Sometimes, when we were in the bush, my mom would let me sit on her lap and drive the logging truck. I couldn’t reach the peddles but I thought it was the coolest thing ever, as I got older she also taught me how to put tire chains on. At the time, I was excited to learn, but when I think back now, I think she was more excited by the fact that she now had a swamper who could do it for her.

I clearly remember my mom’s red 2008 Western Star decked out with a jeep and pull trailer for hauling long logs. It was the very first truck I drove. I always wanted to be behind the wheel, so I was eager to learn not only how to drive but how to be a successful owner/operator. After what felt like forever, at 19 years old, I got my Class 1 license. Although by this time, I had already been hauling logs off-highway for what felt like years. It’s a good thing I didn’t fail!

There are many people in the industry that I admire and look up to, and my mom is at the top of that list. Because of the high regard, she holds in the industry, I have also been fortunate to have a number of people directly reach out to, and support me. I have learned valuable things from all of them. People like Barron Quaife, Jed & Tiffany Fryer, Dennis Westad, Shelley Stewart, Dale Vanderhook, Greg Ware, Craig Lebeau, and James McNaney are several but not all the people who have helped me along the way. Learning is an ongoing process - I don’t think anyone stops. There is always something new around the next corner.  Not only have these individuals helped me out by providing shop space, giving advice and answering questions, but they have also given me opportunities that have been essential to my success to date. I really believe that without these people, I wouldn’t be where I am today, with a continued passion for the logging industry. Each of these individuals has a world of knowledge. They have set the bar high while continuing to raise it and showing me that the sky is the limit.

When I started my logging career, I was lucky enough to do it with the best sidekick I could have, a blue heeler that my mom brought home in her logging truck when I was ten years old, named Hunter. We have had many great memories trucking together and he has been there for most of my learning curves. He continues to come with me every day, most mornings beating me to the door tail wagging, waiting to go. However, I suspect that besides liking to ride in the truck, a good part of his enthusiasm probably has to do with wanting to get his morning treat from the loader man.

One time, Hunter and I were out on the highway, in the dead of winter, when our truck puked all its oil out on the road. It was well below -30 degrees Celsius, and we were stuck. The truck obviously couldn’t be idled to keep the heater going, so with just a thin blanket, and my dog, we laid across the bench seat in the truck and huddled up. Thanks to Hunter, I was able to keep warm for a few hours until help arrived.

I started my career in the logging industry as an employee hauling short logs in the southern interior of BC. Still, in the back of my mind, I always knew that this was only a step in my journey to become an owner/operator. I hauled logs for approximately 4 years before, at 22 years old, I purchased my very own 2019 Western Star truck with a 2018 Peerless quad trailer. Before buying my logging truck, I made some of my closest friends while trucking together. One time my truck caught on fire. Let’s blame it on the summer heat and not my new driving skills, so I had to drop my loaded trailer. One of my coworkers hooked up to it, and I jumped in the passenger seat. We headed off to town, but we didn’t exactly make it there. To this day, he says his service line wasn’t hooked up, but personally, I think we may have been going a wee bit too fast, haha! Next thing I know, I was wiping dirt off my face. Thankfully, our pride was the only thing that was hurt that day, and oddly enough, a solid friendship was made.

Throughout my logging career, I have worked mainly in the southern interior of BC, with the summer of 2017 spent hauling logs in the northern interior. A few of my favourite and most memorable hauls have been in the Lillooet and Gold Bridge area, where I started my owner/operator adventure with Dale Vanderhook of Dicebox Ventures Ltd. This area was also where I got to experience some of the most unusual loads. One time, when we were low on short logs, the loader man asked me if it would be possible for me to haul a load of long longs on my trailer in addition to a bundle of short logs on my truck. I am always up for a challenge, and for those that know me, it probably isn’t a surprise that I didn’t say no. This country also produces some of the biggest wood I have seen in the southern interior. It wasn’t unusual to get bundles made up of only four logs! The majority of my work now has been in the Thompson-Okanagan region with Triple G Logging Ltd. owned by Greg and Glen Ware. I have been enjoying my time with Triple G, as I get to haul every day with my mom and all of the older boys that watched me grow up in the passenger seat of her logging truck. A few of my good buddies for Triple G also, operating equipment and driving trucks. It is an excellent job because I get to go to work and haul logs side by side with family and friends every day.

Although I have driven quite a few trucks, all I have ever known are Western Stars. I have driven some nice Western Stars and some not so nice Western Stars, and I may be a bit partial, but none of them have been as nice as my Western Star! In all honesty, though, I am a firm believer that any truck can be a good truck if it is well maintained and driven with respect. With these trucks, I have driven a variety of logging configurations, like jeep and pull trailer long loggers, super-B and B-train short loggers, and quad trailers. For the terrain I haul in, a quad configuration has been my favourite, as it is the most versatile for a variety of wood lengths, and it trails nicely behind the truck.
I have a lot of respect for Commercial Vehicle Safety Enforcement (CVSE) officers and appreciate what they do to make a dangerous job a little safer. They gladly answered many of my questions when I was starting up my business, and I continue to learn more from them with every interaction.
Log hauling has not just been a job for me, but my entire life. As drivers know, the life of a trucker is not always the easiest or understood, which makes me even more thankful for the support, love and patience I receive from my family. In addition to everything my mom has done for me in both logging and my personal life, my partner Kelsey has believed in my dream to own logging trucks from day one. At the time we met, buying a logging truck was still just a dream. I was nervous about stepping away from the security of employment, but with her support, we made my dream a reality in just a few short months. If only she knew what she was getting herself into! Since then, she has continued to provide unfailing support and understanding, all the while learning to change steer tires and read load slips.

As many of you know, driving the truck is only half of the battle, and repairs and maintenance is the other half. While I was in high school, my part-time job was working as a logging truck mechanic for Borderline Trucking Ltd. in Merritt, BC. This experience has greatly benefited me as an owner/operator; however, I also receive a lot of help from Ernie Yurkowski. He goes above and beyond to help me have the truck ready for the following work week, even if that means working from sunrise past sundown. I can’t express how much his help is appreciated.

From the time that I was very young, the trucking industry has put food on the table and a roof over my head. The fact that it continues to do that now that Kelsey and I have our own truck makes me very grateful. It has provided us with the opportunity to live the life we want while ensuring we always have everything we need. It has been a wonderful life thus far. This industry has taught me a lot, like how important it is not to stress the little things because they could always be worse. It has allowed me to see the incredible scenery that people from all over the world pay to see, and I’ve met a lot of good people, some who I now consider family. If I could start all over again, I don’t think I would change a single thing. Of all the things I have learned from my family and friends, if I were to pass anything on to another young person starting out in the industry, it would be to take your time and respect your truck and equipment. Ensure you do regular maintenance and keep your trucks clean, inside and out; it’s your home away from home.

Most importantly though is, when an old boy is talking, shut up and listen; they know things you will be lucky ever to learn. And remember everyone once hauled his or her first load. Don’t be afraid to ask questions – the answer may save your life.