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In the 12 years Canadian truck drivers have been receiving the Highway Star of the Year Award, not once has a recipient been a woman. Until now.

Joanne Mackenzie, a company driver for Highland Transport, was crowned the 2016 Highway Star of the Year at Truck World in Canada this week, raising the bar for other women with CDL trucking jobs.

The award recognizes drivers across Canada who are professional, give back to their communities and “operate in the highest and safest regard for other road users,” stated the Truck News article.

“Mackenzie has been a professional driver for more than 24 years, 14 of which have been for Highland Transport,” the article continued. She is the first female to be named Highway Star of the Year.

“I’m so humbled. It’s a very humbling experience and quite the honor to be alongside the previous Highway Star winners,” she told Truck News. “I’m really privileged to be able to be the first woman to win this. I hope now that we’ve got that one foot in the man’s club…more women will come forward and feel comfortable to participate in stuff like this. Especially when it comes to stuff not only behind the wheel but in the community. Women need to know they can do whatever they want.”

The article says Mackenzie has earned a stellar reputation in the trucking industry for her work with Trucking For a Cure, a non-profit that raises money and awareness for breast cancer research through truck convoys and other trucking-related campaigns.

It was a family affair for Mackenzie at Truck World this year.

Her two brothers attended the event in a show of support for her. Their presence there meant a lot to Mackenzie, she said in the article.

“It’s the first time my family has come to an industry event with me,” she said. “And they’ve supported me back home, but they’ve never driven hours to come see me. I’m so excited my two brothers are here…My family misses me on the road and I miss so many family events and they’re all so supportive and understanding. ”

As Highway Star of the Year, Mackenzie was awarded more than $15,000 in cash and prizes, including a $10,000 check.

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record-eagle.comThe Traverse City Record-Eagle recently published an uplifting feature about a truck driver who hauled a load from Michigan to Alaska for the first time ever.

Richard Robertson, a truck driver for Ennis Trucking in Traverse City,  Mich., hadn’t ever been gone for longer than 10 days as part of his CDL trucking job. But on February 3, the 17-year truck driving veteran found himself heading out West on a monthlong drive to and from Valdez, Alaska.

It was a drive Robertson will never forget.

“To me, it just sounded like fantasy,” Robertson said. “Alaska?”

The drive from Michigan to Seattle — his first destination — was about what he was used to, but conditions grew more unfamiliar as he headed north through British Columbia and the Yukon Territory.

“Being out there and seeing it, it’s real pretty, but it’s deadly at the same time,” he said. “You’re a long ways from nowhere.”

Robertson said everything in Alaska looked like a winter wonderland.

In vivid writing, the newspaper also highlighted the dangers of the wintry roads.

Everything around him was winter white — the trees, the mountains, the clouds. The roads were covered in hard packed snow, and it was often difficult to tell whether the road would be slick or slushy.

Robertson drove from sunup to sundown — driving at night would be too risky — and often was the lone truck pulled off at rest stops.

“Other than being awed by the sights all around me, it was just the loneliness,” he said. “I have never felt so isolated.”

To show just how isolated Robertson was on his drive, writer Sarah Elms included this telling detail: “It was so desolate there wasn’t even road kill to keep him company.”

Now that’s desolate. But to Robertson, having the chance to drive in Alaska was awe-inspiring.

Robertson said he’s always relieved when he reaches a destination, but finally reading “Welcome to Valdez” on a snow-covered sign was a sense of accomplishment like none other…. “It was the highlight of my career,” he said. “

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stltoday.comSometimes, nothing feels better than a hot shower. But when you’re homeless, hot showers are hard to come by. One St. Louis, Mo,. pastor changes all that, however, with a new nonprofit called Shower to the People.

The pastor, Jake Austin, bought a truck for $5,000 and modified it to equip it with shower stalls and sinks. In June, Shower to the People will make its debut, bringing hope and cleanliness to St. Louis’s homeless.

Shower to the People made headlines in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch recently, and we thought those of you with CDL driver jobs would be inspired by reading about it, too. Austin has serviced homeless people throughout his career, but his new endeavor is unique.

The idea for it struck him a couple of years ago.

One day in fall 2014, when Austin was distributing soap and hygiene supplies to the homeless in downtown St. Louis, he offered a bar of soap to a man who came up to the table. The soap is nice, the man said, but where would he use it? He had plenty of clothes and food, but he hadn’t had a shower in two months and had a job interview in two days.

Austin was embarrassed he hadn’t thought about this earlier. “People can get food and clothes, but if they haven’t had a shower in three months, they can’t get a job even flipping burgers,” he said in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch story.

And that’s how Austin came up with the idea for Shower to the People.

The truck-turned-portable showering-unit has two shower stalls with curtains for privacy and two sinks inside. Sinks on the outside will allow homeless to brush their teeth, wash their faces and shave. According to the story, the truck will connect to fire hydrants, and a generator on the outside will run a water heater on the inside.

Austin figures if the truck is parked in one place for six to eight hours, it would be long enough to give 60 people showers. The truck would move to different locations throughout the week.

He knows of only one other organization in the country that does this, a group called Lava Mae in San Francisco that converts buses into shower units.

Austin is setting his own course here.

He got nonprofit status for his endeavor. He’s getting the proper permits and support from City Hall, and hopes to have the Shower to the People truck rolling and out on test stops within a couple of weeks. Its grand debut will be June 4 in Soulard, just south of downtown St. Louis.

“I decided I’m going to do one thing really well, and that’s hygiene,” Austin told the newspaper.

Austin hopes to one day employ homeless people by hiring them to make soap. Other nonprofits have contributed to the effort, too.

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A story about entrepreneur Samir Latic was recently published in the Macomb Daily, and it’s a story we hope those with CDL trucking jobs will feel inspired by.

Refugee entrepreneur starts own cCDL carrier companyLatic was a refugee from Bosnia, and writer Gina Joseph tells his journey of becoming “one of the biggest small companies in the trucking business.” Latic’s CDL truck driving story began when he arrived at the Detroit, Michigan airport, Joseph writes. The industrial community he settled in, Hamtramck, wasn’t the idyllic landscape of his American dreams. But it promised a new beginning.

Hamtramck had a community of Bosnians who arrived before them.

One family even took them in until they were able to buy their own home. The brothers also found work and not long after purchasing a home were able to buy a semi-truck.

“I wanted to drive a truck and save as much money as I could and go back to school,” Latic said, holding onto the idea of becoming a dentist.

But one truck led to two trucks, some good contracts and by 2004 the brothers were in the trucking business. Despite his day job, however, Latic managed to squeeze in enough classes at Wayne State University to earn a bachelor’s degree in public affairs and a master’s degree in international relations.

Latic has been in the trucking industry for 11 years now.

His company, Midwest Freight Systems of Warren, has more than 200 trucks and employs more than 250 people, 40 percent of whom are refugees. Joseph quotes Latic as saying:

“Follow your dreams, stay the course and you will get there. I don’t think we as a family would have been able to do what we’ve done anywhere but in the United States.”

Even though Latic came to America hoping to be a dentist, he was still able to create a new life for himself and his family. Read more about Latic and his journey on the Macomb Daily here.

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One owner operator got his day in the sun this week, in the form of a very special award.

Edward Mark Tricco, leased to Bison Transport in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, was named 2015 0wner operator of the year by the Truckload Carriers Association and Overdrive on Tuesday. His reward? A $25,000 cash prize.

The money served well earned. Tricco assembled a stellar safety record in his 36 years.

Driving for more than 36 years with 4.3 million accident-free miles has been no easy feat, said Tricco. And, maintaining that safety record has been the biggest challenge of his career, he says.

The Owner Operator of the Year Awards honor drivers who have driven safely, enhanced the image of trucking and served their communities, the article stated. The winners were announced at TCA’s annual meeting in Las Vegas on Tuesday.

Accepting the award, Tricco said his job has given him the opportunity “to give back to the community and protect the environment.”

Tricco started in his CDL driver job at Bison Transport 20 years ago. While he started with Bison as a company driver, he made the transition to owner operator a couple years later.

“As long as you can balance home life and work, and having a good wife at home helps, you’ll have a good career,” he told Overdrive.

Prime Inc.’s Glen Horack was also a finalist for the owner operator award. He won $2,500. Company driver finalists Guy Broderick of APPS Transport, Mississauga, Ontario, and David McGowan of WEL Companies, De Pere, Wis., also won $2,500.

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Learn the perks about being someone with a CDL trucking jobArielle Pardes recently wrote an article for  Cosmopolitan magazine called “13 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Became a Long-Haul Truck Driver.” While the story focuses on her role as a female driver, much of Pardes’ driving experience is universal. Men with CDL trucking jobs will be able to relate to her observations as well. Here are the highlights from the article. Give it a read and see if you share her experience.

1. Driving trucks is more like a lifestyle choice than a regular job. This is not the kind of job where you’ll be home for dinner every night. You stay out, driving shipments back and forth, for weeks at a time, and then you get a couple days off back home. It’s impossible to have a real life because you’re always on the road.

2. Don’t stress out about finding a job. There’s a huge shortage of truck drivers, so getting hired is basically as easy as getting your commercial driver’s license. It’s a 10-week program to get the certification, and by the time mine was over, I had a job lined up with a company. Some companies will even pre-hire you and pay for your training, which makes it really easy to break into the industry.

3. The starting pay isn’t great, but you can move up the pay scale pretty quickly. When I first started driving, I was making 27 cents for every mile that I drove, which equated to around $35,000 a year — so, not great. But by the time I quit three years later, I was making $55,000 a year. Pay raises are regular, and your rate goes up if you hit goals each quarter, like making on-time deliveries, driving without accidents, staying under the speed limit, and having more years of experience under your belt.

4. You’re constantly traveling, but you don’t get to be a tourist. In a day, you could easily clock 600 miles; in a week, you could span more than 3,000 miles, or double if you’re team driving. That’s an insane swath of the United States to cover — and yet, you won’t experience anything you can’t see from the highway. Sure, you’re passing through lots of cool places, but you’re on the clock and you can’t just park your truck somewhere and go sightseeing.

5. Even with all of the downsides, there are some beautiful moments. If you Google “best things about being a truck driver,” you’re not going to find much. But for the right person, there’s a lot to appreciate: You get to be in charge of your own schedule and how you spend your time in the truck. You can save a lot of money, since your living expenses are minimal while you’re on the road. And the views from the driver’s seat beat any office window.

Read more here to see what else Arielle Pardes wishes she knew before becoming a long-haul truck driver.

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Featured image from Pixabay.com. Interior image from Getty.com, as pictured in Cosmopolitan magazine.

truck accidentMilton Schwahn has driven for JBS Carriers, Inc. for more than 40 years. Last Friday, his devotion to his CDL trucking job paid off when JBS Carriers gave him a special gift: his own truck. Fox 11 News out of Green Bay, Wis., reports Schwahn was gratified by the honor.

“I was not expecting another truck,” Schwahn said. “I gotta another 150,000 on the one I got and never thought about getting no truck at all. This thing is really nice.”

The company didn’t give Schwahn such a significant gift for nothing.  It was honoring Schwahn for his huge milestone: driving 5 million miles with no crashes.

“Milt has driven accident free for longer than most people have done anything in their lives…or in their careers,”said Darrin Taylor, Operational Manager at JBS Carriers, Inc.. “It really is unheard of and we’re just so proud and honored to have Milt driving for us.”

Schwahn was humbled by the honor, saying it’s all part of a day’s work at his CDL trucking job.

“I think somebody is watching over me the whole time we’re doing it, so there is a lot of stuff that goes on out there,” he told Fox 11.

This is not the only honor Schwahn may get this week. He was nominated for Driver of the Year by a coworker. He’ll find out if he wins that award soon enough. Sounds like it’s Schwahn’s time right now.

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truck drivers in JapanIn Pacific Standard magazine, Mary Duff recently wrote a fun, fascinating column about tractor-trailers and other trucks in Japan.

They’re driven by the equivalent of those with CDL driver jobs here in the U.S.

Alos, just as in the U.S., the Japanese trucks at times reflect a unique subculture replete with artistry and personality.

Overall, in her story, Duff explores Japanese trucks’ elaborate decor—an art form called dekotora, meaning “decorated truck.”

Therefore, the content makes for an ideal Fun Friday piece

“As with many cultural artifacts, the Japanese took the truck and expressed it and enlarged it. They raised it to what we consider an architectural form through the art of dekotora.”

A story explores the Japanese art form of decorating tractor-trailersJapanese tractor-trailers gilded with chrome, neon lights and painting

“Also, dump trucks and garbage trucks get this treatment too,” Duff writes. “The Japanese originated this art form and style in the 1970s. A decade that saw the emergence of trucking subculture in the mainstream.”

Overall, the dekotora movement inspired by 10 Japanese movies from the 1970s, called Torakku Yarō.

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Truck drivers see it all out there on the road. Among the things they see most are bad driving habits in unfolding before their eyes–every day. So what are the worst driving no-no’s from a truck driver’s perspective? One of them, Todd McCann, has taken the time to explain some of them. Have you seen any of these things on your own route? Are you guilty of any of these things yourself?

Pay attention. People don’t pay attention. They are in their own worlds because of cellphones. That’s why they get caught riding on the right side of the road. That’s why at the last-second they realize they are about to miss their turn…They realize that they should worry about merging and you see the cell phone vanish. They put the phone down and look up at you like, “You didn’t see that.”

Stop hanging out along my side. I had a car riding on my right side the other day, just hanging out. That’s the worst thing any driver can do. We have a huge blindspot over there. I almost ran this guy off the road because I couldn’t see him.

If a trucker is tailgating you, you’re probably going too slow. If you see a truck in your rearview, the first thing you need to do is put down your phone. The second thing you need to do is look at your speedometer. The majority of the time, if a trucker is tailgating you, you’re doing something wrong. My truck is limited at 64mph. If I’m tailgating you because you’re going too slow, that’s a problem.

This isn’t all, either! For more cardinal sins of driving (from a truck driver’s point of view) read the rest of the story.

Image from roadandtrack.com

Some trucking companies are trying to entice drivers through deluxe cabins. But will it work?

With the driver shortage reaching unprecendented proportions, trucking companies are getting creative in their attempts to fill vacancies. Namely, they’re providing more comfortable rides for drivers making the long haul.

Rigs

The firms are paying truck manufacturers to make luxury living quarters that attach to the vehicles, with kitchen areas, satellite TVs, refrigerators, bathrooms and a bed,” the story in the Daily Mail stated.

Companies such as Bolt Custom Trucks are getting fancy with in-truck features such as a fold-down bed so drivers don’t have to sleep in their seats or find a place to stay.

Firms hope that by adding cabins that include tables, cabinets, beds and showers, they will be able to better recruit qualified drivers in the midst of a labor shortage,” the article stated. “Ohio-based Try Hours is converting its 20 trucks to be more stylish and comfortable, with hopes that it will make recruiting easier. ‘It’s all about a better experience to keep the drivers,’ said Kenneth Lemley, who manages the fleet at Maumee.”

Costs for deluxe sleeper trucks are hardly cheap, costing upwards of $200,000 sometimes. But in an industry where the driver shortage is reaching a critical point, some companies find investment in luxury rigs is worth the risk. What do you think? Would you like to drive a “pimped out” truck?

 

Image from Facebook/Bolt Custom Trucks