‘I always considered myself a commercial tourist’
This is one in a series of interviews with frontline workers as Today's Trucking celebrates National Trucking Week, Sept.
What can you tell us about your job and the work it includes?
We haul freight all over Canada and the U.S. We were just up in Alaska last week. My wife Lori and I do 20,000-miles-plus a month.
We haul a lot of salmon to the United States, mostly New York City and Chicago. I've got more experience at different things than Lori does, but we both have a lot of experience pulling LCVs and triples.Dennis and Lori Ernewein (Photo: Supplied)
How did you come to work in the trucking industry?
My father had a body shop in St. Catharines, Ontario, and his friend bought a B-Model Mack and wanted to put it to work.
It was a '64. I was like 13 or 14. We painted it, and I wanted to go out to Ottawa on his first trip.
He let me drive. That was 1971. I've been driving, man, since I was five years old.
My parents had a '55 Chrysler and it had a three on the tree. I'd say, "Can I drive, dad?" And he let me sit on his lap and steer while he worked the pedals and the shifter. When I was 18 a buddy had a truck with Allied Van Lines.
Back then, you could drive a semi as long as there was another driver with a chauffer's licence. That's how I started running (teams). I got my licence when I was 21.
What do you like the most about your job?
I always considered myself a commercial tourist.
You get paid to travel around. We might go to the zoo somewhere and go wonder around there for a day. You check out the history of the area.
In Joplin, Mo., there was a lot of history there from the civil war, so we'd go to the museums. And you see how some things change - like areas that are built up like they weren't before. The west end of the perimeter of Winnipeg you can see where they're building things up.
In the '70s, the only thing out there was the weigh station.
What is the biggest challenge the trucking industry faces today?
I'm an old-school guy. I just turned 64, and I come from a time when there was no logbooks. You couldn't truck in the western provinces on a Sunday.
The biggest challenge now is sometimes getting across the border. The paperwork isn't right. Something went wrong with the load.
A lot of shippers don't have their thought process down. When you have your own truck on ... the biggest challenge is getting miles. And if there's no miles, there's no money.
Why do you think the trucking industry should be celebrated?
If anything should be celebrated, it's how it started and what it progressed to.
We should celebrate what it stands for and what it represents, what it does, and how long it's been around. If you look back before there was even trucks - on the Oregon Trail in the U.S., down in South Dakota - they used to haul LCVs, like three Conestoga wagons with six or eight teams of oxen, across the Dakotas and up into Calgary. That's basically trucking.
We've been hauling freight for a long time, and it should be celebrated - keeping people alive and keeping people fed.