May 2019 – Todd Woitas

I’m presuming that our rig of the month owner needs little introduction. If you’ve been around Alberta Big Rig Weekend you’ve surely seen him and Roxanne (that’s his Peterbilt, not his wife!) Many of you know him as I do as Todd from ALC. I had to think hard to remember that ‘from ALC’ was not in fact his last name. (It’s Woitas.) Alberta Large Cars (ALC) is the group he started on Facebook which has grown into a community of like-minded truckers who support one another and do some amazing events for charity. He likes to give back to the community and is a great example of the type of person we need in trucking but he very easily could have had a different career.

Todd was born in Edmonton on July 18, 1971, his dad was a floor layer by trade and his mom cleaned houses. He had a few uncles that were truckers but he was far from growing up around the industry. Now thankfully this isn’t a court document because our timelines aren’t exact but we have figured that Todd spent somewhere between 6 and 7 years working in flooring with his dad and got his first taste of trucking in the early ‘90s.

After figuring out that he wasn’t going to follow in his dad’s footsteps, Todd had a job washing trucks and trailers at Mid Continental Bulk Systems (which later became part of RBS). It was his first time working around trucks and he soon got to what you might call driving experience. The yard donkey was a primo early Ford Louisville with a tired 427 gas pot on propane, not exactly a truckers dream but for a kid just getting a taste of moving rigs, Todd thought it was pretty sweet. He got to hook up, drive around the yard, learn to back up and of course how to get stuck.

It was about 4 in the afternoon and Todd decided to put the old Louie to the test by dragging a set of trailers through the soft spot in the middle of the yard. Being chained up he figured the old girl would have no problem with a little mud but he soon understood why there were no other tracks through that spot. After trying to back out and trying to go forward and back again, the tired old truck was up to its axles and its hopeless pilot thoroughly embarrassed.

“Just go home Todd, just go home and come back tomorrow,” his boss said after seeing the mess. He retreated home wondering if he would even have a job in the morning. The next day Todd arrived back at the Mid-Con shop to find his trusty ole Ford was freed from grips of the muddy hole in the yard. It had taken his boss and some of the seasoned hands until 9 pm to get it out! Thankfully though they had a job for him, the job of washing the frozen mud and clay from between the wheels and frame rails of the yard donkey. It was a lesson that seems to still be fresh in Todd’s mind even though it was 30 years ago! If you ever take a look inside Roxanne’s frame rails you’ll find them to be squeaky clean even though there’s no boss telling him to rewash it if it’s not!

After leaving Mid-con, Todd bounced around on the docks at Central and Truck-all depots for a few years hustling freight and learning a fair bit about the whole LTL business. He then jumped over to FH Maintenance and helped twisting wrenches and servicing trucks for a while. This time in the shop helped teach him a lot of great skills he never knew he’d need later on. For one reason or another Todd left the trucking community altogether for a while and went to work for Carrington Properties building houses. Around 1994 housebuilding slowed down and he went back to Central Carriers but this time for his first driving job.

This first job was a bit of a baptism by fire as his route was downtown Edmonton P & D. Anyone who has made drops there knows how much fun that must have been, narrow alleys, blind driveways to back into and of course the traffic. After two years of that with Central, Todd decided to make a switch to a different job with Northwest Carriers. Now, like you, I presumed he would tell me that he left to hit the open road, I was wrong, our friend spent another three years at Northwest in downtown Edmonton! My hats off to you Todd and any other guys out there doing inner-city work. For me, that’s the trucking equivalent of getting back from an overseas mission and signing back up for another tour of duty!

In 1999 Todd decided to break free from the confines of the city and went to drive for Sokil Transport. He generally ran an out and back steel run from Edmonton through eastern Alberta up through western Saskatchewan to Meadow Lake and back. It was a pretty nice little regional run that allowed Todd to make it back home most nights and for the weekends. One snowy afternoon after making his stop in Meadow Lake Todd made the call to his customer in Lac La Biche who was to be his last drop on the way home. It had been an absolute blizzard all day and he was running too late for the customer to stick around to unload. I’m sure being an almost newlywed had nothing to do with it but Todd wanted to get back home to Ramona that night so he called and told the customer he could drop the piece on his own and slide it under the gate. With that agreed on, he fought his way through the snow from Saskatchewan back to LLB.

Now the tires on the truck were described to me as smoother than a baby’s behind and the truck had no chains on it or even a place to hang them. The condition of the tires wasn’t a big deal to the maintenance manager as the trucks heading out west obviously would need the new tires first and the more local guys would get them… later. Todd actually managed to make it to his customer out by the airport in Lac La Biche and jackknifed into the driveway so he could unstrap and slide the steel piece off the back of his trailer and under the locked gate. It even worked out perfect when he tossed the box of hardware with the signed BOL over the fence and it landed smack in the middle of the plate so it wouldn’t be lost in the snow. Yup things were looking up he was heading home, hop into the truck slam the door and the old Volvo slid straight sideways 3 feet into the ditch! After a not so helpful call to dispatch and a call to the local tow company, Todd figured he better give Ramona a call and let her know he wouldn’t be rollin’ in anytime too soon. I wish I could have coached him on this one because answering the where are you question while in the ditch never goes over well!

After assuring his bride that he was ok, save for the emotional trauma of going into the ditch at a complete stop, Todd was able to get a tug from the tow truck and start the slow journey home. It wasn’t long after turning in the receipt for the tow job that some new (recap) drives showed up on the Volvo. I’d like to think the shop manager learned a cheap lesson about having proper tires for the conditions and Mr. Woitas learned a little better how to “share” a mishap with the missus!

After 3 years with Sokil and some highway experience under his belt, Todd went back to the city to run a local tractor with Highway 9. In his time there he got the bug to have his own truck, to become an owner-operator, I’m pretty sure every trucker has the dream at least once in their life. Most of us dream of having a shiny long hood running up and down the highway with no one but ourselves as the boss and Todd did too. A 1993 FLD 112 with a 3176 Cat and an 8 speed might not get you the magazine cover but for $12,500 and a $600 safety, it was enough to move freight. Todd bought the truck and went in to give his notice at Highway 9 because they only had company trucks so he found a position somewhere else. After hearing the news his manager said: “Give me a day I’ll see what we can do”. The next day Highway 9 hired their first owner-operator.

Todd stayed on there until they wanted to change the hourly agreement and cut the rate to the truck when sitting at shippers for extended periods. Knowing that he was about to lose a good chunk of his income he paid a visit to Duckering’s Transport to see if there was something he could do for them. Dan Duckering hired Todd on the spot! He enjoyed his time there and was even driver of the month a few times, an honour that was a little less special given that there weren’t that many drivers “We pretty much got to take turns” I was told. After about 5 years at Duckering’s things were changing and Todd thought he might too.

Bill Paul was a family friend and neighbour at the shop where Todd worked on his truck. He had a nice little long hood Peterbilt and there was something Todd just liked about it. He told Bill if you ever want to sell it… well in late 2010 he wanted to. He was selling her with the job hauling Canola oil for Boychuk. When I say nice little Pete I’m referring to the wheelbase at 218” it might be the shortest long hood with a bunk around. Todd has a great sense of humour which is good because there seems to be no end to the small/short peter jokes and he just laughs them off. What she lacks in wheelbase she makes up for in heart with a Big Rig Power tuned ISX and heavy spec driveline. It also helps that Todd knew the truck from day one and the owner. So after a brief discussion with Ramona, he got the OK to bring Roxanne home.

The little blue FLD went up for sale for $16k and Todd managed to get $14.5k for it! Not a bad deal considering it only ever cost him a turbo and a couple of injectors in over 5 years. He is sore about one thing though and that’s Garfield. Yes, the cartoon cat. The little freight shaker was decked out pretty nice and shiny when it went to its new home on the farm including a little Garfield dog toy on the antenna. The cat had his claws up ready to pounce and a mischievous grin, Todd says he’s never seen the same one again. Anyway, it was a small price to pay to be behind the wheel of Roxanne.

I love when trucks or vehicles, in general, have a name, it personifies them and shows they’re cared for. One look at Roxanne and you know she’s well looked after. From the old school paint scheme to the lighting inside and out to the clean pristine interior it’s hard to believe the truck works every day. Like her owner, she’s seen a few different jobs too.

Roxanne started out as a tanker-yanker pulling canola oil from Wainwright into Edmonton which is where she was when Todd picked her up. The two of them continued on with that for less than a year but the volume of work wasn’t there. Next, they went to Jones Transportation for a year where Roxanne lost the tanker gear and gained a headache rack. From there she went over to ATL where Todd had her on a good run hauling cable tray down through southern Alberta. After a dispute over the FSC and a couple of other issues, the duo found themselves heading back over to Boychuk. Things were better there and it was looking like they were gonna just stick to Roxanne’s original job until the unthinkable happened.

What happened to Todd was something we all wish for, he was rewarded for doing a great job. You see after he left ATL the customers he served noticed a serious drop in service. Enough of a drop that they talked to the supplier Thomas and Betts. The shipper/receiver at T & B knew what the problem was and how to solve it… barely three months into being back on tankers Todd got the call. They asked him for rates and told him to look for a trailer and the rest, as you might say, is history. Seven years now Todd has been pulling that curtainside flying his own colours and never looked back.

He’s got a nice regular run hauling what he claims is “heavy” cable tray, I think he was trying to justify the Big Rig Power tune in his truck because I don’t recall tray being all that heavy? Anyway, it only has him spending 2 nights a week in the truck and he’s home weekends. In addition, he’s added value to his customer by hauling their raw materials north from Calgary. It’s a niche built on a relationship and service showing there are customers out there who care about a job well done.

Alberta Large Cars started in 2015 while Todd was spending one of his nights on the road in Medicine Hat. He wanted to have a place online to share truck stuff show off pictures of rigs. While chatting with good friend West Cole they bounced names around and most of them had Large Car at the end. “Why not Alberta Large Cars,” Todd said and ALC was born. On June 20, 2015, it started on FaceBook and at first it was just Todd and then West and then other friends. Within a year they formed a group on FaceBook called ALC2 which was to make truckers in the western provinces more of a family. It had road reports, a place to chat and share. What started as a small 30 person group soon had over 1400 members which as you can imagine is a bit much to handle when you also have a day job! For a time Todd had a couple of other people help with Admin for ALC2 which worked until it didn’t. In order to keep ALC2 doing what it was intended for and not sliding into the high school like drama that encompasses social media, Todd once again took over the reins as sole admin of the group, “the rules are simple, no racism, no bashing, no BS or you’re out”.

What drew yours truly to ALC it’s what the group and Todd deserve recognition for is their charity work. Todd was quick to remind me that none of this is possible without the help and support of his wife Ramona. Since before they were married in 1997 she has been helping keep him on the right road and still is! The first ALC toy run convoy was a small group of 16 trucks that met outside of the Canadian Tire on the Manning freeway just before Halloween in 2015. Even with next to no advertising the group was able to gather a couple of pallets of toys for Santa’s Anonymous.

“People were heading back into the store and bringing gifts over to the trucks, unreal”

In 2016 the event was held at Blackjacks and they had 37 trucks, this time donating to the fire victims of Ft. Mac. This was my first convoy and I brought a couple of toys and cruised around with everyone. The outpouring of support was awesome especially given the poor weather that day. In 2017 and last year the attendance and donations have continued to climb. A couple of paintings done by Tiffany Jorgenson were auctioned of bringing in thousands of dollars as truckers would buy them for upwards of 500 bucks and then donate it back to be auctioned off again. Same goes for some trophies Todd made himself, they are really cool little rigs (which you can find at sicklittlerigs.com) that were auctioned over again just to get the maximum dollar value out of each donation.

Todd won’t take credit for the money/toys raised at these events, claims it’s just the quality of people who are showing up there. Days before an event if there is anything needed it’s put out on ALC and the truckers always come through. For the fifth anniversary of ALC, there’s big news coming with a dedicated website being built and new shirts being dropped.

“All of the money paid over and above the cost of the shirts will go to a kids’ charity,” Todd told me, “I have a couple in mind but am always open to suggestions. There are so many good causes and it’s just awesome to help the kids” It is awesome and the man deserves some kudos for getting truckers together, for helping showcase the guys and their rigs and for giving. So hats off to you Todd Woitas! Keep doing the hard work and I look forward to writing a piece on 10 Years of Alberta Large Cars!