Tiffany Fryer – September 2005

Tiffany Fryer was born and raised in the village of Nakusp B.C. which is approximately sixty miles south of Revelstoke at the junction of Highway 6 and Highway 23. Located on the shores of the Arrow Lakes, nestled between the Selkirk and Monashee Mountains, Nakusp is home to some of the most spectacular scenery in all of B.C.

Tiffany’s parents, Richard and Linda Henke had a farm and driving range right next to a golf course and there were a wide variety of machines like lawnmowers, tractors and trucks that Tiffany and her older sister Tracy soon learned to drive.

This is Tiffany’s story.

“I was 13 years old when I first drove my Dads 1975 Pacific gravel truck. Dad started driving it as a company driver in 1979 and in 1981 he bought it from the company that he worked for. He still owns the Pacific but only uses it once or twice a year for odd jobs. If someone asks Dad about me being a driver his usual reply goes something like, “Tiffany has always had a knack for driving but I never thought she would end up hauling logs for a living. I guess I should have realized it the time she asked me to make a set of chains for our go-kart so she could drive it around in the winter.”

I met future husband (Jed Fryer) when I was 15 years old. He bought his first truck in 1998 and his second truck in 1999 but he was a loader man so he put drivers on them and never drove them himself. In January 2001 the local Pope and Talbot Mill shut down early in January and Jed went to Prince George to work for Jim Vaughn of JV Logging.

When spring break-up came that year Jed was asked if he would come back and load logs for them in the summer. I got tired of Jed working away form home all the time so I went and got my Class 1 license in the spring of 2001 – just a few days after my 19th birthday.

The first truck I drove after I got my license was a 1996 Western Star that had a 500 Cat with a jake and a retarder. The truck originally had been pulling a jeep and pole trailer but before I hauled my first load Jed told me if I was going to haul logs I might as well haul as much wood as I could so he traded the pole trailer for a triaxle.  It wasn’t very reassuring when Jed said, “Don’t worry, at least nobody will ask you to back up because nobody can back those things up more than a truck length or two.”

There I was, just 19 years old, heading to Prince George with a jeep and triaxle to haul logs. It would be a huge understatement to say that I was a little nervous but at the same time I was very excited too!

Jed loaded my first load 130 km north of Ft. St. James and I headed for Prince George. With the new trailer we weren’t able to calibrate scales until after the first load so we just loaded it up until it looked like we had a fairly legal looking load. Well the wood was heavier than Jed thought and I headed to Prince George, across 2 sets of government scales, with 69,000 kgs. 59,800 was the legal limit. Oops!  I still don’t know how I got away with that. After that I calibrated the scales and decided it would be a good idea to haul a few legal ones. I always give the guys at the scales a big smile and a wave now. I hauled all summer from north of Ft. St. James to Prince George and never missed a load.

Everything went really good that first summer but Jed and I only got to see each other for a few minutes each day when he was loading my truck. We were both working 15 hour days and between work and sleep there wasn’t much time left over. That’s when Jed decided it would be better to quit loading and start driving. The only problem was he only had his learner’s license so for the first winter we drove together. We made a good team, he had the guts to go anywhere no matter how slippery, and I had a license.

One memorable moment for me was the day I stayed home and Jed went to work with his learner’s license. He got stopped at the scales in Vanderhoof and they made him park the truck and phone me in Prince George. I had to drive the pick-up to Vanderhoof to rescue Jed and haul his load the rest of the way to the mill.

Another funny moment was the day Jed decided he was going to take his road test. He drove the loaded logging truck down to the ICBC office in Prince George but when he went inside to see if he could take his test they told him they were booked up for the rest of the day. He made an appointment for the next day and got back in the truck and headed towards the mill. I guess somebody in the office figured Jed was driving without a license because the 19 year old girl in the passenger seat couldn’t possibly have her class 1.

We didn’t get two blocks before the DOT pulled us over. The DOT officer asked for Jed’s license. Jed pulled out his yellow piece of paper that said learner’s license and handed it to him. The officer started his spiel about how much trouble Jed was in and how he needed someone with a valid class 1 to drive with him. When he was done with the lecture I leaned over and handed him my license and he just about fell over. He was pretty embarrassed as he apologized and told us to go on our way.

It was a good winter as Jed and I shared the driving and learned how to haul logs on the snow and ice. With a bit of money in the bank and our Western Star getting a little old we decided to order a brand new tri-drive Western Star. This is the truck that I still drive today. In fact I have been with that truck since the frame rails came in the door at the Western Star plant in Kelowna. We toured the factory the day our truck was being built and were able to watch it be assembled part by part from beginning to end.

We double shifted the new truck for most of that summer and by September we had decided to buy a second truck. To keep the payments low we bought a used 1999 Western Star tri-drive that Jed had found. This was the beginning of what is now a successful husband and wife log hauling team better known on the road as, “the two black Western Stars.”

That winter we hauled off-highway in Vanderhoof for Clusko Logging. This was the first winter that we each had our own truck and the haul that we were on worked well because we were able to travel together. The haul was seven to eight hours round trip and we did two loads a day. It was a very busy winter between hauling logs and planning our wedding which took place in Maui on May 7, 2003.

Following our wedding we went back to work in Prince George. It was a busy summer even with the warm, dry weather and all the fire season shutdowns in the south. We managed to work right through the fire season although most of the summer we were on nightshift.

With everything going good, some money in the bank, and the Canadian dollar at a record high, we decided to update the 1999 Star. We ordered another tri-drive Western Star that was identical to the 2003.

That winter we hauled from Prince George to Vavenby which was a pretty good haul as far as the rate was concerned. However we went through some of the worst snow storms we had ever seen. Anyone who has driven the highway between Prince George and McBride and then through Blue River to Vavenby probably know what I mean by snow.

It seemed like every Friday afternoon it would snow like crazy and instead of taking five hours to get back to Prince George it would take about seven.

One trip that sticks in my mind was the night we left Prince George in the middle of an absolute blizzard. By the time we hit the Dome Creek Hill we had passed half a dozen lumber trucks that were spun-out and we were pushing snow with our bumpers.  It was a slow trip but, thanks to the tri-drives, we made it.  Other than the weather, the winter went well. To finish off the season we jumped around a bit to stay busy. First we hauled from Prince George to Armstrong and then we spent two weeks in Alberta.

Alberta has to be the craziest place to haul logs. We hauled through the middle of Calgary with thirty feet of overhang. We were hauling from Southern Alberta (close to the US border) up through Calgary and over to Sundre. People in Calgary looked at us like we were crazy as we hauled these huge loads of burnt logs along the Blackfoot Trail, sometimes I had to wonder myself.

When that was over we came back to BC and hauled from Quesnel to Midway. This was a good place to finish the year because when we were done we were only 3 hours from home which is a welcome site when you’ve been away all year.

With both trucks still being pretty new there was very little maintenance to do so it should have been a relaxing spring break-up but it was an unusually busy April and May around Nakusp so we spent most of our time working. That never changed all year, and it seemed like all we did was work.

We did make time to shine up our trucks and take them to BC Big Rig Weekend. We had wanted to go for a few years and we finally made it. I guess it’s a good thing we did because if we hadn’t, someone else would have taken home the 1ST and 2ND place trophies for logging trucks.  Seriously though, winning 1st place at BC Big Rig was great and it was especially fun for me to beat Jed. He has all kinds of excuses but, like I’ve always told him, my truck just looks better.

The remainder of the year consisted of about 3 months hauling from Boston Bar to Chilliwack and 3 months in Fort St. John. Both jobs turned out to be excellent hauls. We had never been as far north as Fort St. John before. We decided to spend the winter there because of the long winter season that they usually get. It turned out pretty good despite an unusually warm winter. Luckily we got a cold snap at the end of March allowing us to haul into the first week in April.

The first half of the winter we worked 6 days a week and the second half of the winter, as the mill pushed to get the wood in, we worked 7 days a week.

On April 12 we were finally on our way home after a long year and the familiar excitement of coming home grew the closer we got. I was still on the road when I got a call from John White, editor of the Pro-Trucker Magazine. He asked me if he could use my truck for Rig of the Month in an upcoming issue.  John seemed to be trying to convince me that this would be a good idea while all the time my gut feeling was “hell yeah”.

I told him timing couldn’t have been better because I had the next few weeks off and I’d have lots of time to write a story and take some pictures of my truck.

It gives me great pleasure to be in Pro-Trucker but this story isn’t just about me and my truck, there are many people who have helped me get started in this business.

First and foremost there is my wonderful husband Jed.  If it wasn’t for him I would not be doing the job that I love. He deserves special thanks for all that he’s done for me on and off the job. He helps me keep my truck maintained and looking good and no matter what happens during the work day he is always willing to work on my truck and do whatever it takes to make sure its ready to haul logs the next day.

Then there is my mother and father who are wonderful parents and have always been there for me no matter what and my Dad is always ready to help with the wrenching.

My big sister Tracy is so important to me, she’s the one that I call when I need to talk to someone about something, anything, other than trucking and she has given me a wonderful niece Darian whom Jed and I adore.

Being away from home so much, the people you meet in the industry are almost like an extended family. Tiara, a wonderful girl from Merritt who also hauls logs with her own truck, has become a great friend.  She is one of the kindest hearted, good natured people I have ever met.  (And she drives a Western Star).

My accountant Barb, makes my life so much easier by taking care of all our accounting.  We have also become good friends with Tony and his wife Donna whom we’ve worked with many times. Between Tony and Jed they can always find logs to haul somewhere. Tony’s daughter, Mindy, also hauls logs around Princeton.  Thanks to Tiara and Mindy I don’t feel like I’m the only girl doing this crazy job.

I would like to thank Joe, a driving instructor at M.J. Bloomfield Trucking School in Kelowna who taught me how to shift my first few gears and whenever there is something Jed or my Dad can’t fix we can always rely on the guys at the Western Star shop in Prince George. Arnold, Wayne, Keith and the rest of the guys know their stuff and always get us back on the road.

Last but not least I would like to thank the contractors that have hired us to haul their wood.  We have had the opportunity to work for some of the best logging companies in the province and travel roads that only a few are lucky enough to see. It’s a crazy world and you never know where it will lead but taking the proverbial, “road less traveled,” was the best turn I ever made.