January-February 2021

My name is Jay Palachuk. I was born and raised in Winnipeg, and, unlike a lot of you, I’m a first generation truck driver. I first became involved in trucking when I was laid off from my job in 1979. At that time, Unemployment Insurance offered to send me to school to get my Class 3 license. After getting my license, I worked locally, driving a straight truck for two years, then my sister’s boyfriend offered to teach me how to drive an eighteen-wheeler. I got my Class 1, and he got me a job hauling mail from Winnipeg to Thunder Bay, Ontario.

One day he called me and asked me if I would like to run double with him to Florida. I called my boss and asked him if I could go, and he said no. I decided to go anyway, and by the time I returned to Winnipeg, I had lost my job. After that, I worked for my sister’s boyfriend for about six months at Pacific Midwestern Express (P.M.E.), driving a 1979 Kenworth W900 loaded with all the options. After those six months, P.M.E. then offered me a permanent position.

I have to thank all the guys at P.M.E. because they taught me everything I needed to know about trucking and maintaining a truck. I look up to all those guys, and funny as it may seem, I didn’t realize until just earlier this year that they weren’t much older than I was at the time.

In 1983, P.M.E was sold, so I bought my first Kenworth. It was a 1979 W900A and I put it to work for Arnold Brothers out of Winnipeg. I worked there for 11 months before I decided to call Global Agricultural Products in Bramalea, Ontario. It was the company P.M.E. hauled freight for when I was working for them.

In 1986, I bought a brand new 30th Anniversary in Canada W900 Aerodyne. Eventually, the Global Agricultural Products partners split the company into two entities, one selling meat and the other transportation. Global Agricultural Products became Global Meat Exports, and the transportation division became Future Fast Freight based out of Oakville, Ontario. We hauled meat and produce in and out of Ontario. Some of the greatest times I had was trucking across I-80. It wouldn’t be out of the ordinary to run into 10 or 20 friends going down the same Interstate. Meeting new people every trip, having dinner at the truck stop sitting at the counter and listening to all the drivers telling their “stories.” Those days are long gone, and so are the days when drivers would wave to each other. I loved it back then. It seemed to show that we recognized the kinship that we all shared. In the ’80s and ‘90s, the winters on the road seemed especially brutal.

From what I remember, there seemed to be more snow and colder weather than there is now. The highways department always seemed to be out there all night long maintaining the roads alongside us truck drivers. I remember one time my truck froze up in North Dakota, and I barely made it to the rest area. Because my truck wouldn’t run, and it was extremely cold outside, I ended up sleeping on the bathroom floor in the rest area just to stay warm. The next morning a tow truck towed me into Fargo to have my truck thawed out and fixed. It’s situations like these that are the real-life lessons in driving. You quickly learn from them and do your level best to ensure that they don’t happen again. Now I make sure I have extra filters and additives with me at all times.

I can remember more than once getting caught in a snowstorm and driving down the road with my head out, looking down to see the lines on the road because I couldn’t see past my hood. It is a dangerous situation. You are torn between parking on the road and having someone run into you and keeping going and possibly running into someone yourself. One time it took me 4 hours to go 20 miles in a snowstorm in Minnesota. I remember seeing a stop sign and then realizing it was a stop sign for a snowmobile trail. Every once in a while, I would have to stop just to get my bearings straight because the snow was moving faster than I was, and I had no idea if I was actually moving. When I finally reached the truck stop, I felt there was no point going the extra 2 miles to the border. The sad part was that I was just 90 miles from home and my nice warm bed.

When I woke up the next morning, the weather was just as bad, if not worse, than the night before. I was 50 feet from the fuel island and was unable to see it from my truck. The road was closed for three days, and I was in my truck the whole time. Back in those days, people would usually check to see if you needed any help and the C.B. was a very useful tool in situations like that, but today, very few people still use a C.B.

In the early ‘90s, I dressed up to go trucking. I had a rock star kind of look! Big hair, long coat and rockin’ boots., I can remember being asked a few times to leave the truckers section in restaurants as these tables were reserved for truck drivers only. I remember one trip, in particular, when my girlfriend came with me. We stopped for a shower and lunch at the truck stop. When we went to the counter, the clerk said Wow, I love your hair! My girlfriend said “thank you” to the clerk. The clerk replied, not yours, his! As we left the truck stop to get on the Interstate, we heard, “Check out those two baby dolls in that Kenworth” My girlfriend looked at me and started to laugh hysterically. She thought that was the funniest thing ever. I remember another time when a waitress asked me for my autograph for her daughter. She thought I was from a rock band. I tried to explain that I was only a truck driver, but she didn’t believe me and got annoyed that I wouldn’t give her an autograph. It kind of made me laugh! Back then, all my friends referred to me as Rock Star on the C.B.. Even today, some of them will bring it up.

I remember a trip in 1992 when I left Edmonton going to Vancouver. I was driving through the mountains, and something didn’t seem right. After I unloaded in Vancouver, I picked up apples in Washington and then went on to Bend, Oregon, to pick up more produce going to the market in Toronto. As I was climbing hills in the mountains, my fan would cut in, and I could hear it rubbing on my fan shroud. I found a place to pull over, opened the hood, and the engine was leaning a bit, then I had trouble closing the hood. I called Kenworth in Bend, Oregon and explained my problem. They said to bring it in, and they would take a look. After their inspection, they advised me that the frame was cracked and it would take a few days to repair it. I have to admit that it was kind of scary seeing one side of my truck up on jack stands. I got a hotel room and soon found out that anything can be repaired after four days and a stack of cash has changed hands. Taking that stack of cash, they replaced the frame rail, and I was finally on the road again.

In 1995, I custom ordered a 1996 Kenworth W900 Studio sleeper. Keewatin Truck Service in Winnipeg usually did any repairs I needed to have done, and I would wash my truck at the local truck wash. When I got my own shop, I finally had a spot to wash my truck and do most of the repairs and maintenance myself. I am not a mechanic, but over the years, I started to learn how to do my own repairs, and Jim at Keewatin would always offer his assistance when I needed it. I owe a lot to Keewatin Truck Service as they were always there for me over the years. Today I do 90% of my own repairs.

Around 1996, Future Fast Freight closed its doors, so I started working for D.M. Krenkevich Inc. based in Winnipeg, hauling Kitchen Craft Cabinets to Florida. We had an excellent crew, and we always got the job done. In 1997, someone offered to buy my truck, and it was too good a deal to pass up. I then purchased a 1998 Peterbilt 379 60” flat top, and in1999, I sold the Peterbilt and bought my current truck, a 1996 Kenworth W900L Aero 1. Dwane, the owner of D.M. Krenkevich, had purchased the truck in 1995. He drove it from Vancouver to Winnipeg and then parked it in his shop. When I bought it from him it had 1500 miles on it.

Around 2008 I went to work for Payne Transportation based in Winnipeg and was still hauling Kitchen Craft Cabinets to Florida. In the spring of 2015, my friend and I decided to haul tankers. His company was called River City Tank Lines, based out of Winnipeg. In the winter of 2015, I found myself back at Payne Transportation hauling Kitchen Craft Cabinets to Florida and John Deere tractors back north to Winnipeg.

In 2017 while attending the Mid America Truck Show in Louisville, Kentucky I ran into Dwane Krenkevich and told him if you’re looking for another driver, give me a call. Dwane called me in the fall and said he has a deal with Décor Cabinets based out of Morden, Manitoba if you’re interested. I handed in my resignation at Payne Transportation, and in October 2017, I once again started working at D.M. Krenkevich. I started out hauling cabinets to Chicago but switched when a run to Florida came up.

Today I haul a variety a freight all over North America, including household goods for people who are relocating to another city. I recently hauled a load from Florida to Newfoundland for the Gap store. The Ferry ride from New Brunswick to Newfoundland was interesting to say the least. Because of Covid 19, I had to stay in a cabin so they could keep all the passengers separated. My cabin had no tv, no internet and worst of all, no window. It was the longest trip I’ve been on in a very long time. I was away from home for 21 days. Which, in reality, wasn’t bad compared to the 80’s and early 90’s when I was on the road more than I was home.

My pet peeve would most definitely be hours of service. Whoever made the driving rules for truck drivers obviously have no idea what we drivers do out here. I often find myself driving for 3 – 4 hours in a day and running out of hours. If it’s early in the day, I find myself struggling to fall asleep because I get hours back at midnight so I can go back on the road again. I would prefer to make it home that day to be able to sleep in my own bed instead of sitting around in a truck stop 4 hours away from home with nothing to do.

Truck drivers have to take a reset for 34 hours after their 70 hour window is up. So, for example, if you’re 4 hours from home, you have to spend 34 hours sitting at a truck stop when you could be at home with your family. When you do finally get home, the company could send you right back out again because you just got your 70 hours back.

I’ve been long-haul driving for 40 plus years and during that time my truck driving career has taken me to 48 states and 10 provinces. I’ve been everywhere man!. Although a lot of things have changed, I still enjoy my job! I usually have the same route every trip, but once in a while, I get to see something new! Whether it be a town I’ve never been to or a road I’ve never been down.

I still have my 1996 Kenworth W900L and I recently had it painted and restored. Most people don’t like to say they’re old, but I am proud to say I’m an old school truck driver. There aren’t many of those around anymore. It’s always nice when you pull into a truck stop and meet another old school truck driver. There’s always lots to talk about. I like to talk to people, so it makes it hard to leave when you’re having a good conversation with someone with the same trucking values as you have. I love being a truck driver, and I’m in it for the long haul.