Mike Rosenau from Calgary Alberta is our June Rig of the Month. This is his story:
I was born at the Foothills Hospital in Calgary Alberta and grew up in Leduc.
With a last name like Rosenau, my future was more or less sealed and I was into trucking from a very early age.
My grandfather, Gus, started Rosenau Transport in 1957. My Dad, Len, was the oldest of 7 kids and he started driving at 16. They had a great system going. Dad lived in Calgary and Grandpa lived in Edmonton. They both had pickup trucks and they would spend their days going around their respective towns collecting freight to be delivered in the other’s city. At the end of the day they would drive to Red Deer where they would swap trucks and go home. Next morning they would do their deliveries and then start all over doing pickups for the next day’s deliveries.
That may sound pretty slick and quite a simple run until you realize that back then the highways and the trucks were nothing like they are today.
My Dad used to have a steady run hauling freight up to Yellowknife with a W900 Kenworth and me and my older brother, Mike, who many of you know as Motor, and younger one, Tony, used to fight over who got to go on runs with him. I also have a younger sister Cory who wisely stayed out of the truck.
Sometimes 2 of us were allowed to go at the same time and then Dad would put a stool between the seats for one of us to sit on. As you can see safety was not a big factor back then but somehow we managed to live through it all. At night Dad took the bunk while we were more than happy to sleep on the floor. It was like camping out!
Whenever we ran into road construction, which was quite often, the flag girls would always stop Dad because they knew that one thing they could always count on was that Dad would have a cooler filled with Pepsi Cola on ice and he would always give them some. Now at first glance this doesn’t seem to be all that unusual but the funny part is that he drove a Rosenau truck delivering Coca Cola. Over the years he never did acquire a taste for Coca Cola and the girls all got a real kick out of that. I don’t know it if was from those trips or maybe something in our genes but I’ve always preferred Pepsi myself.
We worked in the yard with Dad from an early age. Doing the little things we could do and gradually moving up to bigger tasks. One of the pieces of equipment Dad had was a 1948 Lawrence Hayes forklift that he bought from the Nanaimo Air Base just north of Edmonton. He used to tie the back of the forklift down to a truck so that they could lift the real heavy stuff off a trailer. Back then my little brother Tony and I were just little goofs who wanted to mess around all the time and we used to fight to see who could operate the forklift. This kind of fits in with my earlier comment about safety not being a big factor back then. In reality, it boiled down to doing what you had to in order to get the job done. In the meantime, while we were messing around my brother Mike was usually in there putting his time in helping Dad and learning the trade.
On the weekend that I turned 16 I borrowed a friend’s 250 Honda and drove it from Leduc to Edmonton to get my motorcycle license. When I got there all the other guys that were waiting to take their licence were riding big Honda Gold Wings and Harleys. This was back in the day when you ran around a dinky little course in the parking lot marked out with pylons which wasn’t an easy thing to do if you were riding a big heavy motorcycle. As I waited my turn one of them failed and then I whipped through the course with no problem with the little 250. The other riders started complaining saying it wasn’t fair me using that little bike but the instructor told them that it didn’t matter what size bike a person had, the test was the same and all motorbikes were legal.
I laughed and jokingly said that for $50 they could use my bike to take the test. Surprisingly a couple of them took me up on it and then when more came and saw what was going on they wanted to use my bike too. I ended up staying there a good part of the day and when I got back to Leduc I split the proceeds down the middle and handed my buddy $300! This should have prepared me for the future of trucking as even back then you could “buy” a license. The following weekend I went and got my Class 5 license.
I have to say that my Dad is the person I admire most. He worked hard his whole life raising us four kids and he was a great driver who eagerly passed on his knowledge and instilled in me his work ethics which greatly helped to make me the driver I am today.
Dad’s little brother, Tim Rosenau, gave me my first job. It was driving a 5 ton Hino in Calgary doing LTL. I would run around town doing pick-ups and then, at the end of the day, go back and empty the body job into a destination trailer. I really wanted to be a real truck driver so when people asked me what I drove I would casually say “a cab over” – it sounded a lot better than admitting I drove a Hino. Uncle Tim was a great mentor, he showed me a lot when it came down to doing the job and he always had me come in on weekends to do the maintenance on my truck.
I moved around a little in my late teens and early twenties I lived in Edmonton, Lloydminster, Calgary, back to Edmonton, then finally back to Calgary when Tim called me and offered me a job there. At the time I was a powerlifter – not a bodybuilder – I liked lifting heavy stuff – so he jokingly said he needed me because he was going to retire the forklift and he wanted me to replace it.
I drove for Rosenau for a while but then life happens and just about then Rival Express offered me a job driving a body job around town. I was with them for about a month when one day they needed a Class 1 driver and gave me the keys. They didn’t even ask if I had my license. I didn’t say a word just jumped in the truck and drove it for about six months before I decided I should get my license before I got caught.
I got my Class 1 license through AAA Driving whose office was off Memorial Drive right beside an ice cream shop. I drove the tractor-trailer over there by myself and when the examiner came out he asked me where the guy was that came with me. I told him he went for ice cream. He gave me one of those looks like he had heard that story before and then looked at the name on my license. He mumbled something about this going to be a waste of his time and then took me out onto Memorial Drive and down the road about a block into the parking lot of the old motor vehicle branch. When we got there I had to do the backup blindside, which I did with no problem, and then I pulled back onto Memorial and headed west. We only went about 6 blocks before he told me to head back as I was good…..
After a while, the boss and I at Rival didn’t see eye to eye so I moved on to Westcan where a buddy, Mike Hanson, wanted to team with me hauling jet fuel. Yellowknife was our main route but we also went to Prince Rupert BC. It was pretty fascinating out there. We went out onto the port where the Coast Guard parks their ship and ended up driving right in front of the massive boat. It doesn’t look like much when you see it on TV but in person – WOW! When we got to where we needed to be there were helicopters taking off and landing all around us. It was crazy in the fuel industry it seemed like they go by the Big Bang Theory we came in with a bang and we were going to go out with one…lol.
Westcan always gave us maps with our running orders and on this one run through Prince Rupert we had to drive through a residential area and up a massively steep hill. Right on the very top of the hill there is a T intersection and on the map they gave us it said in big red lettering “When coming to the T intersection at the top of the hill there is a stop sign but do not stop you will not be able to get going again.” Luckily when we got to the top nothing was coming and we could slip on through.
By the time Mike and I were making the runs to Yellowknife the road had changed a lot from when we were kids. It had been straightened out a lot more than what I remembered. On our first trip in there was a lot of buffalo on the road and the drivers ahead of us would just sit back and wait for them to move which was pretty frustrating. When we stopped at the diner just across from the ferry I made a comment about it and the guy in the diner asked me how much I liked my truck. He then explained that if you make the buffalo mad they are more than capable of destroying your truck.
We were pumping off at the airport in Yellowknife on that fatefull Tuesday, September 11, 2001, when an alarm went off that meant we had to stop pumping and disconnect from the tank farm. Then the main guy from the tank farm came running out and told us about the attack on the Twin Towers in New York. We couldn’t believe it. We pulled away from the pumps, disconnected from our trailers, and bobtailed into downtown Yellowknife where we found a RadioShack. It was the only place we could find where we could watch the news on TV. Everyone was in shock – it was unbelievable.
They immediately put a stop to any planes coming into the U.S. so the ones that were in the air were being escorted down to the closest airports by fighter jets. One 747 landed while we were still there and that was quite a feat as that short runway was definitely not built for 747’s. One more landed a little later and I found out after the fact that the passengers and luggage had to be put on smaller planes to be flown out. Then in order to make the 747’s light enough to get off the ground, they had to completely gut them and give them just enough fuel so they could make it to the next airport.
When I left there I went to work for Rainbow Transport where I started pulling pikes. I also did a couple of other jobs for them like driver trainer and dispatch. I liked working there – the Schneider’s were good people to work for.
Then one day my uncle Carl offered me a job as an owner-operator. I jumped at the chance and Rosenau financed my first truck. It was a 1986 FL120 with an N14 Cummins 18 speed, and 46 rear ends. It was a great truck. I’ve owned 3 trucks, the last one I bought from my brother Mike. It had the N14+ 18 speed with 46 rear ends. I also had a Western Star that had a C15 Cat motor with twin turbos, 18 speed and 46 rear ends. That truck put me in the poor house. I spent a lot of time at Western Star instead of on the road – it was the worst truck I’ve ever owned…
I like to challenge myself so when the opportunity came up I went over to Cruz Carriers driving a flat top Peterbilt hauling over dimensional loads down south and back. At one point I was driving Trican Frac trucks down to Texas and Pennsylvania. They were all drive-a-ways, which meant you drove them down and then flew home.
On one such trip, there was two of us taking a couple of Frac Trucks and Trailers to Pennsylvania. It was in the middle of winter and the one thing those trucks weren’t lacking was traction. The roads between Moose Jaw and Weyburn Saskatchewan were glare ice with trucks and cars spun out everywhere but we didn’t spin once.
For some reason, Cruz did not buy permits for us to travel through Iowa and that turned out to be a big expensive mistake. As soon as the front wheels hit the 1st Iowa scale the red light came on, “Park, being papers.” Iowa is the only state where, when it comes to over-dimensional or overweight units, in order to run there, you have to register your entire fleet with the state.
When we went inside the D.O.T officer proceeded to give us a $5500.00 ticket each and then went off dutry. Another officer showed up right away and asked how much our fines were. I told him and then he asked if we had paid them. I told him no and he said we got off easy. He said that if it was him we would have been thrown in jail till the tickets were paid.
At the time I was pretty new to running down south so I said a couple of things I shouldn’t have and then he piped up and asked if I knew what Iowa stands for? I said no and he said, “It stands for, I Otta Went Around.” This guy was a real prize and a prime example of a small man with a big badge.
We couldn’t move the trailers ourselves so we ended up calling a cab to take us into town to a hotel. Next morning caught a cab back and waited for the Cruz Carriers truck that they had dispatched to come and move our trailers out of state so we could continue on our way. Cruz had a small fleet that was registered in Iowa but the driver had to travel across 4 states to get to us. We then had to wait another 7 hours for permits before we could leave. The Cruz truck finally showed up and moved one trailer out and then came back for the other. He didn’t actually move them right out of state like he was supposed to, he just moved them to a point where there were no more scales between us and the state line. We hooked up again and continued on our way.
l loved hauling in Texas the most. It was like driving in the late 80s and early 90s. You put your Signal light on and people actually let you in or they would speed up to get by you faster so they were not holding you up.
I was sitting in a truck stop in Fort Worth one time when the waitress asked me how my day was going I told her, “It’s great, I’m in Texas,” She said, “Well that’s great to hear.” I said, “It’s nice to come to a place where people on the road still respect the truck driver.”
There was a trucker sitting at the table beside me and he asked in his deep Texan drawl, “Do you want to know why that is?” I said, “sure.” and he said, “Down here when they see trucks moving freight they know times are good, especially when they see trucks from other countries.”
I love hauling big loads.
The coolest loads I’ve ever hauled were 130ft cement bridge beams. Most of the beams I hauled were for the ring road in Calgary but there were a few that went from Edmonton to Saskatoon. It was quite the procedure. We had to drive over to Con-Force Concrete Products, drop the back part of the trailer and then stretch it out until the guy on the lift told you when you were long enough. The beam itself then became the frame of your trailer connecting the front of the trailer to the back. The number of wheel combinations was also ridiculous. The set up they used was called a 60 wheeler bunk and dolly.
Airlines and electrical cables are then run along the beam and plugged into the rear dolly. The rear pilot car guys had a remote control to steer the back of the dolly around tight corners but the public did not know how it all worked. It was awesome looking at the people that were sitting at the lights with eyes as big as softballs until the back wheels started to turn and the beam moved away from them.
A close second in the coolest load category would have to be windmill blades. At 140ft long, they made for some fun cornering. The first time I was pulling windmill blades they told me I was going to Miami! I was jacked! What a trip! They waited a few minutes for this to sink in and then they said it was Miami, Manitoba. What a burn!
The road I had to take was a 2 lane that turned onto a gravel road and it was very different than what I was used to. Being able to make those corners with a trailer that was stretched out with no pivot point in the middle was awesome. The trailer wheels turn when you start to turn and you’re right in the middle of the road with the dotted line going down the middle of your truck. The remote control for the trailer wheels was operated by the pilot car, or the yard supervisor, depending on where you were.
Life is Good
I have 2 great kids from my first marriage, Mathew who is 16 and Jessica who is 13 and a real Daddy’s girl. They both live with their mother in Calgary. I had been single for a while when I met a girl, Tami, on a dating site. She lived in Pincher Creek and for the first year we were just friends talking back and forth a lot. We finally got together and started dating about 3 years ago. As time went on we spent more and more time together. We would alternate where I would go to Pincher Creek one weekend and she would come to Calgary the next.
Then last February she planned a weekend in Banff for my birthday which worked out great as I was looking for a time and place to propose. I made reservations at the Keg and told them that I wanted them to write “Will you Marry Me” on a dessert plate. During the meal I got up and passed my phone to one of the girls so she could videotape the proposal. When they brought the plate out she didn’t even notice the writing until I got down on my knee and then she finally caught on.
Today Tami and I and her 17-year-old daughter Rhianna live together with our 11 months out boxer/bulldog Sabastion, aka Schredder because he shreds everything. Tammy and I plan on getting married this August.
Both my brothers are still driving truck. Mike, aka Motor, is driving a gravel truck in Kelowna and Tony is driving for Rosenau Transport in Edmonton.
I’m still driving for Rosenau and up until just last week I was driving a 2013 T6060 18-speed automatic but they just put me into a 2019 Peterbilt with an 18-speed automatic paired with a 500 horsepower Paccar motor. I’m not a fan of the automatics – I‘m still old school and like the feel of working my truck through the gears, but I guess it’s the way things are going now…