March-April 2021 –
My name is Kalyn Tibbits, and I was born in 1992 at the Grey Nuns Hospital in Edmonton. My family left Edmonton when I was a year old, and over the next few years, we moved all over Alberta and B.C. That went on until I was in grade 6 when we settled down in Comox on Vancouver Island. That is the place I call home, and I still miss it every day. Unlike a lot of you, I am a first-generation truck driver.
In October 2012, I came to Edmonton for my grandparent’s 50th wedding anniversary. My Baba told me how busy everything was in Edmonton and how there were so many more opportunities here, unlike on the Island back home. I was 20 at the time and had no idea what I wanted to do. After I got home, I couldn’t get what my Baba said out of my head. The more I thought about it, the more I could see that, at that point, there was no future for me in Comox. I was in a toxic relationship at the time and thought I had nothing to lose. I packed up my place and put everything in storage, and then, with just two suitcases, my dog and my car, on Nov 5th, I drove to Edmonton. Halfway there, I called my Baba and asked her if she still wanted a roommate. My grandparents were ecstatic and welcomed me with open arms.
Once settled in, I honestly had no idea what I wanted to do. I worked at West Edmonton Mall with my girlfriend for a little while but soon realized it was not my thing. So, I went out on a limb and put an ad up on Kijiji, stating where I was from and the work experience that I had. A couple of days later, I got a call from Tom Buckler, from Buckler Transport. He told me about what they do and what they were looking for and asked if I was interested. I said I was and he said that I was more than welcome to come in and see what they do. I have always loved driving, so I figured it was worth a shot. I got hired on, and it was quite the experience.
I only had my class 5 at the time, Kalyn Tibbits www.driverschoice.ca 11 MARCH / APRIL 2021 Pro-Trucker Driver’s Choice Magazine so I had to go for my air brake endorsement right away. I then drove body jobs all over northern Alberta & B.C., delivering groceries, supplies and sometimes transported staff to rig camps. We had to hand-bomb all the supplies out of the trucks, and I loved it. I was always going somewhere different and meeting new people. I stayed with Buckler for 2.5 years – they were all like family, incredibly supportive. Tom always kept me going even when I got frustrated and discouraged when things did not go just right. I made mistakes but learned from them, and every day I am thankful for all the experience I got in those 2.5 years. The other drivers were always supportive and wanted to see me succeed. They were always helpful and more than willing to teach me the tricks of the trade. I loved driving on the back bush roads, switchbacks, chaining up, and going to all kinds of different camps all over the place. I met some awesome people and other truckers along the way. At this point, people were pretty accepting that I was a female in the industry. It had not been an issue yet. Toms Daughter Kim also drove truck, and she has become like family to me over the years. She is another amazing woman in the industry and an excellent driver!
After Buckler Transport, I started on with a specialized trucking company in Edmonton, and this is honestly a place I did not want to write about. But it’s all part of my story. I do not regret it for one second though, the drivers were awesome, and we worked crazy hours. We were on call all the time and expected to show up every morning and be ready to go. Even if absolutely nothing happened that day, you had to sit around the shop. I did learn a lot, from the wreckers, flagging, pilot trucks, landoll & moving all kinds of equipment. Some of the wrecks we went to were insane, and being apart of the retrieval and clean-up process was not easy. I give credit to the people that still do this job. I learned so much in the time that I was there. Even when some days seemed bloody impossible, I still pushed thru.
I went for my class 1 while with them and was so proud when I passed! It may not be a big deal to some, but it meant the world to me. This place showed me what the sometimes harsh reality of being a woman in this industry involves. Any time I messed up or had a question, I got the same line from the owner. Even when no comment was warranted, I still got it. “You just aren’t built for this job; women just can’t do this kind of work.” That was hard to take at first, but eventually, when you hear negative stuff like that enough, you can do one of two things. You can let it get you down and give up or realize it’s a problem they have, and it has nothing to do with you. It just made no sense to me why some men must be like that. One of the managers asked me if I wanted to know what he thought of me. At this point, I was still a quiet and reserved person, so silly me, I said sure. He looked at me and said, “In my opinion, you should not be here.” His words made me laugh, they were not surprising, and I continued to push forward and proved them all wrong. I could do the job, and in fact, I was there for two years. I met some wonderful people in the mix of everything, even though there was a lot of bad, I appreciate all the good when I look back now. I met My daughters’ father there, which I am grateful for, but when it came time to tell my employer the exciting news that I was expecting. I was fired for unjust cause a few days later. To them, it was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I later found out that my pregnancy was the main reason they dismissed me.
I have been working since I was 12 years old. My first job was in the summer at a tree plantation. So being home on maternity leave was hard for me. While I genuinely enjoyed the arrival of our beautiful daughter, I missed being at work. I picked up night shifts with a snow removal company to keep busy and to stop from going stir crazy. Whether it was in a dump truck or running equipment, I absolutely loved it. I still go back every winter and give them a hand if they are short operators.
That spring, I got a job with a company that transported hydro-vac slurry. I operated a roll-off tractortrailer unit, winching & moving tanks from the yard to a dump site and back. It was extremely fast-paced and kept me on my toes. Once the season ended, I went back to snow removal for the winter months.
As spring approached, I got a call from a friend about driving a readymix truck. I have always wanted to do different things in the trucking industry, so I readily agreed. I love to learn and constantly challenge myself, so I am incredibly grateful that I was given that opportunity. Until then, I didn’t know there was so much to learn about concrete, like the different colours, consistency, and batch amounts. My mentor was a girl named Caroline. She was a great teacher and a hoot to work with, so it was a lot of fun. It was fast-paced, and I got to go to a new location to pour every day, and as a bonus, everyone I worked with there was awesome.
While these seasonal jobs were a lot of fun, and I learned a lot, I needed something that was year-round to help support my family. That’s when I got hired on with a company that hauled pipe and oilfield equipment. They put me in a 2013 long nose Peterbilt, and I was overly excited about that. I enjoyed that job too. One of my close friends, Evan, worked there, so it was cool to see him on the road! They kept me busy, but I was away from home more than I would have liked. It was hard on me not to see my daughter every day, as she was still incredibly young. But I did what I had to do and made it work. I was with them for over a year, and I learned a lot and enjoyed the job.
Sometimes things happen & people change, so I set out on my own. I started over and picked myself back up because life is too short to be unhappy. So I did what I had to do and continued to work hard every day. Even though It had me considering getting out of trucking all together, thinking I could find something different and no longer be behind the wheel. I wasn’t ready to give that up, but I needed to do what was best for my daughter, so I decided I couldn’t be away from home for work anymore.
Some people say that when one door closes another opens and I have to agree because that was when I was put in contact with Kirian Excavating and Transport. They are a small family company that honestly does a little bit of everything. They took me in, and It has been an awesome adventure. They have taken the time to teach me a lot, making sure I am comfortable and capable on my own and to be the best that I can be. And of course, razzing me on the hard days to remind me that it’s still supposed to be fun! I am not perfect and have made mistakes, but learning from them is so important. Wanting to do better each day and taking in the good lessons and, yes, even the crappy and frustrating ones.
I have never been one to shy away from work, whether I am in a truck, washing trucks or in the shop helping. They always keep me busy! The owners have taken me under their wings and have wanted to see me succeed from day one. They are always there to help or teach me new things about the trade. I drive a winch tractor now and run a dump truck with a quad wagon. Both things I never imagined I would do when just starting out in the trucking world. I know I am capable of anything I set my mind to. It’s just a matter of overcoming the hurdles that come with it. They have seen me struggle and get frustrated, but they are always right there to encourage me to keep going. I am also thankful for my dispatcher, who keeps my wheels turning, my coworkers who are always there to help and keep me going. This company is an awesome team, and I am grateful to be apart of it every day.
Everywhere that I have worked has been an adventure for me. In the last nine years, I have met, and continue to meet, many wonderful people. Some who I am even fortunate enough now to call family. When on the road, I always stop and help others if and when I can. Because let’s face it, what we do isn’t easy.
There have been times when I thought to myself, what the heck am I doing here? And I’m sure I am not the only one. But no matter what, I never gave up and looking back on it now, I am so glad I didn’t. One thing I miss now is not being on the highway. Going off the beaten path off the road to the rig camps was definitely an adventure. Throwing chains, going up and down crazy switchbacks with beautiful views was great, but honestly, the peace and quiet of those runs were the best.
I am still learning every day and still love my job. I don’t have too many crazy highway stories to tell. We have all been thru the crazy winters, dealt with the crazy roads and well…the crazy drivers! Like everyone, I have seen some horrible accidents and, unfortunately, at times, been the one that had to go to help clean them up. I have had to show other drivers how to chain up, get fuel, and even help fix the odd problem with their truck or trailer. We are all out here working hard in different parts of the trucking industry but I believe it is important that we look out for one another.
Finally, this is near and dear to my heart. For all you ladies out there who are either in the industry or thinking of giving it a go, I know things have changed, and it is harder and more expensive to get your licence now. But for those of you who are on the fence about stepping into this crazy world, at the end of the day, the only person who dictates what you can or cannot do is you! This crazy whirlwind of an adventure has been far from easy, but it has been so rewarding and, most of all, fun! I have made some great friends who I now call family. Every day is a challenge and a lesson. I will always be so grateful for those who have taught me, supported me, and cheered me on in this journey so far. It’s only the beginning – who knows what this will look like for me down the road. But I absolutely love what I do, and that is so important!