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‘Thankless Job’: Veteran Truck Drivers Share How They Cope With Loneliness, Broken Relationships, Increasing Public Alienation

Article By Kellen Taniguchi

~ MARCH 2022 ~


“Without us the stores would be empty, the hotels would be empty, you wouldn’t have a house to live in. We’re out here doing a purpose.”


Bart Sagmoen and Craig Pollock are regular Alberta truck transport drivers, sacrificing home and health on the road for a combined 73 years, trying to stay above the fray and do their jobs in an increasingly under-appreciated industry.

Amid the ongoing trucker protests across Canada and the demands of the job, there is currently a truck driver shortage across the country.

During the third quarter of 2021, Trucking HR Canada reported a staggering vacancy rate with 22,990 vacant driving jobs — representing a 20 per cent increase in job openings over 2021’s second quarter.

Sagmoen, 64, said truck driving is a “thankless job,” and it is easy to “pigeonhole” all truck drivers as one group with the current COVID-19 health mandate politics still swirling around the industry.

“Everything you have on your back, everything you have in your home, everything around you somewhere in life has been delivered by one of these things,” said Sagmoen, nodding towards his big rig.

Current political considerations aside, the work can be brutally hard on mental and physical health, confining drivers inside their cabs for hours on end, day after day, largely in isolation from loved ones. But, says Sagmoen, there is also untold satisfaction, completing runs safely, with efficiency. And, adds Pollock, 55, the pay can be rewarding too, providing for his family.

Photo by Quintin Gellar from Pexels

Pollock said while many motorists dislike big rigs and truckers on the road, they don’t realize most everything they eat, drink, live in and sleep on was delivered by a truck.

“Appreciate us for who we are and the job we’re doing,” said Pollock. “Without us the stores would be empty, the hotels would be empty, you wouldn’t have a house to live in. We’re out here doing a purpose.”

Pollock is unsettled by how the convoys and the border blockade at Coutts crossed a line. He pointed to the RCMP raid at the site that led to the discovery of guns, a machete and a large quantity of ammunition and body armour as being “totally wrong.”

“Taking it to the point where they completely blocked the border, I think was too much, just being there was enough. Slowing traffic down, that kind of stuff, that was alright … but guns? No, that’s wrong. Totally wrong,” he said.

And when it comes to following a vaccine mandate for truckers, he said he is fully vaccinated and received his booster shot.

“That ain’t helping us,” said Pollock. “I don’t care what the dweebs say, I’ve got my COVID shots, I’m alright with it, I had to do it because of my industry I was in. I was pulling food and my customers wanted the shots, so I had no choice but to get them.”

Sacrificing family time for the long-haul


Extended time away from family, broken relationships and loneliness are just some of the sacrifices truck drivers make. Truck cabs become home. When they are working, the wheels are moving and when they have logged their hours for the day, the truck becomes their bed for the night — a home away from home.


Sagmoen said the wheels of his truck, which hauls diesel or gas, are always moving.

“Unfortunately, that load is number one, our families have to take number two and sometimes that’s not good,” he said.

Sagmoen said he believes about 90 per cent of truckers with miles under their belt have probably come from broken relationships, including himself who has suffered two failed marriages.

Pollock said being on the road has forced him to miss watching his kids grow up.

“It sucks. I’ll tell you that straight off the back, it sucks,” said Pollock, who has Red Deer roots.

“In the last 10 years, I don’t get to see my family. I didn’t get to watch my kids grow up. If you want to make money, these wheels have to be rolling and if they’re not rolling, you’re not making money, you’re not taking care of your family.”

Pollock has a wife and two children, now 18 and 16. He said he saw them even less once the pandemic hit. He spent a year-and-a-half in his truck without going home because of the fear of catching the virus and passing it on. Since then, he said he has been home about four times.

Pollock said he takes advantage of texting, phone calls and Whatsapp to keep in touch as much as possible while on the road.

His current route is driving from Fort McMurray to Hardisty hauling crude oil almost every day.

Truck driver Jamal Said poses for a photo at the Flying J Truck Stop in Sherwood Park on Monday Feb. 16, 2022. Photo by David Bloom Postmedia.Truck driver Jamal Said poses for a photo at the Flying J Truck Stop in Sherwood Park on Monday Feb. 16, 2022. Photo by David Bloom Postmedia. PHOTO BY DAVID BLOOM /Postmedia

While Pollock has already missed out on watching his kids grow up, an Edmonton trucker is now facing a similar experience.

Jamal Said, 37, has been on the highways for 12 years carrying general merchandise across the Canada-U.S. border. His most recent trip lasted about 10 days and he too notes the toll the road takes on the relationship with his wife and two kids, aged 18 and four.

“It’s very tough, especially to my family. My kids miss me all the time and it has it’s challenges,” he said.

“That’s all to provide for the family. It’s very difficult because you’re missing very important time with your family and bonding with your kids. Each time you are away, you are not bonding with your kids.”

 Bearing responsibility

Truck drives also wear a variety of hats, Sagmoen explains. Safety officer, professional driver, salesman, and safe responsible Class 1 licence holder.

“We’re a jack of all trades, master of none to be quite honest,” he said.

His current run is about 10 to 11 hours each way to and from Kamloops and Sagmoen said at times, drivers also have to act as paramedics on the road.

“Some of the sites I’ve seen in my life I’ve come across would turn your hair green because a lot of the time we’re the first ones on the scene (of an accident),” he said. “We could be 15 minutes before help arrives, we could be two hours before help arrives it just depends where we’re at.”

Extended time away from family, broken relationships and loneliness are just some of the sacrifices truck drivers make. Truck cabs become home. When they are working, the wheels are moving and when they have logged their hours for the day, the truck becomes their bed for the night — a home away from home.

A version of this article originally appeared here on edmontonjournal.com

Source
edmontonjournal

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