For starters, there was the CB radio craze, which even developed its own language. And there must have been a semi-trailer truck incorporated into the plot of a TV show, at least once per evening. TV shows like “Movin On” and the iconic movie “Smokey and the Bandit” came out of the ‘70s.
As a Kid, I built a small fleet of 1/25 scale plastic model trucks. I’m sure had they been real machines I could have rivalled then-giant Motorways for freight hauling capacity.
But back then semis were virtual unknowns on the average prairie farm, many of which didn’t even own a typical three-ton truck. Now, of course, semi-trailer trucks are commonplace in farm fleets.
Despite having had a fascination with machines, including heavy trucks, all my life, I never did get my Class One licence, although I drove a variety of smaller trucks over the years. Almost a decade ago I wrote my provincial exam and earned my Class One learner endorsement, but moving up from there meant taking classes at a driving school. And living in small-town Saskatchewan, that was easier said than done. It would have involved driving an hour or two to the nearest city each day just to get to the school. So my learner rating just hung on my licence unused for all those years.
Now that we’re living in a city, I finally decided to finish what I started—and what I dreamt of all those nights as a kid. I enrolled in a driving school to upgrade my licence. Given we no longer have the farm and have no need to haul grain anywhere, why bother, asked my wife. Good question. Maybe it’s just one of those bucket list things I need to strike off the list. Maybe my mid-life crisis is manifesting itself this way rather than in an urge to get a flashy sports car and a gold neck chain.
Whatever the reason, today was the first lesson behind the wheel of a rig. Naturally, driving schools don’t just turn you lose on streets and roads to terrorize the motoring public with their trucks. So once all the pre-trip training was out of the way, we started with some simple manoeuvres around the massive trailer parking lot. Lots of gear changes up and down through the first four gears to get the hang of it, then on to backing.
“Have I ever had to back up a trailer,” asked the instructor. Any farmer could give a hearty nod to that question. And reversing the rig into place between the pylons was more of a pleasure than anything else.
I recall interviewing one of the Saskatchewan Commercial Transport Patrol officers for an article a few years ago, and he commented that the most frequent violation they come across with farm registered semi-trailer trucks is an operator without the proper Class One licence.
As farmers, we’ve been given the benefit of many other exemptions to truck licensing and inspections over the years. But many of those laws were enacted when farmers (read voters) outnumbered city residents in the province. Obviously, that’s changed.
There’s a lot to understand with ensuring a big rig is road ready. It only took one high-profile incident to lead to the agricultural equipment lighting regulations that have been enacted across the prairies. One major incident involving a poorly maintained farm semi with an unlicensed driver behind the wheel could wipe all licensing and inspection exemptions right off the books. Let’s be sure we understand our equipment and road safety to avoid that. Make sure you’re qualified to pilot those big grain trucks, even if it’s just down a quiet gravel road.