Sunday, November 30, 2014

The Immigrant : Part Two

Flew in on a Trans-Atlantic flight,
They put me in a motel, fifty bucks a night.
Then there was the test to take,
With pre-trip followed by air-brake.
Then a week of orientation
And how to behave at the border station.
 ____ Eric Slatcher met us at the airport; I was impressed that he turned out at 10.30 in the evening. "Us" refers to his four new drivers; all on the same plane, Paul Cook, Mike Muhling, Neil Ramsden and Chris Arbon. The four of us were pretty much inseparable during driver-training, right through until we signed on for our individual trucks. It was a great help to be team-handed; it saved money by sharing a motel room and eventually an apartment. It helped to have a buddy when practicing for the driving test. A British Heavy Goods Vehicle Driving Licence was not transferable to Canada; all immigrant drivers had to take a test.
____ On the first Monday after our arrival, we all trooped into Winnipeg to sit the written part of our test; sixty multiple choice questions. Neil and I passed but the other two needed to re-sit. Monday afternoon and Neil and I went to the Free Eagle Driving School and booked three half-day sessions. We had three different instructors during the sessions but there wasn't much they needed to teach us; apart from the test route around Steinbach and the complicated air-brake test. It took a hell of a lot of practice; but with each of us testing each other, we eventually cracked it. The driving school block-booked several test spots every week; so by midday, Friday, we were both ready to hit the road as qualified Canadian truckers.
____ But it was another two weeks before we went out with a load. Paul and Mike didn't take their tests until the following week and the week after that was "orientation" week. At most of the companies were I have worked; there has been no training. Just show your HGV licence and catch the set of keys thrown across a portacabin. But Big Freight presumes that you know nothing about trucking; a whole week is spent in the classroom covering a lot of stuff that I already knew but also some important customs and border-crossing information. Big Jim Penner was the training and safety guy while on Sunday he preached at a local Mennonite church. I told the others to not ask questions, not to argue and we would get through it just fine.
____ Outside work; there was plenty to do. Medical card, social insurance card, bank account, finding permanent accommodation, buying and insuring a vehicle; but with four of us going around together, all the problems soon became solutions. I did a couple of short day-trips as a passenger with other drivers which was a lot more worthwhile than orientation. One to Brandon for a load of steel beams; the other, south of the border for a load of quadbikes. Both regular customers. It took just over three weeks from when I landed until I rolled out the yard with my first load. A lot longer than I thought and longer than necessary; but I was paid from day-one and am not complaining. 
Big Blue, the Free Eagle training vehicle pictured in 2006, still on the streets of Steinbach in 2014.


  1. I like you with meat on your bones lol

  2. What? That picture is from when "loose fitting clothes" were in fashion!

  3. Just catching up with internet stuff in between trying to earn a crust here in UK. Very interesting read and I hope your shoulder is doing well. Looking forward to the rest of the story. Take care.

  4. Hi Mick. I had surgery on the shoulder this week [dec 1st] so back to square one. Back in a sling for three weeks at least. I'll try and do some more early Canadian stuff soon. Rgds Chris.