I spent the afternoon with High Grade truck driving instructor Marv Diebel and first time driver, Donna Moore, as she practised driving around North Battleford before going for her class 1A license.
It was the first time I had ever been in a semi-truck, and was surprised by how comfortable the bed in the back was along with how smooth of a ride it can be.
Moore decided to get her class 1A drivers license after driving a cab for 6 months. She became ill, went on E.I. and decided to use that money towards the $6,100 four week truck driving class.
"What better a time to take on the challenge and see how hard it really is." A cab driver's salary is always up and down, and she doesn't want to work at Wal-Mart for $10 an hour, so trucking will bring more stability to her life.
Diebel has been driving trucks for the last 25 years all over Canada and the United States. He started teaching three years ago and has "never had to pull the trailer spikes yet." Diebel was very easygoing as he instructed Moore where to drive Ol' Blue - his truck he's had for 15 years. "My friends thought these young drivers would wreck my truck but they haven't." said Diebel, "With some people you need a different level of patience, but they're all good". He may have to put them in the right gear, but there have never been any close calls.
The only scary moment Moore had driving the truck was during the first five minutes of the northwest territorial days parade because there were hundreds of fearless kids swarming Ol' Blue - even with the enormous 'student driver' bumper sticker on the front.
"The hardest part is wrapping your brain around the gears." explained Moore. Ol' Blue has 14 gears, but semi truck transmissions usually provide at least ten gear ratios and sometimes as many as 18.
You always need to be looking ahead, watching the lights, cars, and be able to predict if there is enough time for you to enter and exit an intersection.
If possible, you don't want to come to a complete stop at a red light. "You can't be slowing down traffic." explained Diebel. The trick is to figure out what speed you should be going at so that once you reach the intersection the light turns green and you can drive through smoothly.
Ol' Blue is a legend. "He hasn't made me walk once" said Diebel as he recalled the last 15 years.
That truck has moved grain, cattle, houses and is always showcased in North Battleford's parades.
It is a very nice truck, with a great logo/slogan on the side that reads "Marv wants you in the driver's seat" but even greater is the chill, caring instructor inside who really just wants to see you succeed and gives you the confidence to do so.
Diebel jokingly finished off the ride by saying "If you fail, it's not my fault!" Nearly all of his students pass the first time through SGI, and most with 100 per cent.
He will drive around with a student for as long as they need, helping out patiently, until he believes they are a competent and confident truck driver.
Diebel takes pride in passing on his knowledge and helping his friends and students to find work in the trade.
Now that Moore has finished her fourth week, driven 1700km with 60 hours of training, she is a professional truck driver.
Trucking is a great idea for people who love to be on the road, travel, explore new places and meet many new people. There is always something changing in front of you.