Single + Single = Team of QuikX Đóńńęŕ˙ âĺđńč˙ (Issue 1, May 2007)

Single + Single = Team of QuikX

DorogaRoad commences a new section of materials. Starting with this interview we will publish some information about wide range of professions in the transportation industry in Canada and the US. We will begin with the leading, the most important profession in the industry - the truck driver.

Victor and Olga Khmourov, a married couple, live in Barrie, Ontario. They are professional drivers with seven years of experience - owner operators, team of QuikX company, the company which is in the top 50 Canadian company list ranking by the level of their management.

Owner Operator Olga DorogaRoad: Olga, Victor. What do you like the most about your job?

Victor. I enjoy the fact that I have no immediate manager overlooking my work, nobody tells me what to do at this particular moment. As a matter of fact, I do not like it when somebody watches me working. Doing this job I do not have to worry about that. We are not completely independent of course, dispatchers give us orders, but in some terms we are free to plan the course of the trip ourselves: drive a few hours more or less, decide where to stop for rest. It is way better than having someone decide for you every detail of the trip, control your every movement. Moreover, I have worked as a sailor for many years, so the steering wheel of a truck reminds me of the one on the ship, although back then I controlled it only from time to time. The two jobs are somewhat similar. When you work on the ship, the rules are straightforward: if some work needs to be done, you do it, if not you can take a rest. Driver's job is very much like that as well.

Olga. Relative independence. I know exactly the instructions given to me, know what must be done, but no-one controls me while I do it. I can rely on my own decisions. Nobody distracts me when I drive, I can even day-dream or think. This means a lot for me.

DorogaRoad: What was the reason behind you deciding to make a career in truck driving?

Victor. I read about this job in some Russian newspapers. Then, a one guy came up to me while I was working at a gas station and suggested: “Why not you go for truck driving instead of running around with the pump-pistol”. Back then we just came to Canada, I lacked confidence in driving around Northern America. I guess I was not ready yet. Later on, I checked out some advertisements, found a detailed article about this job in a newspaper, showed it to my wife. This is how we ended up going to a driving school. Unfortunately by that time none of the people we knew worked as a truck driver. We needed someone to give practical hints about this job, so at first we relied mainly on the general theory.

Olga. Once, one truck driver asked Victor to substitute for him for a while. That man had to go for a trip but could not make it. Victor agreed to help, but it turned out that at first he had to study, get driving licence of particular class, before he could even get behind the steering wheel of a truck. Just joking... But seriously speaking, we just came across some article about Metro Driving School. I went there with Victor, just to make him a company, but at the school we were convinced that becoming a family team is exactly what we need, and what the truck companies are looking for. So we agreed.

DorogaRoad: What did you do before entering the truck driving career?

Victor. I hauled passengers at the Toronto Person Airport from the parking site to terminals.

Olga. I worked at a gas station Beaver in Scarborough. At the convenience store. I had a really great boss. He taught me English, making me call to the suppliers and make orders. I feared that they may not understand my broken English, but he said: “you are the customer making an order, they can not afford not to understand you”. In a few months, he said: “now that you know how to do everything here, I can safely leave this place under your supervision and go with my family for a vacation to Jamaica for a week”. I became his trusted helper.

DorogaRoad: It is a well known fact that truck drivers often switch companies they work for. Did you go through this often as well?

Victor. I guess not. Back in Russia, I changed only two companies in 20 years. I am the type of a person who gets attached to the workplace, to the colleagues. I do not like changes. It is true that many drivers often change companies. One driver wants to be at home more often, so he looks for a short distance trips, the other may give preferences to longer distances. Other factors may play role in company choosing as well. We also used to change companies, but not as often as others did.

Olga. No. We do not enjoy jumping from one place to another. We came to our first company right upon getting the licence, once in it we did our best, were afraid of making mistakes. We had some troubles with English, especially since this field has its own terminology. We probably would still be working with that company if not for the safety manager at that place, who offered us to follow him to the other company he was starting to work for. At that company we were offered 6 cents per mile more right away. Furthermore, once we reached a two year experience threshold, we decided that we were ready for a more serious and stable company like QuikX.

DorogaRoad: Still, what do you think is the main reason behind a driver changing the workplace?

Victor. The main reason would be the wages. After all, people work to get some money. Then, the other, although it could be the main reason as well, is the company's attitude towards the driver. If a person feels that the company appreciates him, if he is well treated, then he will work well. On the other hand, if the person feels unappreciated, then he probably will be looking for something else, even if it will mean loosing some money.

Olga. We do not work just to get compliments, but to get paid. If the driver is satisfied with what he earns, he will keep working for the company. Another thing to note is that if a person finds an alternative company, which pays exactly as much as the current one or a bit more, then the driver will consider the atmosphere within the company, the relationships between the driver and the dispatchers, some other factors like technology, company principles and other values as well.

DorogaRoad: I know that you go mostly for long distance trips those days. Do you prefer this type of trips?

Victor. Yes, we prefer long distance over short ones. Why? First of all, because we are a team. The whole family is in the truck, so we have no reason to hurry back home. We do a few rounds and then take a break for a week. We are a family team.

Olga. We always take only long distance projects. We are very happy to get a dedicated run to California now. It is easier for us to work this way. We used to work 10 in 10 hours, now we do 11 in 11 hours. We were thought how to do long distance trips all the way back in the first company we worked for. Victor drives for ten - eleven hours, while I can sleep, read or watch some TV. I can get some good rest while he is on duty. Then we switch.

DorogaRoad: Who is the head in your family team?

Victor. My wife, Olga. We have well distributed duties. I handle most of the physical work: couple, uncouple the trailer, lift the landing gear, etc... Olga spends more time in the truck, especially when its really cold or hot. Handling the gas stations is also my job. Olga handles the documentation, does calculations etc... She mostly does all of the paperwork. A woman is better at it. Moreover, she enjoys it. Also, since she does the paperwork, she more often communicates with dispatchers and the administration.

Olga. We are very interchangeable in some ways. The major role is played by Victor, of course. He goes outside, attaches the glad hands, lifts the landing gears, handles all of the outdoor work. I mostly deal with the documents. But if Victor is tired or off, I will do all the work myself.

DorogaRoad: What are the distinct features of working for QuikX?

Victor. Someone coming right out from a driving school can not become part of a large company, as those companies require at least two years of experience. So those people go for smaller companies, get some experience, and then those who feel like it can go for the large companies. We went through the same process.
Generally speaking, we were shocked (in a good meaning of this word) by the fact that QuikX works as single, well set up mechanism. The business is well set, everything is computerized, every detail is well thought out. The driver is confident that he is kept in mind by someone, and will get help if something happens during the trip. To cut the long story short, its a pleasure to be working for such company. By the way, QuikX was established only about twenty years ago. We drive a lot, and meet some trucks who are part of a hundred-year-old companies that own only ten-twenty trucks at most. QuickX became one of the leading truck companies in Canada very rapidly, and continues to grow even today.

Olga. I really enjoy the rules that are set up by QuickX for us. We know exactly what to do in various situations. This company has specific norms, regulations for the drivers. For instance, we know that we are expected to report the exact arrival time, - ETA. We are transporting LTL, so the company’s warehouse should be ready for our arrival to unload the freight, and reload it to another trailer for further delivery right away.
We also report how much time was spent at the border. I do not have to worry when we are stuck at the boarder, because I know that the extra time will be fully paid. This company does not have any issues regarding a driver being mistreated or not paid fully. A driver is never humiliated here. Coming to QuikX from the previous company, we were sure that we are paid for every extra move. For example, even if we have to make extra five miles on Mississauga, those five miles will be paid as a separate local trip. This gives us a lot of support, as it is a fact that people want to be paid for their work. If we have to weight for a freight for more than five hours, the company will offer us a fully prepaid hotel room, since QuikX realizes that the driver represents the company and must have an appropriate look. We greatly appreciate this consideration.

DorogaRoad: Let’s say, you are invited to the management team of QuikX. Would you make any changes in the company?

Victor. First of all I'd never get such appointment, and I would not go myself. But even if I'd go, I would not change a thing. The company found the right track and should follow it. It does have its own issues and problems, but they can be resolved. Resolved in an appropriate legal way. QuikX trucks are even rarely checked by weigh stations, since MOT people know that those trucks have everything in order and there is pretty much nothing to be checked. We had a situation once, when we were crossing the border from North Dakota to Manitoba. The truck was appointed for inspection right at the weight station. We were surprised. The situation came clear, when the officer came up to us, apologizing and said that it was his last day at work before he retires, so he would like to finish this day in a good mood. For this reason he chose to check a QuikX truck.

Olga. I would probably improve slightly the communication system between the driver and the dispatcher. I realize that the process has a lot of nuances and that it is very hard to provide freight for everyone equally, but some work might be done here. This would probably be the only thing that can be improved at QuikX, the rest is just perfect as it is.

DorogaRoad: Can you recall some curious incident in your track-driving career?

Victor. We had many, it’s hard to recall some particular right away. Well, for example - it happened before we came to QuikX. We once went for a pick-up in Pittsburgh area in Pennsylvania. Took the directions, checked the map, everything seemed clear. We had to drive at night since the freight was to be picket-up early in the morning. It just so happened that the road was closed right before Pittsburgh - construction jobs were being done, so we had to go for a detour but made a wrong turn somewhere. We kept on driving, but the road was getting narrower and narrower. The view was magnificent - the Pittsburgh downtown was on the horizon, but we had no idea how to get out of there. We were in luck, as we came across with a dump truck. The driver was very surprised to see a semi in that area. With his help we made a U-turn by the local school and got back on track.

Owner Operator Victor DorogaRoad: What aspect of this job you do not enjoy?

Victor. It is hard to answer this question. The job is not an easy one, that is for sure. It may seem like a very straightforward task - driving. But when you drive for 10 -12 hours every day, it is very serious. Other than that, I can not even come up with something particular that I do not like.

Olga. I do not enjoy the fact that I am rarely at home. But if I will be at home more often, then there will be no point in doing this job. Right now we have a dedicated run to California. We leave the yard on Friday to be in California for Monday morning. We usually head back on Tuesday eve. In general, we are on pretty tight schedule. Sometimes we have to sacrifice a Saturday night meeting with friends, a birthday party, or a performance by a favourite artist, but those are some of requirements of the job. If we will take more days off, then the pay will be lower, and also we can loose a dedicated run.

DorogaRoad: The truck driver is in the list of top 10 most dangerous jobs in Canada. Can you recall a situation on the road, which you either witnessed or were involved in?

Victor. Of course, we had some incidents. For example, this happened in Canada, in Saskatchewan, close to Regina. It was in winter. My wife was driving, I was sitting next to her. There was a bad snowstorm, with a very strong wind. The visibility was very poor. Suddenly the wind was gone, and we saw that just a few meters before us the road was blocked by a tractor trailer - a jack knife. A police car that was right in front of the trailer, flashing all the lights it had. The whole three line road was blocked, leaving open only half of the rightmost line...

Olga. The situation was quite serious since not only did the truck block the highway, there also was incoming traffic nearby coming from the ramp. I switched form the right line (the speed was roughly 40 km/hr) to the left one right before noticing the accident. I hit the breaks, but since the road was icy, the truck just kept on sliding towards the accident’s scene. If I kept on holding the breaks, we'd definitely skid and hit the police car, crushing the automobile and the policeman in it. We were around ten meters away, when Victor yelled: Don't hit the police, hit that small truck! The only option we had left was to try pass the a jack knifed truck, staying to the right of it. There was a small truck on the right line. Its speed was way lower than ours at that moment. I prayed out loud, turned the wheel, and luckily we got some grip with the road. The incoming drivers from the ramp, foreseen our actions, let us come through, by freeing the shoulder. We almost hit the small truck. I suppose its driver realized what we were trying to do at last and speeded up. It was a miracle. We passed the truck with the trailer by mere of couple of inches. I kept on driving, but soon I was shaking non-stop. Ever since then, I do not like much driving in Canada, I prefer US roads now.

DorogaRoad: I've heard that your team has a third member - a dog called Yusha. What is its role in the team?

Victor. You can say that we are a "triple" instead of a "team". We can't leave the dog at home, so he is always with us. By the way, he knows all the details of our work. For instance, when we come to the yard, I take him for a walk before leaving. But his type of a "walk" in not the way most dogs go for a "walk". He carefully imspects the truck and the trailer. He even might look inside the trailer when doors are open. The wheels are always checked by him as well. He might go on them, but that is OK.
He even saved us once. We stopped at a truck-stop to take some sleep. He was sitting on the driver's seat. I noticed, that dogs prefer sitting only on the driver's seats. I have seen this happen in other trucks as well. Back to the story. We woke up when Yusha started barking vigorously. He never barks when we sleep unless something extraordinary happens. We looked around and saw that a fuel-transporting truck was backing up straight at us. The driver miscalculated the trajectory of his truck, and the barrel with fuel almost hit us. We honked and he stopped just in time. Yusha saved us.

Olga. Another story is when Victor was backing up and failed to notice a pile of boxes to the right of the truck. Yusha was staying next to Victor, in the passenger's seat. When he noticed that trailer approaching the boxes, he barked at them, probably thinking that the boxes were about to attack. Victor came out, realized the danger and thanked to Yusha. The American drivers often say that taking a dog with on the trips is a very good idea. It can be considered as a safety measurement. Besides we do not need to worry of someone stranger approaching us with some offers, because we have Yusha. By the way, we have landed at QuikX thanks to Yusha.

DorogaRoa: How come?

Victor. When we decided to go for some other company, we could not decide which one to go to. We looked through tons of newspaper ads. A lot of companies give very similar offers. We read the names of the companies out loud, and Yusha reacted with a nod only when he heard "QuikX". Hearing other names he showed no reactions at all. That is how we decided to try out QuikX.

Olga. Challenger, Bison, TransX - we read each name and checked for Yusha's actions. We let him make this hard decision for us. Once Yusha chose the company, I called QuikX right away. Then we made an appointment, passed the test, went through orientation session, and finally started work for the company.

DorogaRoad: What piece of advice would you give to a new driver, or someone considering this profession?

Victor. Being a new driver and considering it are two different things. For someone considering it, my advice would be not to be afraid of taking the challenge. As for a new driver, I would suggest teaming up with an experienced driver. It might seem that you know everything once you've made just your first two trips, but in fact you learn something new every time, no matter how many trips you've made. So, just to avoid unnecessary troubles by trying to do things on your own, it is easier and safer to learn in a team. I mean learning how to go through the weigh stations, how to load trailer, do the paperwork... With a new driver, the situation is often that as he gets experience on his own, all his not very big income is sucked out by the tickets and fines, leaving him with almost nothing. Along with that, the driver's reputation within the company goes down and he receives only low-quality orders. This way of gaining experience is very costly.

Olga. If a person decided to make career in truck-driving, it must be the case that he or she has some knowledge of the job already. The hardships of this job are that you are rarely at home, you have to go through the discomfort of sleeping in a truck. The job has its own special features. What I would suggest to a newcomer would be to start off doing the job in a right way: learn how to fill the logbooks correctly, how to cross the border, how to go through the weigh stations... Its better to learn the details right away. The main point is to communicate and ask questions to the more experienced drivers. The new drivers are often tempted to keep the questions to themselves, as to keep their image in front of the others. Its a huge mistake from their side. Its our eighth year working in this field but we still ask others whenever we come across something new to us.

DorogaRoad:. You own your own truck. What type of a truck is it?

Victor. Volvo 670.

DorogaRoad: Why did you choose this truck?

Victor. It just turned out this way. We went to the Performance Equipment dealership in Mississauga just to look around but ended up putting deposit right away.

Olga. Since our family is quite big, a Volvo 870 would be a better fit, but 670 is good enough as well. First of all, this truck has air springs in addition to the shock-absorbers. The truck drives very smoothly. The engine works very quietly, the cabin is well soundproofed so that whenever I talk on the phone with my friends, they can not believe that I am calling from the truck.

DorogaRoad: Where do you do the maintenance services for the truck?

Victor. At first we did the maintenance at the dealership that is not too far from the company, but all the repair shops are very busy in Mississauga, so we started doing the repairs at Mid-Ontario Truck Centre, in Barrie, where we live. We are very satisfied with the service they provide. The staff is very good.

Olga. We also like one particular dealership in Winnipeg, in terms of its service quality. They have great technicians there. Customer treatment is great there as well. Their policy is that when the driver comes for service while being on the road, he will be served first without having to wait in the line.
We have been doing our repairs in Barrie for the past two years, and have no complains so far.

DorogaRoad: What truck would you choose next time you decide to buy one?

Victor. It is going to be a Volvo, that is for sure. I am not sure about the model yet, but the brand is going to be definitely Volvo. We plan to buy one next year.

Olga. I'd say we haven't decided on when we are going to buy one, but we know that we will get a Volvo.

DorogaRoad: Victor, Olga, is there anything else important to be noted , that I may have failed to ask?

Victor. I would like to note that truck companies acknowledge the benefits of working with family teams. So if a family has some experience in this field, there would be no trouble in finding a job. But there are some issues, even in a family team: you are always together, at home, on the road, in stressful situations… you may snap from time to time.

Olga. If you have some other alternatives over the truck-driving option, I would suggest choosing the other one. I am not sure about the situation with males, but females age very fast when they drive a big rig. The conditions are not always available to do the treatments you could easily do at home. There is not much chance to make a mask or a face-peeling. You can take care of yourself about 50 percent less than every other woman can. Another point to note is that you can not take meats, fruits, and vegetables across the border. We are generally forced to eat the food from the truck stops, which is not always healthy. They offer mostly potatoes and fried chicken. This is the issue that every truck driver, either male or female, faces. People hurt their health, stomachs in particular. The washrooms are not available everywhere as well. Sometimes you have to drive for more then hundred kilometres to come across a washroom, in Canada in particular. It is a huge hit on one's kidneys. It may seem like a good job, since you get paid. But later on you may find out that you have to stay in hospital for a while to recover due to the job after-effects. This is a very bad aspect of this job.

DorogaRoad: What other career would you choose if not the truck driving?

Victor. I would leave this place then, I guess. I can not imagine what else I can do here. It is very hard to start from scratch for a mature person. Even if you get some local education, it is very unlikely that someone will hire a fifty year old newbie. I suppose, I would have left Canada without having this job.

Olga. I would study English.

DorogaRoad: Does this job offer good material benefits?

Victor. Yes it does. The wages are pretty good. But the taxes are pretty high too, so there is a big difference between your official earnings and what you are left with after the tax deductions. But I would say that this job is what gave us the opportunity to make descent living in Canada. We have a house, good cars. We do not have some huge savings, but have a well-rounded life.

Olga. Yes. It is not a secret that you can not get “free” money. We are well paid for all the hardships of this job that we have mentioned before.

DorogaRoad: Can a team, working for a strong company, earn $350,000 per year gross?

Olga. Theoretically, probably it can. But then you would have to get $3 per mile. As far as I know the only companies that pay this much are the ones transporting chemical materials in tanks. Otherwise, you would have to make 20 thousand miles per month at the rate $1.5. Covering this much throughout the year, sparing no time for holidays, you'll make $350 thousands. You could also be paid according to the freight value, getting some percentage from the value of the freight you transport. But the freight then would have to be very pricey. In general, $350 thousand is a pretty hard income to get.
The problem is that the rate is high. But it is not the actual money you get. Keep in mind that about $3000 must be paid for the truck, then comes the fuel cost - around $8000, plus the repairs, service, etc... Roughly speaking, deducing all the expenses including mortgage, insurance, we are left with around $10,000. Some people can probably make a fortune by saving while getting this much, we, on the other hand, can not. Why? Because we like travelling (not when just driving the truck), make presents to our friends, - we try to enjoy life.
To sum up, I would say that when someone wants to earn well, he can bravely go for truck-driving, but just keep in mind that earning by working as a team, rather than a single driver, is easier. The team is paid for the fuel and service as much as the singles are, but the team earns more.

DorogaRoad: Thank you for the interview.

Top 10 Signs You Are Ready to Be a Trucker

You are ready to be a trucker if:
  • You hate fluorescent lighting.
  • The sound of a time clock makes you itch.
  • Your supervisor reminds you of a mosquito buzzing in your ear.
  • You know all your coworkers’ stories by heart.
  • Your commute to your job is more interesting than your job.
  • You consider Ohio to be “just down the road” from Colorado.
  • On vacations, no one gets to drive but you.
  • You know four different routes to get to work, and five routes to get home.
  • You installed a rear-view mirror at you workstation.
  • You honk your horn at kids just for fun.