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Every Highway

Riding Shotgun in the Big Rigs

by Dave Feschuk

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transportation
list price: $24.99
edition:Paperback
category: Travel
published: 2006
ISBN:9780771047503
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Description

Since the North American Free Trade Agreement was signed, there has been an explosion in the number of trucks on North American roads, carting goods from one end of the continent to the other. And just-in-time inventory management means that goods are now kept in trucks on the move, not in warehouses. It’s meant a radical change in the landscape and in the lives of truckers.

In Every Highway, Dave Feschuk rides shotgun with several truckers, finding out first-hand what it’s like to spend a working life barrelling down the road in a huge rig, up against tight deadlines. Among the truckers who take him along are an ice-road driver, who hauls staples to remote northern towns at the maddeningly slow speed of twenty-five kilometres per hour, and a neophyte short-hauler, fresh from a six-week course and shaky in traffic, who drives a 140,000-pound king of the road.

Every Highway is about the highway warriors who live in constant motion on the road, their business, and their fascinating and largely misunderstood world. Feschuk finds that, despite the incessant pressure to deliver on time, roads choked with big rigs, and a gritty truck-stop culture, the truckers’ lifestyle remains alluring.

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Excerpt

I am no trucker. I am a sportswriter. But the occupations have their similarities. I occasionally spend consecutive days, sometimes weeks, away from home in service to my employer. I have deadlines that ­don’t meet with my definition of reasonable. I eat beige meals under fluorescent lights alongside disgruntled colleagues whose complaints about the business, some certified beef, some crotchety folly, are constant and peppered with humour and genuine hurt. Just like a truck stop, the press room has foul mouths and large bellies in quantity; failing marriages and failing bodies; successful entrepreneurs and pseudo business types; hangovers heaped with coffee and storytellers fuelled by the alco-­caffeine buzz.

But, as my cousin says, “Driving truck’s like nothing else.” And I ­don’t claim to know the fine points of the pavement. The most truck-­like vehicle I have ever driven is the rusty 1983 Volvo sedan I recently left for dead at a garage after a frustrating three-­day span in a particularly harsh December during which the brakes failed, the radiator burst, and, worst of all in teeth-­chattering throes of a northland winter, the heater blew cold. I had purchased said Volvo three years earlier for $1,000 on the recommendation of a friend who swore by the Swedish-­built boxes because they were easy to fix, and because he had once been driving one — a baby blue coupe circa 1978 — on the day he survived a head-­on crash with a truck on a two-­lane high­way. Just as my friend began the search for another Volvo the next day, I replaced my beloved ’83 with a ’92.

Since travelling, and not necessarily driving, is a passion, I will be more than happy to occupy the passenger seat, seeing the world through the high-­riding windshield of a four-­hundred-­horsepower mammoth. I have chosen to travel with truckers, to mine their stories and probe their feelings, because their work is more important than most people know. Although the railroad built North America, joining it from coast to coast, the roads renovate it, feed it, clothe it, and employ it. Trucks dominate the transportation business in Canada, moving about 90 per cent of all domestic consumer products and foodstuffs, shipping out about 60 per cent of our exports to the States, bringing in more than 80 per cent of the imports. Truck driver was the most common occupation of Canadian men according to Canada’s 2001 census. Somewhere — everywhere, it seems — there is a truck rumbling down a highway, and another truck riding its bumper, and probably another riding yours. But while trucks are as ubiquitous as the potholes they chew — and while their drivers are often resented for clogging our automotive arteries — most people ­don’t know much about the goings-­on inside those massive cabs.

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Contributor notes

Dave Feschuk is a sports columnist with the Toronto Star and formerly wrote for the National Post. He has been nominated for a National Newspaper Award, and his piece on the underdog’s life of Wayne Gretzky’s hockey-playing brothers was included in the anthology The Best American Sports Writing. Feschuk lives in Toronto.

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Editorial Review

“This book is so true, so real it should come with eighteen-wheels and air brakes. Dave Feschuk is the perfect journalist to send out on the road — curious, enterprising, daring, funny and, most of all, damned good company. His Every Highway is captivating, filled with characters like A.J. and Helen, spilling with anecdotes on everything from dead turtles and pee breaks to country music and even basketball. It’s a ‘tour’ de force — and, true to the rules of long-distance trucking, can be absolutely counted on to deliver.”
— Roy MacGregor
“Rich, vivid and rhythmic, Feschuk’s book achieves every writer’s goal of telling an untold story, in this case, the lives of the men and women who drive where and when we don’t, across places unseen at hours unlived.”
Dave Bidini

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