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Labrador City in a Western Star Dump Truck

March 16th, 2012


Garry says: From the road

I’m at the Moncton airport, excited. There have been some delays, freezing rain, snow and sleet, the last gasp of winter daring Canadians to plan something and keep it on time. But the plan, and the transportation, is definitely in motion.

It’s not a flight to an exotic locale I’m anticipating. It’s a drive.

A big drive. I’ll be in a cab that will hold three people and not much more. What about our suitcases, I wonder. Luke Thompson, my host on this strange media trip says: “No problem. We’ll wrap them in garbage bags and put them in the dump-box.”

Hmm. On most press trips, journalists (and their suitcases) are pampered, entertained and hosted in comfort but things just feel different on this trip. The dump-box Luke is referring to is on the back of a truck, a 2012 Western Star 4800TS (Twin Steer). It’s a brute of a truck and we’re headed up a brute of a highway, a one-way trip for most rigs like this. Destination: Labrador City.

Luke Thompson, in Truck Sales at Lockhart Truck Centre in Dartmouth, has sold 18 of a variety of Western Star trucks to customers in Labrador and they’ve all been driven there. The folks at Lockhart Truck Centre, home of Serious Trucks, invited me along to experience the ride, the truck, and the road.

It’s a great opportunity to drive a route I haven’t been on in 20 years. That was when I hauled an Airstream travel trailer to Lab City and then on to Goose Bay. I’ll also be getting some driver training to upgrade my driver’s license to a Class 3, which means I can drive anything over 18,000 kg up to a tractor-trailer.

The route consists of a two-hour jaunt from our rendez-vous in Moncton to Miramichi. Then through Campbellton, New Brunswick across Quebec’s Gaspe Peninsula to Amqui where we’ll pick up another Western Star truck, prepped for delivery and waiting to join the convoy to Lab City. From Amqui, it’s on to Matane where a 2.5-hour ferry ride will get us across the St. Lawrence to Baie-Comeau. After an overnight stop there, it’s a 10-hour 600-kilometre haul across Quebec and Labrador on a mix of paved and gravel roads.

The Western Star truck will be getting a workout. This rig produces 450 horsepower from its Detroit Diesel DD13 engine. It has twin steer front axles and a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of 86,000 pounds. My arm will be getting a workout too, with that 18-speed Eaton manual transmission.

No cellular service through most of Labrador. Just the open road, gravel flyin’, through rock and woods.

Stay tuned for the road stories and follow me on Twitter @DrivenMind99 for transmissions from the road, as cell coverage allows.

Lisa says: From the abode

Last week I got to test-drive Mercedes-Benz’s all-wheel-drive 4MATIC™ system on a frozen Lake Winnipeg in Gimli, Manitoba. This week I’ve been listening to Garry and Luke Thompson make plans for a road trip. Their excitement is palpable and I’m filled with envy. The adventure of the road, the truck stops, the destination, the ride, that massive Western Star twin steer dump truck.

I pepper Garry with questions: How many steps up to the cockpit? Do you think that road will be different than when you drove it 20 years ago? What kind of truck is it? What colour is it?

Wait. Your suitcases have to go in the dump-box? In garbage bags? What if it rains? Do you have to dump them out like a load of gravel? Won’t they get dirty?

OK, scratch the envy. I’ll just enjoy hearing about the adventure from the comforts of home.

Calls are few and far between. When they do happen, I get bouncing, staccato snippets, “… just crossed border… “, “… road is rough…”, “… my turn to drive soon…”, “… tea’s flying everywhere…”,

Have fun, dear. You keep on truckin’.

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