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Monday, February 6, 2023

Big rigs drive Overton’s adventures

Ben Overton’s trucking journey has not always been a milk run. Driven by his love for big trucks, the 33-year-old immigrated to Canada from New Zealand six years ago.

“I’m always up for adventure,” said Overton, who hauls tankers for Jade Transport in Winnipeg, Manitoba. He began driving trucks at the age of 18, and his last job was driving a milk tanker in Dunedin, New Zealand.

Ben Overton says winning an award at the Shell Rotella SuperRigs was a proud moment in his trucking career. (Photo: Supplied)

Overton was always drawn to the big rigs in North America. A friend who is a truck photographer told him about Jade. He added one of their drivers as a friend on Facebook, got talking and was given a phone number. “I called them up, and it so happened they said they were hiring foreign workers,” he said.

Jade handled the immigration process, which took about two years, he said. Overton arrived in Canada with his fiancée and has been working as a company driver with Jade ever since. “Jade is a really good company to work for,” he said.

The family has also grown – their two daughters were born here.

He added a feather in his cap this summer. The 2021 Peterbilt 389 that he drives won second place in the tractor/trailer division at the Shell Rotella SuperRigs in Hampshire, Illinois. The rig is also featured on the 2022 Shell Rotella SuperRigs calendar for the month of April.

The truck is owned by Jade and each vehicle is numbered. “This one happened to be truck 359, that’s why they decided to put an old Peterbilt 359 paint job on it,” Overton explained. “It is exciting to be on their calendar. It is a proud moment in my trucking career. It is a big deal,” he said.

Last year, just after Christmas, Overton broke his back. He was off work for a while and says since the truck was sitting idle, Jade showered a lot of attention on it.

Overton says he is still struggling with the back injury. He returned to work in May. “It’s a little better now, I am back walking and back to work,” he said.

“I wasn’t even really expecting to come back to work at all this year, let alone make it to SuperRigs and win something.”

Jade Transport’s 2021 Peterbilt 389 is featured on the 2022 Shell Rotella SuperRigs calendar. (Photo: Shell Rotella SuperRigs)

Overton’s job includes hauling chemicals, bulk liquid to refineries, hand sanitizer during the pandemic, acids, corrosives, and herbicides.

He usually stays on the road for two to three weeks at a time, driving all over Canada and the U.S. He returns home for two to three days. “If things are really busy, then you are home for just 36 hours for a reset and you gotta go again,” he said.

It is stressful for the family, but he says they make it work. Technology like FaceTime and phone calls, makes it a little bit easier. “Got to pay the bills somehow, right?” he said.

Making friends

Overton said he has met many good people during his travels across North America and it is one of the best parts about his job. He has made a lot of friends in Canada and the U.S. “You get to be a paid tourist.”

There are things that bother him too. “I don’t like the winter so much,” he said. Also, the time away from home is difficult.

Overton does not like how some shippers treat drivers. “You are just a number.”

He said the public does not have any patience or time for trucks on the road. “They cut us off. They don’t realize with a lot of stuff that we are hauling, if there were an accident, it could be a very bad day for a lot of people involved.”

In the distant future, he would like to continue in the transport industry, but in a different role. He is eying driver training, recruiting and safety options.

For now, Overton is still on the road to full recovery from his back injury. He plans to “keep doing what I am doing,” and drive that shiny yellow Pete. Give him a wave if you see him and ask him to tug on the air horn. He will likely oblige.

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