NEWPORT, Maine — The tractor-trailer rigs were lined two and three deep at the Irving Big Stop on Thursday, but anyone would have been hard-pressed to find an American trucker working on Thanksgiving.
Instead, it was their Canadian counterparts who were hauling seafood, lime, steel, wood, bananas and french fries while the U.S. drivers took a break.
“What are you doing working on your holiday?” one trucker said, turning the tables on the interviewer.
Ewen Donald, who has a thick Scottish accent, said he left New Brunswick on Wednesday, bound for New York with a load of potatoes for Midland Trucking.
“I was home for the Canadian Thanksgiving three weeks ago,” he said. “Today is just like another work day for me. It’s not that I don’t care that it is your holiday, but it certainly eases the traffic up on the roads.”
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, trucks loaded with oil, lumber, grain and other products from Canada enter the U.S. at the rate of about one every 30 seconds, and Maine is a prime route to the Eastern Seaboard from the Maritime Provinces, and back.
The truck of Robert LaRoche, who hails from St. Georges, Quebec, was empty.
“I just delivered a load in Baileyville at Domtar,” he said. “I’m heading back home. It’ll take about five and a half hours.”
As he started up the noisy engine just after breakfast Thursday, he added, “I’ll be home in time for dinner, but I don’t think it will be turkey.”
Even Fred Maloney, a Hillmans driver hauling bananas to Saint John, New Brunswick, said he would be home in Sydney, Nova Scotia, by Thanksgiving night.
“I bring bananas up from Delaware every week,” he said. “I worked both the Canadian and American holidays. Ours was on a Sunday, and I had to leave a bit early that week. Usually I leave on Monday. But I was home for our Thanksgiving dinner.”
One Canadian trucker, Evan Theriault of New Brunswick, was parking his truck at Irving and heading to his girlfriend’s home in Newport for dinner. He was carrying a load of steel for Milltown Trucking. After an American Thanksgiving dinner, Theriault will head south to Cambridge, Mass.
“Working on holidays is just the nature of the job,” Walter Allen of New Brunswick said. Allen was hauling french fries from Presque Isle to New York with a second driver, Alfred Crouse, both working for Midland Trucking.
“His truck is always on the road,” Crouse teased, referring to Allen. “It never stops.”
Robert Lariviere, who was hauling Michelin tire products to South Carolina, also for Midland, said he prefers the freedom of the road. “Turn on the music, open the window for fresh air. It’s great,” he said.
Bob Hachey, who works at Irving, said that since Irving is a Canadian-owned company, the majority of truckers will be Canadian. “Especially on the weekends and holidays,” he said.
Only one American trucker came through the stop Thursday morning: Jason Campbell of Idaho. He was headed north with a load of caskets. “I don’t have a lot of family,” Campbell said. “I’ll have a good turkey dinner here at the restaurant and finish my trip.”
Campbell said he didn’t mind working on Thanksgiving. “If I’m driving, it means that some other driver, probably a family man, didn’t have to work today. That’s what today is about in the U.S. — family.”
Several other truckers did not speak enough English to handle an interview but were quick to acknowledge the day by shouting “Happy holiday” and blasting their air horns as they drove away.