CVTC hosts Big Rig Truck Show

August 19, 2013

From “Rig watching , job scouting both in vogue at show for big trucks” — By Chuck Rupnow – A national trucking company based in Mondovi needs about 100 drivers on any given day.

Bob Stensen of Augusta found a truck driving job “perfect” for him during last year’s Eau Claire Big Rig Truck Show.

On Friday, opening day of the fourth annual event, Stephanie Zirkus didn’t care anything about truck drivers, or even trucks for that matter.

“It’s something different, and I just needed to get out the house, away from my husband, so I told him I was coming here,” she said. “Of course, he won’t believe me; well, until he sees my name in the paper.

“Actually, this is pretty cool,” the 37-year-old mother of two said while gazing at

colorfully decorated trucks lined up on the Chippewa Valley Technical College’s parking lot on West Clairemont Avenue. “I like the purplish one over there.

“I think I might try and get my husband here tomorrow,” Zirkus said, earning questioning looks from her children, Masia, 8, and Emile, 6. “It’s hard to realize how huge these things are, not to mention how fast they go and how much they weigh on the road. It’s way too dangerous for me to imagine.”

Stensen, 56, said he was a truck driver for 15 years for Bush Brothers & Co. in Augusta before the company “went away” from owner-operators, causing him to enter the dairy farming business for another 15 years. He sold his 225 milking cows, hauled some hay for several years and came to the truck show last year “just to see if there was a trucking job out there.”

“I was looking for something during the winter months, since I still raised crops in the spring and summer months,” he said. “I found the perfect job here.”

Stensen has pulled a tanker for Jade Transport of Winnipeg, Manitoba, since January.

“I love it,” he said at the show Friday. “I came here last year and talked to a guy from Jade, told him what I was looking for, and the next thing I knew, I was working for them. I found something that was a perfect fit for me.”

Tim Norlin, director of recruiting for Mondovi-based Marten Transport, said Friday that “every company needs drivers,” adding that on any given day Marten could use about 100.

“There will be more retirees, and we’re not seeing an influx of young people in the industry,” he said. “A lot of it may be because of the lifestyle — not being home as much as they might like. We’re doing what we can to help with that.”

Norlin said Marten works with drivers to get them home more often, and also has started something new in the industry, giving drivers $20 an hour in “detention pay” for times where they are waiting at docks to load or unload.

“We all have to be creative, and with the shortage there is, we have to pay attention to the drivers’ needs,” he said, adding that more than half of Marten’s drivers earn $50,000 a year or more.

Marten does not take newly licensed drivers; it prefers drivers with “an appropriate” amount of experience, Norlin said.

An estimated 15,000 to 18,000 visitors are expected to attend the truck show, which is expected to attract up to 200 trucks and about 100 exhibitors, according to event organizer Terry Biddle.

“We will definitely have more than last year, and we have some exhibitors who have expanded,” he said. “It’s becoming quite an event, something different, something the whole family can enjoy.”

If it’s up to 7-year-old Sam Perkins, he and his family are returning to the show next year and for a long time to come.

“This is the best thing ever,” he said Friday, drawing a smile from uncle Rob Traylor of Chippewa Falls. “My dad and mom and I will be coming here forever. I can’t wait to be big enough to drive one of these myself.”



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