As part of our Careers in Mining series, this post looks at the job of Haul Truck Driver with Graham Martinelli.
Graham was born and raised in Smithers, BC. He has experience working at two different mines in Northern British Columbia both as a heavy equipment operator and as a general labourer. Graham has a BAH with a major in History and a minor in Political Studies from Queen’s University and is currently attending Law School at the University of Calgary. He hopes to parlay his mining experience into a career in mining and natural resource law.
What exactly did you do as a Haul Truck Driver?
My main job was to operate haul trucks with a carrying tonnage of between 100-260 tons of material. I also participated in various other activities in the mine pit such as laying and retrieving the giant power cables that linked with the power shovels and drills, running compactors on the tailings projects, or building de-watering systems to keep the pit dry.
How did you progress in your career to end up with that role?
Haul truck driving was an entry level position at the first mine that I worked at. I was fortunate enough to get some experience driving by working as a student haul truck driver over my summers while I worked towards my undergraduate degrees. With that experience I was able to easily find work after I graduated.
What skills does it take to make someone good at that job?
You have to be able to balance the tedium of doing the same thing over and over again for a 12 hour shift with the ability to snap into focus and address dangerous situations when they invariably arise.
What did your average day look like?
I would wake up at 4:45 (am or pm depending on the shift) and head down to the kitchen to grab something to eat. After breakfast/dinner I would pack a lunch and then head up to the dry – which is the dispatch area for truck drivers. At the dry I would figure out what piece of equipment I was assigned to and what I would be doing for the day. Then I would hop onto one of our old school buses and take a ride out to the haul trucks waiting in the pit.
Once I got to the truck I would spend 10-15 minutes walking around and inspecting it for any damage. If I found a problem I would either note it in my logbook or take the truck down to the shop to be serviced depending on the severity of the damage.
After that I would spend my day driving my route. Ore would be brought from the bottom of the pit to be crushed in the crusher, waste delivered to our waste dumps, and reclaim material would be used on various reclamation projects such as tailings dams or leech caps.
At the end of the day I would return to camp, and go grab some dinner/breakfast. I usually had time for one fun activity before bed – which could range from playing ball hockey in a cleared out warehouse above the shop to watching movies in my bunk.
There must be both fun and challenging parts to being a haul truck driver. Would you agree?
Absolutely! One of my favourite experiences while truck driving in the middle of nowhere was having the opportunity to see an amazing variety of Northern BC’s wildlife. I have had lunch a couple of metres away from grizzly bear cubs and their mother (in the safety of my cab!), watched 20+ black bears gorge themselves on huckleberries, and photographed a family of wolverines.
What did you love most about this part of your career?
Being out in the wilderness and working in a camp was definitely a great experience that I wish more people were able to share.
I also had the privilege of working on some great crews, and meeting some amazing people. Mining certainly attracts some interesting characters and meals in the kitchen were always an entertaining time.
There must be aspects of the job which you didn’t enjoy so much. What were they?
That tedium part I mentioned earlier. The job could be incredibly boring. Fortunately, things like podcasts and satellite radio really helped to pass the time, but truck driving is certainly not the most stimulating job in the world.
There were also additional duties that I had to engage in as the junior guy on my crew. A lot of these were not much fun. Long story short – if somebody ever asks you to degrease a power shovel you should probably just quit on the spot.
Did your job impact your decision to further your education? If so, how?
I had always planned on continuing my education, but truck driving helped me to achieve the means to do so. As I mentioned, I started truck driving as a way to help fund my undergraduate education, and as a result I was able to complete my program without going into significant debt.
The camp schedule of two weeks in camp followed by two weeks out of camp, allowed me to get valuable volunteer experience on my days off from the mine. My volunteer work with my local Member of Parliament ultimately helped me get into law school where I am studying now.
Do you have any advice for anyone looking to become a haul truck driver?
Be persistent. The mining world is small, and it can be difficult to break into. Haul Truck Driver positions usually are not posted on the internet, so your best bet is to find somebody who works at a mine and get them to hand deliver your resume with a personal recommendation. If you’re unable to do that , then I’d suggest sending your resume directly to the Human Resources department at the mine you’re interested in. They’ll often keep resumes on file for when they need to fill a position.
For more interviews with mining professionals in different jobs, have a look at our main Careers in Mining post.
Header photo: aerial seeding at Highland Valley Copper. Image courtesy of Teck Resources Ltd.