Truckers speak about trauma on the job at Knights of the Road exhibit
Morgan Beaudry has collected stories from truckers about traumatic experiences they've had driving
A Regina woman has put together a multimedia exhibit about the emotional trauma many semi-truck drivers face.
Morgan Beaudry, a graduate student at Royal Roads University in Victoria, says the idea started three years ago when she was working as a driving examiner with SGI.
"This exhibit came from a tragic incident that happened on the Ring Road in April of 2017. A 63-year-old man took his life by stepping in front of a semi-trailer," Beaudry said.
The media coverage focused on the horror experienced by the emergency personnel and other drivers, but had very little to say about the truck driver, she said. That gave Beaudry the idea to talk to truckers about their experience.
There was very little academic research on truck driving and mental health issues, Beaudry said.
One year after she had the idea, a semi-truck collided with the Humboldt Broncos hockey team bus, killing 16 people and injuring 13 others.
"The Humboldt crash changed absolutely everything," Beaudry said.
She knew people in the industry were discussing the Humboldt Broncos tragedy, as well as their own personal experiences, but she felt it would have been inappropriate to start her research at that time. She starting reaching out to the industry in May 2019.
Beaudry said she thinks truck drivers don't feel the general public understands how profoundly affected the drivers are from accidents. Instead, they are often only mentioned in the media to say if they were injured or not, she said.
"They're an invisible workforce," Beaudry said. "They don't have a uniform so they could be standing behind us at the bank machine, sitting next to us in the movie theater."
The trucking industry doesn't have a large place in popular media or films, and when truck drivers do appear, the representations tend to be highly negative and stereotypical, she said.
The exhibit aims to help break the stereotypes.
"It allows the people taking part in the research to speak for themselves using photographs and using their own personal stories," Beaudry said.
"Putting it out publicly allows their voice to be heard by policymakers, by people in the caring professions, that would benefit from knowing how personal and professional tragedy has affected the truckers lives."
The people featured in the exhibit speak about a variety of topics. Many spoke about their relationship to their vehicle, she said.
"What I was surprised by most was the words that they would use to describe their trucks," Beaudry said. "Companion, friend, spouse, karaoke machine. They talked about it as though it was their favourite co-worker."
People also wanted to share about how important peer support was for their mental health concerns.
"The way they describe it here, they found that the only people who understood did trucking or were close to trucking," she said.
The tragedies they went through changed their lives, Beaudry said.
"They feel incredible empathy and compassion for the victims," she said. "There was no bitterness, no self-pity, no anger. But more 'I feel terrible for the family of the person whose life was cut short.'"
Beaudry was amazed at the generosity of the truckers, she said. She also had inquiries from the southern United States, Northwest Territories and more, so she hopes to continue her research.
"There is so much more to find here and so many people ready to talk."
The exhibit is on display at the Central Branch of the Regina Public Library until Feb. 3.
With files from The Afternoon Edition and Sam Maciag.