Driver Profile: Terry Domier
by Jim Park
Growing up didn't come easy for Terry Domier. She came from a big family in a small Alberta town. By age 14 she was living away from home. Three years later, she hit the road with little more than the clothes on her back. She had no education, and just a bit more hope. But she had a strong work ethic and believed, truly, that hard work would lead to self-fulfillment and respect. She was right.
Today, Domier lives and works in Vancouver. She has a small apartment in a nice neighborhood and a job that she describes as second to none. She drives for Go Transport, Inc., a Burnaby-based tractor-service outfit where she and her co-workers shunt, spot, load and unload trailers for other carriers who don't want to tie up their highway drivers at loading docks all day long. It's city work in a daycab, but Domier's job takes her into situations that really require a wealth of experience that few drivers possess.
Chaining down cargo on a flat deck, picking up sea containers at the Port of Vancouver, and handling refrigerated and dry freight are all in a day's work for this remarkable woman. Then she has to cope with the traffic on the Lower Mainland. Amidst this hectic background, she still finds it in her heart to share her lunch with street kids who live in squalor in Vancouver's less hospitable neighborhoods.
Growing up in rural Alberta, Domier grew to love the sound and smell of heavy machinery. Her father was a construction-equipment mechanic, and she frequently went out on service calls with him, handing him tools and generally helping out. Her early years in coveralls served her well; she's had similar, non-traditional jobs most of her life, and she says she wouldn't want it any other way.
"I just always wanted to simply be me," says Domier. "I never worried about what other people thought, and I honestly believed that old Canadian thing about hard work earns respect. Besides, I prefer working outside."
She landed her first driving job on a winter maintenance crew in Walkerton Lakes National Park in Alberta. She drove a gravel truck that winter, 20 years ago, and by summer she'd landed a job hauling oil-field parts. That job opened another door to a team-driving job with Jamie Wynder, an owner-operator friend she'd met in The Patch. She says she didn't have the experience she should have had for that job, but she learned quickly and came away with a sense of responsibility that engendered trust in the folks she'd work with in the future.
Domier learned early on to listen to what she was told and to ask lots of questions. Whether she was running a packer on a highway construction project, lambing-out sheep or running a combine, she always found a way to earn the respect of the people she worked with, which is often more important than earning the trust of those you work for. That trust turned into at least one dream job, as a combine driver on a migrant harvest crew working its way north from the sunny plains of Texas right up into North Dakota.
She has a sense of adventure, to be sure, and she's got no regrets about the work she's done over the years.
"Life's too short to get stuck somewhere you don't want to be," she says. "It's an adventure. When an opportunity came along I took it."
One of her closest friends would often say, 'Gee Terry, I wish I had the nerve to do what you do.' But Domier figures it wasn't so much a matter of having the nerve as it was a desire to try something new. We need to grow, she says. "It was never about the money for me, it was always just wanting to satisfy my curiosity and to learn new skills."
Her first 'real' driving job came her way courtesy of Dick Metz, a friend she'd met during her combining days. Metz had a few trucks on with Waylon Transport in Nisku, Alta., and frequently needed a spare driver. He put her to work hauling grain and lumber in A- and B-trains. She ran team as a produce hauler between Arizona and Alberta for a spell, but soon realized that while life behind the wheel was good, the long-haul life wasn't quite her cup of tea.
On the advice of a cousin, she decided to move to Vancouver and try to settle into a more 'normal' lifestyle. She wound up working for Go Transport in Burnaby, and says she's got just about everything there she could ask for.
While Domier is the first to admit she's had a tough go of it, she's still amazingly upbeat in her daily outlook on life. The way she describes it, the people she's met over the years have opened doors for her, so now she wants to do the same for others. If not exactly by helping them in their careers, she tries really hard to bring a little ray of sunshine into every dark corner she visits.
One of the fellows she worked with on the harvest crew christened her 'Sunshine'. It was her sunny disposition and unflappable sense of humor that made the biggest impression. Domier says her outlook has always been positive, and she gets a real kick out of just being here. She doesn't dwell on the negative and always looks to the sunnier side of life.
"It's all about what you leave behind," she says. "I always try to leave a good impression. And I still call and get calls from girlfriends and people I worked with 20 years ago. That's the kind of thing I live for. I think I'd be really unhappy if those people had forgotten about me because I never made a good impression on them."
How's that for a life-enriching philosophy?
Domier is well aware that trucking, especially grunt work in the city, isn't the most inspiring work in the world, and she feels that all too often, the negative side of the business gets more than its share of attention. It's her mission to rid the trucking industry of grumpy people.
"Being a woman in this business has its advantages," she says with a chuckle. "It never fails to provide an opportunity to surprise people."
She's often confused for 'the driver's wife' while she's out on the job, which doesn't bother her at all. "I'm not into that thing of having to prove myself to others. I just like to have a little fun with it when the opportunity arises."
Recently, while getting ready to load a piece of machinery onto a flatdeck, the shipper walked right past her three times, looking for the driver. When that happens, she likes to put on a really earnest face and explain that she once drove team with her husband, but he's dead now. She lures them in further by describing a difficult alley she had to back into on one occasion, with him guiding her back.
"But when I tell them that I lost him in the mirrors and accidentally squashed him up against the dock, they're right there with me and they're mortified. Then I tell them that I still drive only as a tribute to his memory. The silence thickens," she says. "They're never sure if I'm telling the truth or not until I flash them a big broad smile. That really breaks the ice."
She says her life is full now. She's satisfied, happy even, with what she's accomplished. All the bits and pieces of the past that brought her here are filling in and she's wanting to share that with everyone she meets. Especially those folks downtown.
"I was like them once," she reflects. " I ran away from home at 14. I lived in a shelter and know how hard it can be to see the bright side when all you want is a smile and something to eat."
She recalls a recent meeting with a woman she met on a street corner. "She was so pretty and so unhappy. At first she told me she was waiting for a friend, so I said, 'Oh, are you?' Then she burst out in tears and said she wished she could get out of her line of work.
"As she was telling me how awful her work was, I pointed across the street and said, 'See that pretty white truck over there? I drive that.' I told her about the courses she could take and how social assistance would help her with the cost. When you see that little glimmer of hope in a desperate person's eye, well, you can't imagine what that does to me."
Domier is a firm believer that you get back what you give, and she just keeps on giving. The payback has already begun, she says, because she's got a fabulous job and a nice life away from the truck. She says she likes nothing more than to head home after work, put on a pretty dress and cook up a big pot of soup or chili and have a few friends over.
"I spend enough time in that world; I really like to treat myself like a lady when I'm done," she says.
She's now on the verge of taking that next step in her evolution. An opportunity to become an owner-operator has just presented itself, and she's really excited about that possibility. "I'm ready for it now," she says, "and looking for that next adventure."
We know she'll find it, conquer it and move on. She doesn't sit still for long, this petite but deceptively strong woman. She's got what it takes to make it in this world: skill, determination, a sense of humor, and most of all, a strong sense of where she came from. That big family in the small Alberta town is a universe away in many respects, but just around the corner in the ways that count the most.