Everyone has at least one dream of what they would like to do or accomplish, and some of us have dreams we didn’t even realize we had or would have until an opportunity presents itself. It could be a potential hobby, career, or something else life-changing that takes a hold of us, hook, line, and sinker, and then there is no looking back. I met Dennis Durand of Jade Transport Ltd. in September 2017 at the 4 State Trucks’ Guilty By Association Truck Show in Joplin, MO. Kind is the first thing I can think of when referring to Dennis, and I am honored to have formulated a solid friendship with him since then.
Growing up in the small farm town of Flin Flon, Manitoba, which originated as a copper and zinc ore mining town, Dennis didn’t get into trucks at a tender age like most multi-generational truck drivers, but instead was introduced in his late teens by a man named Randy Buxton. Randy wore several titles for Dennis, including mentor, friend, and brother-in-law. Randy was (and still is) an owner operator that took Dennis with him on many occasions during weekends and holidays. But it wasn’t until Randy let Dennis drive the truck that he realized this is exactly what he wanted to do.
Marrying his wife Shirley on April 13, 1974, the two would often take trips up to Edmonton, Alberta, together. On those trips, Shirley would spend time visiting with her sister Debbie, which is also Randy’s wife, while Dennis would go trucking with Randy from Edmonton to Whitehorse, Yukon. This run took them to a beautiful part of the country and an area that didn’t measure the snow in inches, but in feet. Dennis was always impressed with Randy’s driving and how easy he made it look, even in the snow.
In 1974, Dennis started his driving career in a 1975 Mack hauling milk. At that time, his run took him on pretty much all gravel roads, which were hard on the tires, so he always took at least three spares with him to be prepared. He had promised he’d only be over-the-road for six months, but as those who know Dennis now, they know that wasn’t what happened. He came into contact with Jade Transport Ltd. in 1993 as a driver for one of their owner operators. When the truck was sold, Dennis came on board with Jade, and also owned a few trucks throughout the years. He sold his last truck in 2017 and decided he would retire. But, with trucking in your blood, it is hard to stop, so after just three weeks of being home, he called Larry Dyck, owner of Jade, and asked if he had a truck available to drive. Some may say the rest is history, as you see the W900 which Dennis drives today.
The aforementioned truck is a 2017 Kenworth W900L glider. All the KWs are ordered as day cabs, which is the only way you can get the flat glass windshield. The masterminds behind the building of the gliders are Kris Ringwold and Austin Pearson, who work in Jade’s shop. Dennis says they are both brilliant mechanics. The engine is a bit rare, as it is normally outfitted for a fire truck, but Larry managed to get his hands on it before that. The engine is a brand new 14-liter Detroit, and anyone that knows anything about fire trucks, knows they don’t have a Jake brake. To remedy this, the entire top end of the engine had to be redone. The truck has a BorgWarner turbo, and then Jim Hunter of Winnipeg, Manitoba, installed a Diesel Spec tuner on the ECM. The truck also has an 18-speed, 3:23 gear ratio, a 280-inch wheelbase, and that shiny tanker hooked to the back is a 2016 Tremicar that was painted to match Dennis’ truck.
The sleeper and deck plate were made by Phil Langevin, owner of P.A. Langevin Transport out of Carleton Place, Ontario, who Dennis said is very talented and one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet. Many of the custom pieces including the rear fenders on the truck, fenders on the trailer, and the stunning marker lights on the front fenders are from Shift Products. The bumper was custom built by the Starlight Hutterite Colony, who build amazing custom chrome and stainless products. The interior including carpet, headliner, seats, door panels, cover for boot and sleeper, were all changed out by Ron’s Custom Upholstery in Winnipeg, Manitoba.
A favorite trucking memory of Dennis’ (which is funnier as the years have passed) is when he and another driver were heading home to Manitoba from the United States – it was at least 30 below at the time. After crossing the border in Pembina, ND, the other driver mentioned he was low on fuel. On their way to Winnipeg, they were 3 miles into Manitoba when the truck started choking and ran out of fuel at around 4:00 AM. The driver had to call his wife to wake her up and have her go to the shop to fill up jugs with diesel fuel and bring them out to them. In the bitter cold, they had to remove all the fuel filters and add fuel to get him going again. This would be one of those little “mistakes” that these guys would never make again.
The favorite place Dennis has ever drove to was a time when he and Larry made a trip to Prudhoe Bay, AK – it was by far the most beautiful place he had ever seen. I asked him what kind of advice he would offer to others and he plainly stated to never stop learning. No one should ever believe they know everything – you need to keep an open mind to continually learn new things. Another piece of advice came from his father, that if you treat people with respect, that is the way they will treat you. We have all run into the situation that respect isn’t reciprocated, but that should never stop us from continuing to treat people with respect.
If you have met Dennis at a show or on the road, you know he has never met an enemy. From the first time I met him and having been in conversations with him and others since, you just know Dennis is someone you want to be friends with. Although Dennis is the first and only generation of trucking in his family so far, his son Chris actually used to drive part time in the winter months and run team with Dennis. Like any proud father, Dennis boasts that his son is an excellent truck driver.
Jade Transport Ltd. was founded by Jake and Amy Dyck in 1976 (Jade stands for Jake Amy Dyck Enterprises) and was then purchased in 1984 by Larry (Jake’s son) and Kim Dyck. In the late 80s, one of Larry’s high school friends, Greg Arndt, came to work for the company and is now a partner in the business. The company is based in Winnipeg, Manitoba, and runs throughout Canada and the United States specializing in the transport of bulk liquid. Dennis said he is truly blessed to be working for such a wonderful company.
Dennis credits his love of trucking to his brother-in-law Randy, as well as the desire to own his own truck, which he was also able to do. When Dennis isn’t trucking, he is home spending time with family and friends including his son Chris, daughter Kimberly, youngest son Nickey, and the apples of his eye, his grandson Alex and granddaughter Ava, who are Kimberly’s children.
Something else that occupies his time is his 1967 Pontiac Beaumont Sport Deluxe which, if you aren’t familiar with it, is Canada’s version of a 1967 Chevelle SS, with the exception of the grill, tail lights and dash. This car was completely redone from the ground up, which took about seven years to complete. Dennis says the car is pushing 671-hp and shows 687 ft-lbs. of torque on the dyno.
Not a stranger to the truck show scene in recent years, Dennis remembers his first show was in Fergus, Ontario. He said he didn’t win anything, but he sure had a great time. Dennis said he just loves trucking and the people he meets, jobs he has done, and the places he has seen. Truck shows are a favorite for him to be able to catch up with old friends and create new friendships, too. Special thanks go out to Dennis for his continued friendship, and for taking time with me on a Sunday morning, before heading to Canada for a much-deserved holiday.
Driving a semi-truck isn’t the life for everyone, but for the ones who were meant to drive, there is always a moment in time where they just knew they were going to go trucking. And like many others before, this is what happened with Dennis Durand the first time he drove… trucking had him hook, line, and sinker! As always, to all the drivers out there doing the deal, truck safe.