What do Kevin Hart, AC/DC, and One Direction have in common? They wouldn’t have gotten anywhere without truckers like Wayne Guenther.
After learning to drive from his father and grandfather, Ontario native Wayne Guenther got his commercial license in 1988. In the nearly 30 years since then, he’s done lots of different types of driving – first produce and general freight, then car hauling, and now moving stages and equipment for entertainment acts.
“We do concerts, corporate get-togethers, stuff like that,” Guenther said. “Right now I’m doing a corporate gig in San Diego. After that I’ve got to go to Vegas, pick up some stuff there, and take it home.”
Guenther said that, depending on the act, a tour can last anywhere from one month to nearly a year. The whole time, truckers keep it moving.
“It does get busy,” Guenther said. “Lately, I’ve done a lot of corporate stuff. We’re doing a lot of festivals this year. But I’ve got friends doing Def Leppard, a couple on the AC/DC tour, one toured with Muse.”
Like his friends, Guenther sometimes tours with big-name performers. Last year, he worked on actor and comedian Kevin Hart’s What Now? tour. While he admits his job is pretty cool, there’s one thing Guenther wants you to know about being a trucker in the entertainment industry: it’s not as glamorous as it seems.
“It’s not all fame and glory,” Guenther said. “We’ve got a strict set of rules. We’re not to go hunt [the entertainers] down and talk. If they want to talk, that’s fine. They can come to you. But primarily, you drive from point A to point B, and then you go sit and wait.”
Guenther calls it old-school trucking – the kind where you spend most of your life out on the road somewhere. Though it’s a tough lifestyle that’s not for everyone, he says this kind of trucking has taught him to take advantage of his time at home.
“It’s made me love my family a lot deeper,” Guenther said. “My kids are grown now, but when I get home, it’s about my kids. It’s about my wife. I’m not gonna say my marriage has been the easiest, but we’re still together after 21 years.”
And while Guenther says it’s hard, all that time away from home spent driving and waiting is made a little easier by the fact that he gets paid to do it – no matter what.
“We get paid per day regardless of whether we work or not,” Guenther said. “Base pay, hotel, per diem, all that stuff. So if I’m sitting in Vegas for 5 days, I get paid whether I do something or not.”
It’s a sweet deal, and that’s not lost on Guenther. He’s wanted to work for his current company since 1990, and he finally got hired on a couple years ago. According to Guenther, the quality of a trucker’s life depends largely on his or her company. And even with a good company, it’s a difficult career.
“I’ve lost jobs because of the weather before,” Guenther said of his time hauling general freight. “Because I stopped my truck when I knew it was unsafe, but the company didn’t think so. That’s the kind of world it is. It’s tough. It takes a special person to do it.”
While Guenther doesn’t have to deal with those kinds of issues anymore, he does experience some unique challenges in his job.
“Backing into a dock at a warehouse is a lot different than what we do,” Guenther said. “Going from city center to city center, we’ve got to back into some crazy places.”
The number of trucks on a tour can also have an impact on things. Generally, there are many trucks on a tour. One lead driver coordinates communication between all the other truckers and the stage manager. While Guenther says the average is about 10 trucks per tour, he’s seen lots more than that.
“Last year Kevin Hart did a spot in Philadelphia where he’s from,” Guenther said. “One Direction was playing at the same stadium, and I counted 38 trucks for them. It all depends on the stage setup and how flamboyant it gets.”
It’s that rockstar allure, Guenther said, that can be misleading to truckers wanting to break into the entertainment sector.
“Unfortunately there are guys that come here that want to be in entertainment trucking to meet people,” Guenther said. “Most of the time, you’re not gonna meet anybody. You’ll be dealing with the loaders, the unloaders, maybe a stage manager here and there. Most of the days you pack up, you load out, and you get to the next city.”
But sometimes, Guenther said, getting to the next city is the best part. From watching cruise missiles streak across the New Mexico desert to seeing the Northern Lights a handful of times, trucking has shown Guenther a side of life he’d have never seen otherwise.
“The job itself, I love it,” Guenther said. “Wouldn’t give it up for nothing. If you hated geography in school, go drive a truck across the country. It’ll change your whole outlook.”