Blue Ribbon Hog Hauler
by Jim Park
Louis Saint-Laurent was still Prime Minister, Queen Elizabeth II had ascended to the throne two years earlier, and Hurricane Hazel would soon be ripping through Toronto in one of the worst storms that city has ever seen. That was 1954; the same year Wayne Peart took his dad, Clarence Peart, up on an offer to spend the summer working the family trucking business in Brantford, Ont. He was 17, and had spent several previous summers running teams of horses around local farms, so a summer on a truck seemed like a pretty good plan.
The senior Peart arranged to rent a truck from a neighbor, setting Wayne up hauling mulch to local farmers. There was some seasonal work as well, trucking bushel baskets of apples and pears from orchard to market. There was potential, it seemed, in for-hire trucking. The following spring, the pair decided to strike up a partnership. They bought a second truck, a '55 three-ton Chevy for $3000, and away they went.
"My end was $1500.00," Peart says, "Which is quite a bit less than the monthly payment on my son's truck today."
They added a 32-ft single-axle rack-and-tarp trailer to the fleet in 1957, and a '52 GMC single-axle tractor to pull it, thus beginning a 48-year accident-free career hauling produce and livestock around southern Ontario. Peart never strayed any further from home than Montreal. Ontario was his stomping ground, with just the odd day trip into New York or Michigan.
Hauling hogs was a large part of the work Peart and his father did over the 24 years. They'd pick the critters up from the farm, his dad at the back end dragging them up the ramp with Wayne pushing from the front. Hogs, being as stubborn and excitable as any animal gets, won't move forward when they're nervous, just backward. To relieve the animal's stress, they'd plop a bucket over the hog's head as they pushed and dragged the beasts onto the trucks. Peart recalls the days when the drivers were expected to clip the boar's teeth prior to loading them onto the trucks. By law, the teeth had to be removed before shipping.
"Those teeth are sharp," Peart notes. "You could drag a piece of paper across the tip of a tooth and it would cut. They're sort of poisonous, too. So it's a delicate operation."
He often went to the trouble of running down to the Brantford arena on really hot summer days to scoop up ice shavings from the Zamboni to lay into the straw on the trucks to keep the hogs cooler while in transit. Over the course of his career, Peart received more awards from the Ontario Pork Producers Association for his humane handling of their hogs than he has violations from the police. That says a lot about the way Peart worked.
Wayne and his dad sold off the business in 1979 to set Clarence up for retirement, and Wayne went on to work for H.S. Knill in Pars, Ont., a livestock hauler specializing in the transport of purebred and exotic animals. But in doing so, he nearly broke a family tradition dating back to 1911.
The Pearts had a reputation for the care and attention they gave the livestock in their care. Wayne's great grandfather worked for a family, the Greens of Sunny Acres Farms, who raised prize-winning Ayrshire cattle. He'd actually walk the blue ribbon stock from Brantford to the Paris Fair and back again before trucks became popular. That continued with Wayne hauling the Green's cattle on his truck, and when Wayne went to work at H.S. Knill, Marvin Green himself approached Knill's and asked if Wayne might continue the tradition.
Just two years shy of a half century, Wayne Peart is hanging up his well-worn boots, and now he's looking to settle back and enjoy himself. He's got plans to do a bit of custom hauling, but nothing serious, and he's going to hang onto the Class A licence as long as he can.
"Now that I'm 65, they'll be wanting to test me every year from now on," he says. "So I guess as long as the heart holds out and I can still read the questions, I'll keep my ticket."
We caught up to Peart just before his retirement party at H.S. Knill on a cold mid-March Sunday afternoon. The current owners of the company, Doug Knill and Bruce Poland, had invited a few hundred of Peart's closest friends to a little bash at the yard, to say so long and thanks. highwaySTAR Magazine joins the family and the folks at H.S. Knill in wishing Wayne all the best in his retirement.