For the love of trucking

by Carroll McCormick

MONTREAL, Que. — Nadine Gauthier wants people to know that the trucking industry is a great place to work, and a pretty fine place for women, too. And in her new role as a spokesperson for the industry – an Ambassadeur de la route, or Highway Ambassador – she has a special platform from which to spread the good word.

The first woman ever to be chosen as an Ambassador (and the third employee with the freight and logistics company Simard to receive the honour) since the QTA created the program 15 years ago, Gauthier is thrilled, especially with the opportunity to share her experiences with young people. 

Nadine Gauthier
Nadine Gauthier

“As the first and only woman Ambassador, I think this offers the industry an incredible window in time. I can talk about really great careers in the industry. Before, I would talk about Simard at (the provincial driver training school) but as an Ambassador, I can talk about the whole industry,” she says.

Gauthier is one of only 37 Ambassadors ever chosen. The current team, picked last September, has six members, all with exemplary records, chosen to promote highway safety and talk with high school students about career possibilities. They will do a three-year stint in and around their day jobs.

Gauthier has already spoken to groups of high school students. She shows up in a semi.

“The students are allowed to go in the truck, see the buttons. They ask questions about transport, the border. ‘How much do drivers earn a year?’ ‘Do they work at night?’ ‘Is it difficult to drive a truck?’ ‘Have you had an accident?’”

Other questions from the mouths of 15-year-olds seeing a trucker up close for the first time include, ‘How do I wash myself?’ ‘How do I take a shower?’ ‘How do you wash your clothes?’ ‘What goes on in a truck stop?’

Gauthier agrees that the girls’ questions can contain unspoken concerns about things like safety, comfort and acceptance. Here, Gauthier has a special perspective on what women can expect.

“I am speaking of things I understand. It is perhaps less intimidating. The girls want to know what the experience is like.”

Gauthier’s first six years in the industry were as a trucker hauling containers around Montreal.

“I loved it,” she says. She left Simard in 2010 for a year-and-a-half to work as a private trucking school instructor, then Simard asked her back to be their head trainer. In 2015 she was promoted to supervisor of training and compliance. Then, last year, Simard nominated her as a candidate for les Ambassadeurs de la route. It’s an old love story, how men fall into the trade – man meets truck, man falls in love with truck – but surely there must be a special siren call for women? When I ask Gauthier how she came to be a trucker, she smiles – she smiles a lot – looks at her hands and dives in.

“I believe it is genetic in our family. My grandfather on my mother’s side was a trucker in Charlevoix. My mother’s two brothers were truckers. My mother had four children and three became truckers. One sister, one brother (and Nadine),” she says.

Her first trip in a truck was when she was 11. Many more followed, but it was years later before she took the wheel. She worked 10 years in the hotel industry in her hometown, Charlevoix, then moved to the big city, Montreal, where she worked six years in industrial security. At the age of 30, she tapped her sister – who team drove with her husband, worked as an instructor and as an evaluator with the Société de l’assurance automobile du Québec (SAAQ) – to teach her how to drive.

The truck was a Volvo, Gauthier recalls. “I practiced with my sister and got my probationary licence. I took the test at the SAAQ and got my Class 1 on the 29th of September 2004. My sister was a great teacher.”

Early that winter Gauthier went to an open house at Simard. She filled out an application on the spot and, “I passed the road test: manual transmission, semi, backing into a dock. There were no favours,” Gauthier says. Presto! On Dec. 13, she was hauling containers for her daily bread.

Speed ahead six years, and Gauthier takes a break from Simard to teach trucking, but all the while maintaining close contact with Simard, even feeding the company a few drivers. Then, she tells me, “The person in charge of training retired. Simard asked me if I would like to come back and take the position.”

So is trucking a tough place for women? Gauthier thinks not. “I thought that people thought it was fun to have a female driver around. Men had a good image of me because I could do the job. I proved that I was capable of doing my job. The guys protected me a lot. Women have no idea how much the other drivers can take care of you.”

And now she has the perfect platform from which to encourage others. 

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  • Good evening, I’m confused reading this article. I have 2 daughters, an 18 year old getting ready for university and she’ll study law, my other daughter is 26, A GP, and one day hopes to become a surgeon.
    Is the trucking industry going after girls like mine to quit school and enter trucking? My girls never ever once talked about being a truck driver when they where children. Do educated professional women quit well paying jobs to become truck drivers?
    Is the plan to introduce the job as a Career choice while they are younger and still in high school? I’ve never met a female trucker, but I sit beside female pilots everyday and when we talk about flying, one thing is evident, it’s something we have wanted to do since we where children and here we are.
    I don’t know how much truck drivers are paid, but are they paid well? The average price for a home here in Ottawa is 477 thousand dollars. Do truck drivers make enough where they can afford a mortage, and all the other expenses that goes along with it. I’m just curious…please educate me.

  • Antony. This young lady is proud of what she accomplished and she should be. I am not sure if you are serious or just bragging about your daughters!

  • I have to say that , first trucking is surely not for all ,women or men , but , i am certain that Miss Gauthier is not pushing girls or men to switch from being lawyers to truckers , but expressing and describing they day in a life of a operator can be attractive to those who want to learn more about the industry and then give tought about if it is for them or not .
    Transport in general is a captivating industry where you will find passionate and dedicated people .
    that being said
    congratulations Miss Gauthier , you make all, women or men professionals logistics workers proud to be in this industry .

  • I have worked with Nadine for several years and have found her to be a professional in every respect. She is a credit to Simard Transport. I have no doubt that the same passion for this industry and professionalism she exhibits every day will serve the “Ambassadeur de la Route” program very well, indeed! The transport industry needs more of her kind. Congratulations, Nadine!