STE. JULIE, Que. — Some things in life don’t come with an instruction book, and that’s a challenge that appeals to Pierre-Luc Giguere, a technician with Excellence Peterbilt in Ste. Julie, Que.
Though he acknowledges their convenience and often uses computers in the course of his job and personal life, he’s not crazy about what he refers to as “being taken by the hand” by software that tells him what tests to run on a faulty engine and in which sequence.
That might explain why he prefers the ‘mechanic’ term over that of ‘technician.’
“Of course, technician sounds cleaner but, even though our job is much more specialized nowadays than it used to, we remain mechanics first and foremost,”
Giguere says. “You need to have a mechanical sense to understand the logic behind it,” he adds to illustrate why he prefers to draw his own mental decision tree.
“You can’t diagnose an A/C system by plugging a computer on it.”
Giguere explains that it’s one of the reasons why his employers often ask him to lead special projects, where answers seldom can be found from conventional information sources. “When you have to check a potentially defective wire harness, you need to undo it completely, you don’t have a choice,” he says. And that’s where his logical spirit comes handy.
He recalls the time a customer pulled in with a truck that had a water infiltration issue that had left several other shops – and the truck owner – baffled, as water kept coming in by the door frame near the back of the air filter.
“In such a situation, you need to push the investigation further, dismantle body panels, and then reassemble them in the right order with a snug fit. That’s the part of the job I find the most exciting. Stripping a cab so that there’s only a shell left; I’ve done that a couple of times,” Giguere explains.
A particular shell he’s working on these days is of a 1985 Peterbilt 359 that his dealership bought and wants entirely restored. A colleague is taking care of the engine but pretty much all the rest of the project is Giguere’s.
If everything goes according to plan, the vintage truck should be shining in all its revived glory next summer, once it gets its new interior and wiring. “I figure we’ll need another couple of months before we can take it out,” he says, noting that the restoration job is taken care of in his spare time.
“I don’t think I inherited my passion from my parents,” Giguere says when asked about how he found himself in the trucking industry. “My dad was an industrial designer and my mom was a nurse,” he says, to illustrate how his family history had little to do with truck diagnostics and repairs.
Yet, one might see similarities between the logic and ergonomic senses that guide an industrial designer, or the healing care of a nurse and the troubleshooting and repair work on a truck. Giguere himself now has a family of his own with life partner Nancy Plante, little Megane (nine years old) and Loic (seven) who enjoy spending quality time together.
When asked if he feels like he’s transmitting his own love of trucks and mechanical challenges to his children, Giguere says he doubts it. Yet, he proudly states that both his daughter and son can identify trucks they see on the road by brand.
While discussing the major changes that occurred over the years, Giguere mentions the connection that techs like him used to have with drivers.
“We virtually don’t meet the drivers anymore. The trucks are all taken in and out by jockeys,” he says, adding that it sometimes takes the personalized, human touch out of the customer experience.
Time is something else that seems to have vanished from the transportation industry, according to Giguere: “The trucks are not even in yet and people expect them to be out,” he says.
But that certainly won’t quell his enthusiasm towards big rigs. “By their very nature, I find trucks to be beautiful,” he says, adding that he’s always curious to see new specialty vehicles such as articulated boom trucks or dumps when they’re introduced on the market.
His fascination for machines goes back to when he was a kid, looking at the city snow plows from the end of his parents’ driveway or running after the garbage truck with the other boys from the neighborhood, just to see it work.
“I think I see garbage trucks differently nowadays, especially when I have to work on one or in one that’s full,” he chuckles.