A checklist for champions

by Carroll McCormick

ST-JEROME, Que. — If all goes according to plan, even the weather will behave for the National Professional Truck Driving Championships this Sept. 4-7 in St-Jerome, Que. Well, that may be a bit much to ask for, but the event organizers do try and leave as little to caprice as possible.

The Quebec Trucking Association (QTA) is hosting this year’s national championships. The bulk of its preparations have been ongoing for two years now, but some planning starts even earlier. Around 100 drivers, visitors and provincial representatives are expected to attend, and the search for lodging cannot begin soon enough. 

“We started looking for a hotel three years ago,” says Michel Beaulac, chair of the organizing committee. Its efforts were rewarded with a block of rooms in the Esterel Resort, perched on the edge of a lake in the Laurentians north of Montreal.

The responsibility for organizing the annual national championships rotates through seven provincial trucking associations (the Atlantic Provinces Trucking Association covers four provinces). 

“My role is to represent Quebec at the meetings of the national committee, liaise between it and the organizing committee of the event, ensure the manual is updated, that participants find volunteers and equipment for competitions, coordinate the golf competition, grant media interviews, etc.” says Beaulac, a veteran coordinator of several national championships.

There are at least half a dozen meetings a year with the QTA’s partner provincial trucking organizations to discuss those and other things, such as food and the budget. There is also a full week of preparation in the week leading up to the event.

A well-known list of Quebec organizations and companies are asked to put their shoulders into the championships. Take, for example, the venue: The winners in the five categories of competition in the provincial championships held earlier this summer will be put through the wringer at the Centre de formation en transport routier de St-Jerome (CFTR). CFTR is one of two public professional truck driver schools in Quebec. Pros from the other public school, the Centre de formation en transport Charlesbourg (CFTC), will also be there.

“We wanted to stay around Montreal, because it’s where most of the drivers live. CFTR and CFTC are the only two public schools in Canada to offer a driving course with a highly recognized diploma. We want to show the school to all the other province representatives so they can improve their teaching programs around the country,” Beaulac says. 

As well, Beaulac adds, there are those fallible vehicles to think about. “As we have access to all the school facilities and equipment, we have a mechanic ready if a breakdown happens.”

The QTA planning committee requires a considerable amount of outside help to run the event. Assisting agencies and businesses it contacts include Controle routier Quebec, Transports Quebec, the Societe de l’assurance automobile du Quebec, Sobey’s, Groupe Robert, Hector Larivee, Transport Papineau International et VIA Prevention.

The QTA is responsible for lining up rigs, circle check inspectors, judges and sponsors. “We mostly use school trucks, but some trucking companies also provide us with trucks and trailers. We also work on (locating a) national sponsor interested in investing in a good way to promote security in the trucking industries,” Beaulac explains.

The QTA also coordinates the activities of provincial representatives on the national committee who revise the Driver’s Kit and Rule Book each year. There are other documents to prepare, such as the Preliminary Program Registration. A quick scan of its 13 pages hints at many other mini-tasks that will want to go off without a hitch; ie., the welcome reception, gift exchange, transportation from airport to resort to CFTR, the banquet award ceremony and dance. 

The QTA also test-drives new ideas for future competitions, says Beaulac. “We use our provincial event to test new ideas of obstacles that we could use in future competition after national agreement.” 

Those tests and other business is discussed at national committee meetings over the course of the National Championships. “We mostly present the agenda of the event (what, where, when…) on Thursday. On Sunday it’s the debriefing of the event plus a short briefing on the next year by the next hosting province,” Beaulac says.

The QTA’s representative to the national committee is its longest-standing member. This senior status, Beaulac notes, invites a lot of questions about the obstacle course. “We are asked all year long about technicalities that could happen when they need to set up the track.”

Speaking of the track and the dreaded orange cones the drivers must avoid, Beaulac relates an anecdote that illustrates how a little luck never hurts. “We always try all the obstacles when we put them up. Sometimes even the best can’t do them, but the rookie passes through with his eyes closed.”

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