Highway Ambassadors Roll On

by Carroll McCormick

MONTREAL, Que. –Who better to be the voice of the trucking industry than truckers? That is what the Quebec Trucking Association (QTA) thinks and it is in the home stretch of accepting nominations for a new crop of Ambassadeurs de la route (highway ambassadors) who will spread the trucking gospel for the next two years.

The deadline for nominating candidates is March 5. Finalists will be interviewed, heads will come together to select the winners and the new crew of six ambassadors will be presented at the QTA’s annual general meeting this May 1 in Gatineau.

This will be the fourth group of ambassadors since a jury chose six top truckers for the first team in 2001. The original goal was to improve the image of the industry through public engagements and lectures and spread the word about career opportunities.

Twenty-one ambassadors, 563 conferences, primary and secondary school visits, trade shows and annual general meetings, and over 24,000 people seen and spoken to later, Marc Cadieux, the president and director general of the QTA sums it all up: “The success of the program has inspired us to continue with it.”

The first team served two years. A second team of seven truckers served three years from 2003 to 2006. The QTA took a one year break from 2006 to 2007 to re-evaluate the program, then selected six more drivers to be ambassadors from 2007 to 2010.

During that one-year hiatus, the QTA compared its ambassador program to other such groups in Canada. It reviewed its material and documentation and set new targets.

“We decided to concentrate more on meeting people in secondary schools and at career salons and shops. We used to go to primary schools and talk security. We have maintained this aspect of the mandate but we decided that we should put more emphasis on bringing new drivers into the industry,” Cadieux explains.

One of the current ambassadors, who will regretfully have to turn in his jacket this May, is Vincent Nadeau, a career driver for Groupe Guilbault. He started “trucking” as a child with the grandson of the original owner of Transport Lariviere in Montebello. They pedaled their tricycles around town with spare receipts they got from the company. “I remember telling the owner of Transport Lariviere when I was a child that I would someday drive for him.”

Nadeau did just that, and when Groupe Guilbault bought Transport Lariviere in 1979, he kept on trucking for his new owners. “Our boss, Eric Gignac, has been behind us 100% (Guilbault driver Aldege Rioux is also a current ambassador). I have nothing but praise for this company,” Nadeau says.

All those years after getting his first paying trucking job Nadeau declares, “It has been like being a kid in a sandbox for the past 35 years.”

This is the kind of passion QTA looks for in its ambassadors.

Nadeau recalls one Montreal school in particular he visited. “There were about 170 pupils there, mostly from a poor district. They had had a rough time of it. They had a career day in the gym: guys from the fire department, plastics industry, radio. These kids wanted to work and be productive people. I told them that at some point everything in their classroom was transported by a truck. You see a light go on at one point. There is always going to be a need for truck drivers. They started to realize that there could be a career in this business. It is a nice feeling to know that you have given kids tools they need to go out and learn to be truck drivers, and have given them a bit of your passion.”

The pride an ambassador brings to his whole company is special too, according to Ferris Abraham, vice-president of Simard Transport in Lachine. One of his veteran company drivers, Claude Lesperance, has been an ambassador since 2007.

“The most important feature of the program, and why we are doing it, is the pride our drivers have in knowing that one of our own is an ambassador. It makes our employees feel good about their jobs,” Abraham explains.

The biggest goal QTA sees for 2010-2012 is recruiting at secondary schools and adult education programs. It is easy to tell that Nadeau will miss not being part of it.

“It is good to reach out. We go with full equipment -tractor and trailer -and the students enjoy talking with us and asking questions. They appreciate that we are people who actually work in the industry,” he says.

“If the person looking at this enjoys travel and driving,” Nadeau concludes, “this is a job made in heaven, as far as I am concerned.”

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