Quebec exec tackles driver shortage

by Mike King

SAINTE-MARTINE, Que. – If trucking entrepreneur Robert Goyette has his way, Quebec and France will eventually have more in common than the French language.

The president of Transport Charette Ltd., which has its headquarters in the rural community of Sainte-Martine south of Montreal, wants to introduce a unique trucker-training program to the province he said has proven successful across the Atlantic.

“There’s an astonishing lack of qualified young drivers in Quebec,” Goyette told Truck News.

“Why can someone 20 years old drive tanks in the army, fly commercial jets, vote on the future of Canada, but can’t drive a truck?” he wondered when talking about professionally trained truckers. “There are no schools here to recruit from and in Quebec you have to be 21 before you can get a Class 1 licence.”

Goyette also noted that Quebec government-run training centers “are generally for the unemployed who get paid to attend (driving classes).”

More often than not, he said those are people beyond their trucking prime or aren’t even interested in getting behind the wheel of a rig for a living.

“A lot of truck companies cry about the lack of qualified drivers, but nobody is taking the initiative,” Goyette claimed.

During one of his recent overseas trips, he discovered the Lycee Professionnel et Centre de Formation du Porteau – a private teaching school associated with the French government that provides a variety of training programs including truck driving (transport and logistics).

His plan is to share that model with the Quebec government.

“I’m importing (Porteau) documents from France and am going to write (Quebec) Education Minister Jean-Marc Fournier to tell him about the French system,” Goyette said.

He has political pull as past-president (five years) of the Quebec Trucking Association and 1992 founder of the Fondation pour la Formation Professionnelle en Transport Routier des Marchandises du Quebec – an organization with links to the Universite du Quebec, Montreal and Quebec City’s Universite Laval to offer post-secondary education in trucking-related subjects ranging from management and logistics to quality control and legal/economic analysis.

But that doesn’t help get more properly trained drivers on the roads, one of Goyette’s major goals.

“There are no schools to recruit from and to be a long-haul driver now, you must be bilingual and ideally trilingual because you’re dealing with U.S. and Mexican borders,” he pointed out.

In 1999, Transport Charette opened Mexuscan Cargo Ltd. in the border town of Laredo, Texas, to handle growing shipments to and from Mexico. The company also does a lot of work in neighbouring Ontario and New England so its 150 drivers have to be able to speak English as well as French.

Goyette stressed the importance of being able to communicate in order to increase proficiency at the U.S. and Mexican borders to save precious time.

He hires all his drivers in Quebec, with about a dozen of them strictly working the U.S./Mexico routes, where “I could easily use three or four more there.”

Some of the reasons he prefers to have younger drivers are because of their stamina for the long hauls and their technical knowledge.

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