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Quebec’s Highway Ambassador program going strong

MONTREAL, Que. – Talking trucking to kiddies on the television with Annie Brocoli, discussing fatigue with Isabelle Marechal on 98.5 FM and manning a booth at the Salon national de l’education in Montreal are just three examples of...


MONTREAL, Que. – Talking trucking to kiddies on the television with Annie Brocoli, discussing fatigue with Isabelle Marechal on 98.5 FM and manning a booth at the Salon national de l’education in Montreal are just three examples of the public face Richard Maskaleut has been helping to put on the trucking industry as an Ambassadeur de la route, or Highway Ambassador.
Maskaleut, a Groupe Robert driver, is one of five members of the team of Ambassadors the Quebec Trucking Association (QTA) fielded this spring. They will serve a two-year term.

“I talk about things like safety training, new technologies like liquid natural gas (LNG) engines, communications and on-board computers. There is a big revolution in trucking that people do not understand, but more and more people are waking up to the profession. There is more information and knowledge available,” says Maskaleut. He was also an Ambassador from 2010-2012.

For such enlightenment, an estimated 25,000 Quebecers can thank the 28 truckers who have accepted 30 Ambassador positions since QTA launched the program in 2001.

“They have done over 600 conferences, not including media interviews. This includes schools, industry fairs such as ExpoCam and employment fairs,” says Marc Cadieux, president and director-general, of the QTA.

Media appearances such as radio and TV have reached many more.

Carriers deserve thanks for releasing these drivers from their regular duties for a couple of days a month to carry out their ambassadorial work and for letting them take rigs to some events.

“At the provincial championships at the (provincial driver training school in) St-Jerome, for example, kids and families can sit in the tractors and see what is visible in the mirrors. We do demos for the turns and park cars in the blind spots to show where they are,” Cadieux says.

Experts teach each new team of Ambassadors how to handle media interviews. QTA staffers prepare manuals for them with the latest regulatory, cross-border and safety issues, statistics and more. “The Ambassadors are impressed with the type and quality of information they are taught,” Cadieux observes.

Thus prepared, the Ambassadors fan out across Quebec to spread the word and act as advocates for the various jobs in the profession.

Over the years, the program has narrowed its focus to target more young men and women about to enter the job market.
“We need to recruit, so we are aiming more at meeting people who might come into the industry, for example, from high schools. We talk about mechanics, logistics and dispatch as well,” Cadieux explained.

“I talk about what trucking is and the employment opportunities,” Maskaleut adds.

The other four drivers the selection committee chose for the 2012-2014 team are Charles Bisson from Transport Jacques Auger, Yves Ricard from Sobeys Quebec, Benoit Bouchard from Transport O.S.I. and Andre Lemonde from Transport Real Poirier. Winning attributes for Ambassadors include outstanding service records, strong interpersonal skills, a passion for the trade and an interest in road safety.

Maskaleut has logged about 700,000 kilometres in 14 years and currently does regional transport of general freight for Robert. Bisson, the youngest of the team by a good stretch, transports chemical products. He has already logged over 750,000 kilometres in his six-year career. Ricard, a veteran of 39 years and more than two milion kilometres, hauls groceries.

Bouchard has travelled nearly six million kilometres in his 30-plus years on the road. He hauls dangerous goods. Lemonde has been a trucker for over 30 years and has driven nearly five million kilometres. He hauls solid bulk and dangerous goods.
Maskaleut and the other Ambassadors tailor their messages to their audiences. Children will get the cook’s tour of the cab, learn where drivers sleep and eat and see the inside of the trailer. Older audiences, some of whom express concerns about pollution and traffic congestion, will learn about fuel-saving equipment like perforated flaps, trailer skirts and wide-base tires, and the concept of just-in-time delivery.

Students, some of whom are frustrated with the wait before they are old enough to get their Class 1, will learn about the Programme enrichi d’acces a  la conduite de vehicules lourds (enriched access program toward the driving of heavy vehicles), launched last year.

“There are lots of people who are interested but kids think it takes too long to become a driver,” Maskaleut says.

“The Ambassadors represent and highlight the excellence of our industry: the professionalism, knowledge, judgment, civil responsibility and the complexity of laws and rules,” Cadieux concludes about the program. “They more reflect what the industry is about, not the exceptions.”


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