Serving country and industry

Driver of the Year
Robert Pigeau was honored with the Manitoba Driver of the Year Award for 2019.

WINNIPEG, Man. — For Manitoba’s 2019 Driver of the Year, receiving personal accolades has always come a distant second to helping others.

The Manitoba Trucking Association (MTA), along with Volvo Trucks Canada, honored Robert Pigeau during its Driver Awards Banquet, marking his successful transition from military service to the trucking industry.

Pigeau served more than 21 years as a chef in the Canadian Armed Forces, driving a truck that hauled a kitchen trailer around various postings over a two-decade span.

The experience of driving truck in the military proved useful when making the transition to trucking in 1996, a decision that came relatively easily to Pigeau.

“When I retired, I didn’t want to be stuck in a building,” he said. “I decided I wanted to go out on the road.”

Before hitting the highway, Pigeau enrolled in the Reimer Express Lines driving school, which the carrier offered during that time. Achieving the second highest score in the class with a 98.6, Pigeau said he and the driver with the highest score both drove truck prior to entering the course, while some others who struggled had not.

Pigeau’s driver training in the military was taxing at times.

“The training in the military is pretty intense,” he said. “When I started pulling a 53-foot trailer it was actually easier than pulling my kitchen trailer, especially backing up.”

The military provided Pigeau with a number of defensive driving courses, as well as an exhaustive air brake endorsement class.

It wasn’t long after completing his civilian training that the military veteran found a home at Big Freight Systems in 1997.

After 22 years with the Winnipeg-based carrier, Pigeau has become a valuable member of Big Freight’s team.

“Robert always shows meticulous attention to detail in his work, and as a result, he is always on-time, delivers his loads damage-free, and ensures his equipment never exceeds the regularly scheduled service intervals,” said Rob Cooper, operations manager for Big Freight. “Robert utilizes the skills he learned in the military and is always planning every task three steps ahead.”

Big Freight president and CEO Gary Coleman could not agree more, saying, “Robert takes enormous pride in what he does and always shows meticulous attention to detail in his work.”

Part of the mutual respect Pigeau and those at Big Freight have for each other stems from a desire to recognize and help others through volunteer work, as well as honoring Canadian military personnel.

Pigeau’s company truck boasts a military wrap to do just that.

“I was going to Big Freight for many years to try and get something to recognize all veterans,” said Pigeau. “Every veteran who works for Big Freight has the yellow ribbon with the maple leaf (on their truck).”

Pigeau also works to help military veterans interested in truck driving once they have completed their service.
With a Facebook page called “Life as a Canadian Veteran Over the Road Driving Truck,” Pigeau has helped educate and recruit veterans into the industry.

“I have a lot of military who follow me, as well as truck drivers,” he said. “I also have a lot of military people who call me when they are retiring. I talk to them and explain what it’s like to get into the trucking industry.”

Pigeau’s efforts don’t end there.

He and his wife have long volunteered for several organizations, including the MS Society of Canada, the Truck Convoy for Special Olympics, and the Ride for Dad to raise money to fight prostate cancer.

In fact, Pigeau, who recently turned 60 years old, said he is looking forward to the day he can retire so he has more time to volunteer.

His desire to serve both country and community are two characteristics that make Pigeau an admirable choice for Manitoba Driver of the Year.

In addition to his charitable efforts, Pigeau prides himself on his loyalty to Big Freight. Hauling everything from hazmat materials to Harley Davidson motorcycles, Pigeau drives from the Northwest Territories to the U.S.

And his infectious attitude is not lost on his co-workers.

“It is always a pleasure to get some time with Robert at our company events, which he seldom misses,” said Jeremy Messner, vice-president of business development for Big Freight. “His energy and passion and laugh are contagious and inspiring.

“Robert is an incredible ambassador for our industry and our company.”

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A university graduate with a degree in English, I have worked in the media and trucking industries as a writer, editor, and now as western bureau chief of Today's Trucking and I have several years of management experience in journalism, as well as hospitality, but am first and foremost a writer, both professionally and in my personal life, having completed two fiction novels.

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