“I couldn’t really see myself doing anything else,” is a phrase one often hears after meeting someone who’s had the same career for his or her whole life.
For the three LeBlanc brothers in New Brunswick, Paul Emile (in photo, front row, right), Guy (front row, left), and Gilles (back row, left) – who each said those exact words to me at some point during our interview – this familiar expression takes on a whole new meaning. Combined, the LeBlanc brothers have over 120 years of experience working for Armour Transportation Systems, headquartered in Moncton, N.B. as truck drivers making deliveries across the Maritimes and into Toronto. Together, they have driven more than 10 million accident-free miles – an accomplishment that is truly remarkable for a trio whose members haven’t even retired yet.
When asked how they got started in the trucking industry, the brothers are quick to credit their father, who drove a pulp and gravel truck when the boys were growing up.
“Trucking was all he did all his life,” said Paul Emile, the eldest. “So I decided to do that too.”
Paul Emile was the first of the LeBlancs to join Armour Transport in January 1973 as a driver. Just three weeks later his younger brother, Guy, joined him by working in the company’s warehouse. After working behind the scenes for a year and a half, Guy was handed the keys to a truck unexpectedly one day.
“They were stuck,” said Guy. “They needed a driver to make a delivery.”
So off he went, delivering the goods on time. He’s been driving professionally ever since.
The youngest, Gilles, started driving for Armour when he was only 17. “I didn’t even have my driver’s licence,” he says with a laugh. “No one could get away with that these days.”
The brothers began their careers at a time when features such as cruise control weren’t yet installed in a majority of trucks – something they are glad to have seen change after decades in the industry.
“Well, the trucks sure are different now,” said Guy. “Back then they had no air-conditioning, no cruise control, no heat. Today we can drive with T-shirts in the wintertime.”
The brothers agree that traffic is a change in the industry that only got worse with time – a part of the job they say they dislike the most.
“The roads are much busier today and other people on the road don’t have a lot of patience,” says Paul Emile who drives around the busy Maritimes for seven months out of the year.
“I can stay in line or in traffic for hours,” added Gilles. “I have all kinds of patience. However, I really like the Montreal bypass – It should be the Eighth Wonder of the World!” he joked of the new section of Hwy. 30 introduced in December 2012 that allows east-west traffic to avoid the congested island of Montreal. It’s hard to divorce the LeBlanc brothers from trucking – since as Paul Emile says, it’s all he’s really known – but for the younger brothers, Guy and Gilles, if they weren’t driving truck, they say they’d probably still be involved in the transportation industry one way or another.
“I took a mechanics course before I worked at Armour,” said Guy. “So if I wasn’t driving I’d probably be a mechanic. I really like cars.”
Guy says he wouldn’t call himself a collector, but he admits he has a particular passion for classic racecars. Over the years he’s fixed up a 1969 Chevrolet Camaro (a favourite among classic car enthusiasts everywhere) and a 1977 Chevrolet Vega. He currently owns a 1972 yellow Dodge Demon, although he says he is looking to sell it in the near future.
Gilles on the other hand, has pondered the idea of driving a different sort of truck.
“Driving heavy equipment has always been on my mind,” he said. “It’s never too late, I guess. I could work part-time and drive heavy equipment (in the future).”
The LeBlanc brothers are modest about their accident-free track record. When asked what led to this extraordinary achievement Guy quips, “Good luck!”
Luck might have something to do with it, but the brothers have decades of experience driving through terrible traffic jams and snow-covered roads that have undoubtedly contributed to their combined success.
“It’s such a natural thing for me now (to drive safely),” said Gilles.
Despite having been at Armour for the shortest amount of time, Gilles has driven the most miles in comparison to his brothers – racking up more than four million in his 38-year career. At 56 years old, he is the only one of the three who still does long-haul runs, travelling from Moncton, N.B. to Toronto every week.
Gilles says truck driving is something he’s always wanted to do and he’s stuck around because driving is something he truly loves – a refreshing take in comparison to those in the industry who carp about the long hours required.
“There’s nothing better than driving, especially on a beautiful day,” he said. “But it’s tough – if you get into the business and you don’t like it you won’t last.”
Though Gilles has been employed by Armour for close to four decades, he claims that he hasn’t really “worked” for this long. “You know what they say,” he chuckles. “If you love your job you never have to work a day in your life.”