QUEBEC CITY, Que. — By the end of a frigid Quebec City winter’s day, Maxime Myrand-Lapierre had delivered food to 14 restaurants and hotels in the city, and nearby Loretteville and Val Cartier. He works as a driver/delivery man with food service company Gordon Food Service. He variously drives straight truck and semi, and loves the work.
He is also 18 years old.
But for the fact that Quebec set up a pilot program in 2011 to see how it might fly getting normally-too-young teenagers into the trucking business, the industry would likely have lost this young talent to another profession. This is a plague in a province, and a country, where, before people are old enough to even apply for their Class 1, they must choose another career path, if they want to eat.
This is a shame in an industry screaming for new blood…well, any blood, really.
When Myrand-Lapierre was in Grade 9, two of his high school teachers asked him if he would like to enter a program that let students simultaneously finish high school and get his Diplome d’Etudes Professionelles (DEP) – the equivalent of a diploma in vocational studies outside Quebec. It was 2014 and he was 16.
“I chose the DEP for truck driver and I do not regret my choice,” Myrand-Lapierre says. “Yes, I work a lot, but when you like what you do, you don’t count the hours.”
That career choice was only possible because Quebec had launched a radical pilot program to train 40 young drivers as truckers. It was called the Programme enrichi d’accès à la conduite de véhicules lourds (PEACVL), and taught at the province’s two big driver training schools: the Centre de formation du transport routier Saint-Jérôme (CFTR) north of Montreal, and the Centre de formation en transport de Charlesbourg (CFTC) near Quebec City.
Choosing to train as a trucker was somewhat of a stab in the dark. Myrand-Lapierre had no truckers in his family to model such a career choice, although his dad did drive a cube van in his youth.
“I didn’t know if I would want to become a trucker before registering for the program,” Myrand-Lapierre recalls.
That said, it was not a random choice. It overlapped other long-held interests of his.
“I always knew that I would go work in a trade that would have motors, because my passion has always been for those things that have a motor – snowmobiles, motocross, etc.,” he says.
About halfway through his program, which he attended at the CFTR, Myrand-Lapierre landed a job with Gordon as a delivery man’s aide. That was his foot in the door through which he walked immediately after he graduated.
“It was super easy getting my first job, because I didn’t have to look. My teacher immediately referred me to my boss, and I started work the next week,” Myrand-Lapierre says.
Around town, Myrand-Lapierre drives a straight truck, but on runs outside the city, he pilots a tractor-trailer. His lifestyle is sweet, for a trucker.
“I am almost assured of being able to return home by evening to sleep,” he says. “But if there is a snowstorm and the roads are closed, I can spend the night in a hotel, but it hasn’t come to this yet. My work is mainly local.”
And unlike the long-haul cowboys of yore, Myrand-Lapierre doesn’t seem tempted to see the continent from the cab of a semi. Sticking closer to home is more his thing.
“I don’t know if I really want to hit the road. I might just want to stay in my city and drive, and come back to my place to sleep with my family. At home!”
But he is a man with a plan. “I’d really like to become the owner of an excavation company,” Myrand-Lapierre says.
I asked Myrand-Lapierre what he would say to anyone considering entering an enhanced version of PEACVL, which Quebec launched last year, with places for 300 students.
“If I could talk to 300 youth who wanted to embark on the program, I would tell them to go for it, because it is a great opportunity to finish school at the same time they earn a DEP. And in trucking there is always lots of work,” he says.
And to carriers, about the value and importance of giving young people such as himself a chance to prove themselves as truckers? His reply was thoughtful: “Whether you are 18 or 50, if you really want to work and make a name for yourself in your field, there is no minimum age for being talented in your trade. Give a young driver like me, and the 300 future truckers, a chance to prove themselves.”
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