Owner-operator Jean-Francois Foy, who drives for Trois-Rivieres-based Transport J.C. Germain, has put 1.6 million miles on his 1996 Freightliner and expects it to go for at least a half a million more.
His secret? “I never speed and I never idle,” Foy says.
“My truck will run up to 151 km/h, but my wallet limits me to 98 km/h. It is the only way to make money.”
Foy estimates he saves $14,000 in fuel every year by limiting his speed. That’s on top of the savings on tires and other components. He’s still running the original tire casings on his drive axles.
Foy runs into the U.S., but only as far as a full fuel tank will take him. “I never fuel south of the border. From Windsor or Lacolle I can go about 2,200 km,” he says. “My limits are South Carolina, the border of Georgia, Tennessee, Iowa, and Minnesota.”
He pays his own fuel tax and has discovered that buying as much fuel as possible in Canada is the most profitable way to operate.
“I recover GST and QST because I buy fuel here, but because I don’t burn my fuel in Quebec, I get a credit for buying too much, which pays what I owe the other states, and leaves me a good refund.” He does almost all his own maintenance in what he refers to as the “garage of God,” meaning outside.
And no, it’s not too cold. “It is like getting into a pool,” he says. “After a couple of minutes you get used to it.”
Foy describes his management philosophy succinctly: “Margins are too small to give away even a buck.”
It’s pretty easy to see why he was a leading candidate for the title of 2007 highwayStar of the Year. Every year, Today’s Trucking’s sister publication highwaySTAR recognizes a particularly outstanding driver and, in association with sponsors Freightliner, Espar, ArvinMeritor, Caterpillar, Delo, Michelin, SelecTrucks, and OBAC/APRAC, showers the winner with prizes, including $10,000 in cash.
But you have to be more than a good driver to win. And Foy won. He proves you don’t have to give up your outside life to be a professional driver.
He and his wife Michelle Desilets are parents to four and live in Neuville, Que., 20 miles west of Quebec City. Foy has owned 16 trucks, but only two new ones. “I can afford to buy a big truck, but if I do that, I won’t have any holiday time, and I won’t be able to take care of my Festival du routier de Donnacona.”
Foy’s daughter Paméla has a learning disability called dysphasia. Her parents realized early that kids like Paméla need sophisticated learning tools and specialized teachers. With that in mind, in 2000 Jean-Francois and Michelle created a foundation called Les Amis de Paméla.
They held flea markets, barbeques and dances. Michèle sold over 1,000 copies of a special cookbook. It still wasn’t enough.
Then Foy heard about a truck show in Baie-Comeau that had raised $40,000.
“That gave me the push I needed to start a truck festival near Quebec City.”
Staged in Donnaconna, about 30 miles west of Quebec City, the Donnaconna Truckers’ Festival features drag races, a show-and-shine and other family activities. The first edition, held in 2004, was a hit but left Foy with a $34,000 debt that he and Michelle had to cover, personally. Still, they persevered. The following year the festival attracted more than 25,000 and cleared $32,000. The next festival gave $40,000 to Les Amis de Paméla.
Jean-Francois Foy is a trucker who delivers.
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