For as long as he can remember, Luc Cormier has had diesel fuel in his veins.
“It’s literally a passion,” he says. When asked what he likes about his job, which he has been doing for 40 years, he answers, “everything!”
“An uncle of mine, his handle is Cognac, used to drive for Frito-Lay (Dulac at the time). He used to take me with him in his truck in the summer, when I was six or seven years old. We would go to Abitibi. When I was on the road, I was in my own world. I went to school because I had to. I was just waiting for the right moment to quit and get on a truck,” he says.
He learned to drive on his own, in his father’s bread delivery step van.
“It had a three-speed transmission on the floor. When my dad was placing the orders, I was [tinkering] with it. I’d let go of the clutch slowly and the truck would move on the gas. I’d drive around in circles in the yard.” He was 12 or 13 years old.
Then his father bought a truck for milk delivery, a GMC five-ton with a Roxel five-speed transmission and a 16-foot box. Cormier was 14 years old. “On Saturdays, I would leave Terrebonne alone with a five-ton truck, no licence. I would ride to St. Jerome with a pillow in my back so I could reach the pedals.”
Obviously, he learned to shift by sound. “I listened so much that I knew, just by the sound, that it was time to shift.”
The 58-year-old Terrebonne resident has a phenomenal memory for the spec’s of the trucks he’s driven over the years. Or even that he hasn’t driven.
“The first truck I ever got into was my uncle’s, a White 4000 six-wheeler with an 8LL and a 300 Cummins,” he says. “When I went to get my passenger car licence, I was already driving a 10-wheeler with 25 feet of box. An Inter Series S with a 13 direct,” he adds, as if this was perfectly normal.
The first “real truck” he drove was a Kenworth K100 (with a 400 Cummins and a 15-speed).
“I had never driven one of those. I learned from Fuller’s diagram on the sunshade.”
The truck’s owner, a guy named Denis, had told him that with a Cummins, he just had to count – one, two, three – between shifts. After a few clutch grindings, everything went smoothly all the way to Toronto.
Hearing him talk about his experience on a snow plow is particularly funny.
“I had never sat in one before. It was a 350 Cummins with a 10. But, a one-way [snowplow], when you put that down, it’s 25 feet. I left with it, and the mail boxes were flying!”
Cormier has worked for Express Mondor for 21 years. His territory is the entire U.S. And he drives an assigned Kenworth W900L.
“I’m spoiled, my bosses take care of me. When I go on vacation, the truck is in the garage and nobody touches it,” he says.
What he’s doing today is the culmination of his childhood dream. “It’s like someone who studies for years to become a doctor. Me, I didn’t go to school for 30 years, but I’m doing what I wanted to do.”
Retirement won’t come tomorrow morning. He may cut back his hours a bit, or drive away from home less, depending on what life throws at him. But the road will always be in his blood. The best advice he’d give a young trucker?
“Do your own thing. If you have a problem, take it up with your boss. You won’t solve anything on the 401 in a truck stop, in a CB or on Facebook,” he says.
To his sons Maxime, Dannick and Zachary, he always said to do a job they would enjoy. “That’s the most important thing. For 40 years, I’ve done what I wanted to do. I did what I loved, and I’m still doing it.”
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