Bobby Bergeron, marketing coordinator for Gamache Group, has been immersed in the truck industry since he was 14 years old.
Nostalgic for his wonderful years working in the North, Bobby kindly agreed to have a little chat with us. Bobby—a veteran of off-road driving—shares his memories and introduces us to the world of heavy trucks.
You know just about everything there is to know about the trucking industry . . . What made you want to become a truck driver?
I think that, like all kids, seeing big trucks made me dream. And I had the fortune of becoming familiar with them at a very young age. When I was 11, my mother’s boyfriend worked with heavy equipment in the forest. Other kids were playing with Tonkas, but I saw them up close in real life and got to ride in them! I grew up watching trucks pick up timber. It wasn’t long before I was driving them and working in them! I drove off-road transporting timber in the forest.
When you start so young, how do the other drivers react?
You’re a bit like the mascot. The truckers thought it was funny. At first, you do a lot of small jobs, maintenance and light mechanical work such as oil changes. You have no choice but to learn on the job, and then, gradually, you are given more responsibility. I carried gravel and, at 18, I started on the road.
What is a trucker’s biggest challenge?
It depends on the sector you work in. Food transportation in California, for example, is not my style. In my sector, forest roads are completely different from asphalt roads and are much more difficult. The biggest challenge is the tough road conditions when transporting long timber. Roads where there are no shoulders, with ditches on either side. We even had to construct bits of road with a tamped-down mixture of mud and marsh. We expected roads to freeze and turn into ice, super slippery. It’s a bit like riding motocross with heavy equipment! The extreme conditions are also a big challenge. Once, on the way to James Bay, the truck broke down because the temperature had been -55 degrees Celsius two nights in a row. It’s hard on the equipment. You have to be resourceful.
What’s your best memory so far?
There’s plenty of little moments that boost the ego. For example, there were about 40 trucks emptying an area worked by 2 shovels. Half the group was supposed to be at one shovel and the other half at the 4-73 shovel. Well finally, out of 80 drivers, only 5 of us were able to get up to the 4-73 shovel. You have to know what you’re doing, because off-road transport is three times the weight of a normal truck. You have to be able to pull off a controlled skid.
A positive aspect of being a trucker?
The people you meet and the scenery in Western Canada, the Maritimes or in the South.
A negative aspect?
The schedules! You can be away for a long time and your family pays the price . . . It can be hard on morale, you have to be made for it. With off-road transport, you’re not gone as long, but you have to repair your truck, so you are often in the garage. It’s a difficult life for a family.
Do you have any advice for beginners?
I drove trucks in the most difficult forest conditions, a sector where you have to make your place and prove yourself. Let’s just say you’re far from the movies with great country music. You have to have nerves of steel and adapt to conditions. In a harsh environment like the forest, you have to be aware of your responsibility to others and their safety. There’s no trial and error, so you have to know your calls and roads really well. You have to be resourceful, prepared and able to learn on the job, like working on your equipment at –35. With off-road conditions, you often don’t have a choice. It’s important to be curious and not afraid to ask questions.
Now with Gamache, the challenges are different and this suits Bobby fine. The adrenaline from the forest roads is part of his personality and his life. Nothing can replace being in the field and the strong emotions it generates.
Get a taste of off-road driving: www.youtube.com