In 1971, Conrad Gamache and his brother Arthur created the Centre du camion Gamache. Now that he is 84, Conrad Gamache admits he never imagined that, 44 years later, their small family business would have grown so large.
It all started with Conrad throwing an innocent enough question at his brother: “What about opening our own garage?” Coming from a large family of mechanics, the brothers had motor oil in their blood. Their business success, like that of many others in the Gamache clan, was due to their uncle, who taught them all the basics and also trained them in welding and electricity. Therefore, the brothers decided to quit their jobs and build their garage right in front of the family home in Saint-Paul-de-l’Ile-aux-Noix, which was purchased in 1945 and where Conrad still lives today. The building is only 70 m2 (750 ft2).
The Gamache brothers were well known in their area and had no difficulty establishing a good reputation for their garage. The number of customers quickly multiplied, so much so that the brothers had no other choice but to expand their business. Besides their private customers, they were also in charge of maintaining the Pillsbury company delivery trucks. The days, recalls Mr. Gamache, were long, but productive. With their skill and know-how, the brothers could install a truck engine in one day, without pneumatic impact wrenches or other sophisticated equipment!
They gradually began to diversify. Two years later, they expanded the garage to a total area of 186 m² (2,000 ft²).
Today, the lot measures 2 km by 1 km and stocks more than 600 trucks.
In the 1970s, Conrad became the proud owner of a tow truck and has owned one ever since. At 84 years of age, and 7 tow trucks later, he is the oldest tow truck driver in the province. Four years ago, the association of Quebec troubleshooting professionals presented him with an honorary plaque in recognition of this achievement.
His first tow truck was an International, purchased for the modest sum of $500. The brothers upgraded it by adding a second transmission, which turned it into an unexpected racecar—truck drivers were always amazed when they saw the tow truck right behind them on the highway. One year, Conrad executed an impressive 800 tows. That’s more than two a day, seven days a week. And that’s not all: Gamache is about to acquire an eighth tow truck. Nothing can stop him.
Conrad has never been afraid to work. He landed his first job on a farm at the age of 14 for the grand sum of . . . $1 a day. He still managed to save enough to buy a bike at the end of the summer.
While today a battery of tests is required to get a licence, he acknowledges that things were not as strict before. He began driving at the age of 15. Too short at the time to see over the steering wheel, he had to sit on a jug to drive his 1934 Plymouth. A “technique” that would be unthinkable today.
In addition to running a garage, driving a tow truck and raising a family, Conrad Gamache was also the first head of the Saint-Paul-de-l’Ile-aux-Noix police and fire services. He held this position for a respectable period—38 years. He has been actively involved in the community for many years, which explains his popularity. As proof, nearly 300 guests attended the party to celebrate his 50th wedding anniversary.
Birth of the Public Roads System, Beginnings of the Quebec Trucking Industry
The transportation landscape in Quebec has evolved over the last 100 years. In 1912, noting the growing popularity of the automobile, then-Prime Minister Sir Lomer Gouin created the Roads Department. The Canadian Good Roads Association was founded at the same time. You must remember that at the beginning of the last century, everything was done with no guidance. In the countryside, farmers connected stretches of road all over.
To keep the increasing number of trucks and cars on the roads rolling, then-Minister of Highways Joseph-Adolphe Tessier invested heavily in the sector. He had new provincial roads built and paved. In the process, he guaranteed loans to municipalities willing to build roads on their territory.
The private sector has not always waited for the goodwill of the government to open roads, though. It helped open and maintain winter roads along with permanent roads in areas where only trucks could go.
These new routes would make the trucking industry a driving economic force. The Gamache Truck Centre is proud to have been part of it for these past 44 years. It is among the industry leaders for used heavy vehicles not only in Quebec, but also across Canada and even in North America.
Women in the Trucking Industry
Did you know that . . . ?
- Only 3% of drivers are women. (source)
- According to the Quebec vehicle registration and licensing bureau (SAAQ), 5,259 women held a Class 1 permit in 2013, compared to 4,687 in 2009, an increase of 12%.
- >Approximately 10% of students at the Charlesbourg transportation training center (CFTC) are women. (source)
- Ryder has designed a truck adapted to women. (source) (source 2)
Important Gamache Dates
1971: The business opens
1980: 20 people work for Gamache
1997: Gamex opens
1997: body shop added
2000: The number of employees increases to 60
2001: Expansion of the Gamex lot
2002: Ray-Lawson opens
2004: 5-doors added to body shop
2005: Trailer lot added
2015: 125 people work at the Gamache Truck Centre