Jean-Claude Robichaud has secured one of Canada’s top driving honors.
ROGERSVILLE, N.B. – After 41 years on the road, Jean-Claude Robichaud of Atlantic Pacific Transport earned one of the greatest accolades a long-time driver can dream of: the CTA/Volvo Trucks Canada National Driver of the Year Award.
Robichaud, 65 and a native of New Brunswick, is a lifelong trucker who said he was born to drive. His career started back in 1978, and since then he’s racked up more than 7 million accident-free kilometers.
“I started just shunting trucks around Nova Scotia, and it just sort of grew from there,” he says. “I’ve never done anything else but drive. My father was a mechanic, and as a kid I loved the big rigs and I loved driving. So, I thought it would be good to do it for a living, and trucking companies were hiring.”
Forty-one years later he’s still trucking. These days, he drives from New Brunswick hauling drywall to Toronto, every week. From there he goes to Hamilton, Ont., where he picks up steel and delivers it to P.E.I. before heading home. Before that, he drove dry van and he’s also done local delivery work.
“I love it. I really do love my job because I’ve gotten to see so many places in my years,” he says. “There’s so many times when I’m home and me and my wife are watching a movie and there will be a scene, and I can shout, ‘Hey! I’ve been there!’ and not too many people can say that.”
Robichaud credits his achievements and safety record to his wife and family for supporting his career choice from the very beginning.
“This job is good if you like to drive, but that’s just one part of it,” he says. “It’s the worst job in the world if you don’t have the support from home you need. For me, that’s not a problem. My wife has always been so understanding. If I didn’t have her support, I wouldn’t be trucking. In April, we’ll be married 40 years, and she’s supported my decision to drive since Day 1.”
Robichaud says this is the advice that he gives to younger guys who just start out in the industry. He also credits his success to a positive attitude many on the road don’t have.
“Anybody that I talk to that want to get into (trucking) I tell them, ‘You have to want to do it. You don’t want to get behind the wheel to just make a paycheque,’” he says. “I stay organized and I always leave myself plenty of time. But what I find makes the biggest difference in terms of my successful safety record is I like to be positive. I see a lot of drivers on the road get negative and frustrated. They complain about everything, wages, traffic… But I like to encourage them and be positive.”
Attitude makes a big difference in how you drive, he says, stressing he is not a fast driver either, and always maintains a safe speed.
Robichaud said when he won the award, he was utterly surprised. In fact, he thought they had the presentation mixed up.
“Last year, I won the [regional] Driver of the Year Award, but not the national,” he said. “So when I saw my name up on the screen, I thought there was a mix up. But then my boss, Donnie, said, ‘No, you won the national award!’ My wife was in shock, and…it was just such a pleasant surprise.”
In the future, Robichaud says he has no intentions of slowing down his career anytime soon.
“My wife asks me, because I turn 66 this year, if I’m retiring soon,” he said. “I’ve told my wife, ‘As long as my health is still good, I want to keep driving. If I like what I do, why quit?’”