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Martin, A French Truck Driver in Canada

Martin, A French Truck Driver in Canada
Martin, A French Truck Driver in Canada (this load travelled from Alberta to Quebec!)

Martin, a truck driver from France, was dreaming of big open roads. He found them in Canada, where he immigrated in 2008. After landing in Quebec and starting his new life there, he moved to Alberta.

A long-haul truck driver, he drives all over North America. He shares with us a few highlights of his job.

1)     Why did you decide to immi­grate to Canada?

As a French truck driver, it is nowadays difficult to find a long-haul job in France. French drivers don’t go far past the border, and you usually deliver your load the following day, there isn’t so much driving involved. I would have loved being a truck driver 40 years ago, when it was relatively common to drive to the Middle East (Iraq, Afghanistan, Turkey, Iran, etc.) or USSR and Eastern Europe.

So the best place to be hired for a long-haul position was to immigrate to North America.

And because I was not comfortable using English for administrative tasks (you can always fill out your immigration application in French but after landing, it’s a different story), I choose to immigrate to Québec.

2)     Did you find the immi­gra­tion process difficult? Which immigration category did you apply in, and how long did it take for you to get permanent residence status?

No, it was pretty straightforward. I first applied for a CSQ and was granted one five months later. Then I completed the federal part of the process and seven months later, I landed in Montreal as a permanent resident. This was back in 2008.

3)     Where did you learn English?

At school, reading technical documentation and watching movies and shows with subtitles. But I never had the chance to practice my skills before living in Canada.

4) How do you find the work culture, as a truck driver, compared to France?

It’s about the same. Dispatches expect the same kind of work from drivers on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean (same attitude too… truck drivers will know what I mean!). One big difference is that it is exceptionally rare in North America for drivers to have to load or unload their truck.

5)     Do you face specific challenges considering the harsh weather conditions we get here in Canada?

In winter, even if roads are cleared, there is still some snow and ice on the ground. Black ice is another issue, it happens regularly. In many western provinces and states, it is mandatory to carry tire chains.

Almost all year long, strong wind cause blowing snow or blowing dust, heavily reducing visibility. Winds can be particularly strong from the Canadian plains to the Gulf of Mexico.

Unlike in France, roads are only closed when the weather is extremely bad—a few centimetres of snow doesn’t stop us.

6)     What has been your biggest culture shock so far?

I am not very social, I’m often on my own so I feel I am not exposed to cultural differences as much. Okay, let’s say poutine: quelle horreur!

7)     You had the chance to travel all over the country. Which places blew your mind?

I like crossing the majestic Rockies Mountains, either in British Columbia, in California or everywhere in between. The Atlantic coast in New Brunswick, by highway 11, from Shediac to Bathurst, is very picturesque.

8)     What’s one thing you don’t like in Canada?

Tipping. Seriously, waitresses and waiters are not my employees, I don’t see why I should supplant the employer’s role. I do tip—but I don’t eat out often because of that.

And, somewhat related, the fact that prices don’t include taxes. How stupid is that? Let’s say you buy a car. The tag says $9999,99… but with taxes, transportation fees, set up fees, etc., you end up paying $14,000, 40% more than the advertised price. Basically, the tag just fools people.

9)     What has been your most interesting haul so far?

There is the distance between the pick-up point and the delivery. For instance, I drove from Milton, ON to Victoria, BC, from Edmonton, AB to Orlando, FL, from Carmanguay, AB to Amqui, QC, from Rancho Cucamonga, CA to Mississauga, ON… all of these were 4,000-kilometres long drives. I also enjoy the kind of combination needed to haul the load. So I’ll say a crane body I picked up in Carmanguay, AB, to deliver in Amqui, QC, with a 9-axles combination.

10)  What advice would you give to someone interested in becoming a truck driver in Canada?

Truck drivers are needed in Canada, so it is easy to find a job. Moreover, Western European drivers are often appreciated by local companies (yes, it is a bit discriminatory, but it is a fact).

I would recommend applying directly for permanent residence status. You can also apply for a work permit, but your visa will be tied to a specific company (it is possible to change, but it is not always easy) until you get the permanent residency, and it can be longer than applying directly for it. However, it is the only solution for drivers over 35-40.

Even if you can apply for permanent residency, it is a good idea to visit Canada before starting the process in order to know where you go, and eventually, check out trucking companies by yourself.

For non-anglophone drivers immigrating to Québec, be careful if you want to cross the border with the US: the company will likely test your spoken English skills, it is mandatory for a commercial driver (trucks and buses) to understand written and spoken English, as a DoT rule. It seems that some truckers have been forbidden to enter the US because they weren’t able to understand the custom officer!

Blowing Snow
Blowing Snow
Eisenhower Memorial
Eisenhower Memorial, Colorado
Utah, Interstate 70
Québec, Route 389 (note the gravel road!)

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