OOIDA Board Member Johanne Couture appreciates the association’s support in navigating the two sets of rules involved in cross-border trucking between Canada and the U.S.
Why in the world would someone with a secure city transit job that promised to be a lifelong career turn in their resignation to become an over-the-road trucker?
Freedom of the open road.
At least that’s one of the factors that inspired Johanne Couture to do so in 1993, when she upgraded her commercial driver’s license and set out to find a job as an over-the road driver.
“All the people I worked with at the bus garage laughed. They said, ‘She’ll be back. She’s just taking a leave of absence.’ The only thing I went back for was to tell them I was gone for good,” Johanne said.
She admits being somewhat predisposed to falling in love with the big trucks.
“My dad was a diesel mechanic,” she said. “The smell of diesel was ever-present when he was home.”
Johanne also realized it would be a long time before she got a decent schedule at the city job.
“It was a seniority-based schedule, and I knew I’d spend 20 years working crappy shifts. In trucking, I could make my own schedule, not have to punch a clock, and make a good living.”
Johanne cut her trucking teeth as a company driver hauling reefer and van cross-border freight between Canada and the United States. She bought her first truck and became an owner-operator in 1998.
“My first truck was a 1998, a Volvo. I had it six years and replaced it with a new one in ’04 and did the same thing in 2011.”
When she’s not on the road or attending meetings on both sides of the border to advocate for truck drivers, Johanne spends time at home with her partner, Dean, and their fur-baby, Max the German shepherd.
Johanne is passionate about her advocacy, especially when it comes to truck parking. “It’s my No. 1 issue,” she said. “Every other issue we have revolves around truck parking.”
When did you get your commercial driver’s license?
“I started working for the city when I was 19. I went from the offices to the garage to do daily maintenance work on the buses. I got my bus endorsement in 1989 and upgraded it to a tractor-trailer license in 1993.”
What kind of freight do you specialize in?
I haul liquid chemical tank. Things like motor oil, acid, wax. I’m hazmat about 40% of the time.
Why did you join OOIDA?
Hauling cross-border freight requires knowing two sets of rules. I spend 80% of my time in the U.S., and I knew OOIDA was fighting for trucker’s rights on both sides of the border. I knew it was important to support the people who were supporting all drivers.
If you could make one significant change in this industry with a snap of your fingers, what would it be?
I would expand all rest areas and create truck parking in every major city. Truck parking is my No. 1 issue that I believe we need to fix. Every other problem we have revolves around truck parking. Hours of service become an issue because of unavailability on many days. If I leave two hours on the book that I could have driven because I need to look for parking in the area I’m going to, I’m losing productivity. I can work around the HOS. I can’t work around no parking.
What legacy do you hope to leave?
I would like for the work I’ve done on both sides of the border, all the hours of meetings and paperwork, to be reflected in future laws. I’d like to be known as someone who did her best to make it a better, safer profession. I’d also like to empower other women by showing them that they can make a really great living driving a truck. Yes, there are sacrifices, but like any job you work around it. Trucking has helped me provide very well for myself. I’d like to pass that information on to future generations. LL