Noël Parent is a true trucking legend in Québec. With a career spanning 55 years, he has done much more than just cover miles: he has written history on every road he took, in the potholed asphalt, as he puts it! His journey began behind the wheel of a one-year-old six-wheeled Inter, followed by a twelve-wheeler – more than just trucks, they were companions.
In the fall of 1968, Noël launched his trucking career with Les Huiles Pelchat in Saint-Anselme, Qc a developing period where he learned the ropes of the trade. For eight years, he faced countless challenges, driving trucks with basic comforts – imagine a hard seat that spanned the width of the cabin, with no possibility of adjusting the backrest! These tough conditions reflected the times.
Before settling in at the wheel for this company, Noël also gained valuable experience in mechanics, learned on the job, and in towing, which helped him understand the nuances of these vehicles.
After his time with Pelchat, Noël embraced a new challenge: for two years, he was a school bus driver. This experience, quite different from trucking, notably helped him develop an important skill for truckers… patience! “It was no longer comfortable, and it was even harder on the ears!” he exclaims with a laugh.
Subsequently, he joined the team at Paul Lemelin’s garage in Sainte-Claire, Qc then at Prestofix in Saint-Henri, Qc where he spent 22 years. Noël traveled through four Canadian provinces, extending his horizon from Ontario to the Maritimes. “I really liked going to the Maritimes, even though I didn’t speak very well in English. They were beautiful trips.”
This period coincided with the era of the CB radio, during which he was nicknamed “Western,” sharing the roads in brotherhood with his fellow truckers. His brother, known as “Sunkist,” joined him on these adventures, although without the Florida oranges suggested by his nickname! “It’s because his truck was orange…”
Over time, the CB radio fell silent, but Noël maintained his love for the road. He witnessed the evolution of his profession, from air suspensions compared to leaf spring suspensions and other technologies. However, the deregulation of transportation didn’t disrupt his routine, as he mostly delivered for specific companies.
At Réal Brochu, still in Saint-Henri, his last 20 years were dedicated to local bulk transport, like sand and stone. “We are far behind (in terms of salary), but as the boss said: ‘if I had the price, it’s worth, I could pay you more.’ When I started, we didn’t earn much, the salary has tripled,” he tells us, recalling his early wages, about $2/h.
Noël has seen many colleagues leave and numerous companies disappear and/or merge. He even decided to retire with the arrival of electronic logbooks, preferring to preserve his memories of the road as he knew it.
His son tried trucking for six years before having to give it up for physical reasons. Noël is aware of the sacrifices of the profession, especially the time spent away from family. “It isn’t easy when the children are young.”
He advises future truckers to love responsibilities and be ready to manage the unexpected. He concludes that it’s a beautiful profession that allows one to see the country and have great experiences.
After a 55-year career, covering more than five million kilometers, Noël Parent is a source of inspiration. A local celebrity. He made the front page of “La Voix du Sud,” testifying the impact of his journey. His retirement marks the end of an era, but also the beginning of a new, quieter adventure on the roads of life.
And why not, a few trips here and there, when beautiful opportunities arise!
Hats off, Mr. Noël Parent, happy retirement, and happy upcoming 77th birthday!