Bon jour! For my September road trip, I had to brush up on my French (unfortunately, I took Spanish in high school) to travel north for a visit to mes amis in Montreal. The weather in Montreal felt just a bit more like fall than the record-high temperatures I left behind in Chicago, so once I got settled in the hotel, I set out on a walk around the city. I walked for several blocks through skyscrapers and busy traffic, then by pure chance wandered into a plaza and the stunning Notre Dame cathedral. Tres magnifique! Just a few blocks away, I found myself in the heart of Old Montreal. Suddenly, I felt like I was in a small town in Europe instead of a major Canadian city. The cobblestone and brick streets are mostly closed to automobile traffic, and are lined with shops and restaurants. I found a bistro serving crepes, and took a seat outdoors to people watch and enjoy my first sampling of the lovely French food that is available everywhere in Montreal. After dinner, I strolled back to the Westin and prepared for my upcoming visits.
My first stop in the morning was to pick up Jay Hagerty, NationaLease National Account Executive, who joined me for part of my trip. Jay and I made our way through the challenging Montreal morning rush hour and finally arrived at Location Brossard NationaLease. Stephane Godbout greeted us and took us on a tour of their impressive facility. Stephane chairs the NationaLease Canadian Leadership Group, which provides input and guidance to the NationaLease staff in creating programs for the Canadian membership. We discussed a number of the initiatives underway to help the membership both in the U.S. and Canada, including the upcoming Canadian Leadership Summit, which will be held in Toronto on November 5-7. Jerome Leonard joined us and we further discussed the NationaLease purchasing programs and National Account programs. We added Mario Marin to our group and headed out to lunch at a lovely Italian restaurant. As we bid adieu to our friends at Location Brossard, we had only a few blocks to travel to our next appointment at Transforce. Rene Disnard and several of his colleagues met with us and we learned a great deal about Transforce. Besides offering leasing, Transforce has a number of other subsidiaries, which combine to make the company #8 in North America on Transport Topics Top 100. As I drove around the Montreal area in the following days, I began to notice their trucks virtually everywhere! We discussed Reciprocal Service and the purchasing programs with Rene before heading back to downtown Montreal for the evening.
The next morning, we drove just across the bridge from Montreal to Boucherville where Location Robert is headquartered. Over a mile from one end to the other, the Robert facility has a vast array of service offerings, including refrigerated and dry warehousing, crossdocking operations, and their own LNG fueling station. Robert is leading the way in Canada when it comes to LNG. They were recently featured in an article on Canadian LNG ownership in Truck News. After getting a full tour of the facility from Alex Novak, Jay and I sat down with Claude Robert for a truly instructive conversation. Claude shared his views on all things trucking, from the engines and equipment to the best practices for retaining drivers. We learned a great deal not only about Robert’s capabilities, but also about Claude’s vision for the future of the industry. After lunch at Madison’s, a local chain, we all went our separate ways. Alex went back to his main office in Rougemont, Jay headed back to the airport, and I got on the road toward Drummondville, where I met with Nicole Coderre, President of Location NRJ. Nicole introduced me to her staff, and I sat down with Nicole and Luc Latour to discuss NationaLease programs and learn more about Location NRJ. Nicole and her group have great plans to grow their business over the next few years. Afterwards, Nicole took me to dinner in a quaint little French restaurant in downtown Drummondville. Since the menu was only available in French, I had to trust Nicole’s translation, but I didn’t have anything to worry about. Everything was delicious. I even tried two foods I had never eaten before: celeri-rave and cerises de terre. I’m not really sure what the English translations are, since I have never even seen these foods before! After a lovely evening, I made the drive back to Montreal for the last night of my trip.
I hit the road early the next morning to avoid the traffic, as my drive took me through Montreal, out of Quebec, into Ontario, and past Ottawa to Arnprior, ON. I was looking for Antrim NationaLease, and my first indication that I was getting close was a sign for Antrim Truck Stop. I exited the highway and turned into the truck stop, driving past the fueling station and restaurant to the building housing Antrim Truck Center and Antrim NationaLease. I met with Jack Cameron who shared the history of Antrim, including the dealerships, the leasing company, and the truck stop. I also met Jack’s wife, Gayle, and discussed the programs NationaLease has available for our members, including purchasing programs, educational meetings, and webinars. On my way out, I stopped at the truck stop and instantly understood the secret to their success. The first sensory experience upon opening the door is the unmistakable scent of fresh baked pie. In addition to a full-fledged bakery and an enticing sit-down restaurant, they have a gift shop worthy of any swanky shopping district, and the cleanest restrooms I have ever seen in a truck stop. If I were a truck driver, I would make a point to stop here on every trip!
I got back on the road toward the airport as my visit to Montreal came to an end. My French certainly didn’t improve, but my understanding of the phenomenal NationaLease members in the Montreal area definitely did. The capabilities of our member companies never cease to amaze me. The diversity of the service offerings reminds me just how entrepreneurial each of our members is. One of the great strengths of the NationaLease system is the ability of each of our members to tailor their services quickly and efficiently to meet the needs of each of their individual customers. This strength is certainly as evident in the Montreal area as it is in any of our over 600 locations in North America. Merci beau coup to the Québécois (and Ontarians) for your wonderful hospitality. Au revoir!
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