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‘There’s no script for how I fix each trailer’


John DeGueldre
Trailer mechanic
Ocean Trailers
Winnipeg, Man. 

This is one in a series of interviews with frontline workers as Today’s Trucking celebrates National Trucking Week, Sept. 5-11.

John DeGueldre
John DeGueldre (Photo: Supplied)

What can you tell us about your job and the work it includes?

I am a trailer mechanic at Ocean Trailers in Winnipeg, and I specialize in bodywork and rebuilding trailers that have been in major accidents such as rollovers. I help clients who want to get their trailers back on the road because I rebuild it all — complete suspension restorations, roofs, floors, walls, doors and rails.

I like doing this type of work because the jobs are big and very challenging. Trailers come to me bent and broken, and my bosses give me the time, space and tools. There is no script for how I fix each trailer – and you just can’t take a person off the street to fix a trailer. It takes experience.

The trailer mechanic industry can be very intimidating and very hard work. That’s why there aren’t a lot of people in my field. To me, because of my experience, it’s not rocket science – it’s just building a box.

How did you come to work in the industry? 

I went to school for two years and studied bodywork for cars. I started my career at an auto body shop. When that shop shut down, I worked as a welder and metal fabricator.

Eventually, I got a phone call from my brother-in-law who knew I was trained in bodywork, and he offered me a job with a trucking company.

I wasn’t interested in going back into a body shop environment, but I was reassured that trucking was different and clean. So, I jumped at the opportunity. I have been working in the trucking industry since 1997, and for the past 19 years have been with Ocean Trailers.

What do you like most about your job? 

I like that I not only weld or do auto body. I am a fabricator. I fix plumbing. I am an electrician and do rewiring. I do it all. I like that each trailer that comes to me is a different and new challenge.

I would not have found fixing cars as rewarding. Automotive work has a script, a pattern, the same specific parts and process.

What is the biggest challenge the industry faces today? 

There is not enough talent out there. Our industry needs more workers and knowledgeable people – and that is for every position from truck drivers to mechanics. These days, a lot of the younger generation is just not the right fit for the environment. They are not trained the same way, either.

I grew up learning from my father – and I learned to how to be a plumber, a roofer, a builder, a carpenter. That just doesn’t happen anymore.

Why do you think the industry should be celebrated? 

If it wasn’t for the trucking industry nobody would eat and nobody would have furniture. From your toilet paper to your toothpaste, it all comes by truck, and I don’t think many people realize that.

The pandemic proved how important trucking is.

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