BJ’s Truck Centre, 502 Brackley Point Road, Charlottetown, June 2017
BJ’s Truck Centre was founded by Bill and Joan Macdonald in 1980. Their son Brian, who has been involved in the business for over 20 years, is the owner. Joan Macdonald remains very much involved with BJ’s Truck Centre, and assists with Human Resources, accounts receivable, and the day-to-day running of the business.
“We work well together as a team,” says Joan Macdonald. “Even our three dogs come to work every day.”
Team spirit is very much a shared feeling, from the parts department to the state-of-the-art repair bays to the administrative offices upstairs. Employees who have worked together for many years share a joke and a smile with customers and with each other.
Bill and Joan have worked in the trucking industry for 47 years. Their first business venture was buying and selling potatoes in a warehouse in Winsloe. Next, they founded the first bulk agricultural limestone business on PEI, Island Lime Services Limited, which served Island farmers for 30 years.
In 1994, they started the first commercial driving school on PEI, JVI Commercial Driving School. The school was sold to David Anderson and Michelle Burge in 2008.
“BJ’s Truck Centre resulted from our own need for parts and service,” says Joan. “We were initially our own best customer. Since then, we have grown to what is now a leader in the transportation industry.”
BJ’s Truck Centre provides parts and service for all makes of trucks, RVs, and trailers. Their well-trained service technicians provide cutting edge computer diagnostics. They also have an extensive parts inventory, a well-maintained and modern service area, and a customer lounge.
“We open at 6:30 am daily, and close at 12 midnight. On Saturdays, our hours are 8 am to 12 noon. We provide on-call service after hours and on week-ends.”
About the staff
“We have 22 full-time staff,” says Joan. “They range in age from 18 to 68, and many have been with us long-term. We are celebrating two employees who are having their 20th anniversary in June. We have four younger staff who are 18 and 19 years old. We have taken them on as heavy duty equipment technician Apprentices.”
All staff work full-time and work year-round.
- Parts Clerks
- Red Seal Technicians
- Apprentice Technicians
- Office Administrators.
Wages and benefits
“Wages depend on qualifications,” says Joan. “It’s a well-paying industry.”
Need for bilingual staff
“Bilingualism is not a requirement, but it is an asset because we deal with French-speaking customers in Quebec, the Magdalen Islands, and New Brunswick. Two of our employees are completely bilingual.”
Education and training needed
“The combination of technical school and on-the-job training under a Red Seal Technician provides Apprentices with the option of earning their Red Seal,” says Joan. “When new people start with us, they do a lot of online training, so they need to be computer savvy.”
The one-year Heavy Duty Equipment/Truck and Transport Repair Technician Certificate program is offered in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Newfoundland.
- Nova Scotia Community College
- New Brunswick Community College
- College of the North Atlantic, Newfoundland
There is no formal training for Parts Clerks, but attention to detail, people skills, telephone skills, and computer skills are important. “These people can be hard to find, but once they learn the ropes, they tend to stay for the long term.”
The maintenance shop is clean and orderly with a strong emphasis on safety awareness. It’s a fast-paced work environment. The technicians have their own comfortable lounge with kitchen facilities and couches, a TV, and the latest truck magazines. Cleaned uniforms are provided and cost shared by the company.
“Potential technicians should have their own tools. Apprentices usually start with the basics, and we have a tool room for them to access what they need.”
“We are very actively involved in the community,” says Joan. “We are very supportive of community projects. Brian is one of the owners of the Charlottetown Islanders hockey team.”
“Hiring is steady year-round, and business is also steady year-round,” says Joan.
“We advertise positions on the Job Bank, on www.workpei.ca and on our own website.
“We also take high-school students as Apprentices through Co-op programs. We believe in the Co-op program. It provides hands-on teaching, and gives Apprentices a much better knowledge base.
“We do presentations at local high schools to raise awareness of the demand for skilled tradespeople. I talk about attitude too, because attitude is everything – from the top down.”
Most difficult jobs to fill
Red Seal Heavy Duty Equipment Technician is the most difficult position to fill. “Unfortunately, young people are not as aware of career options in the transportation industry,” says Joan.
Partnership to bring in more youth to industry
BJ’s Truck Centre is partnering with the PEI Trucking Sector Council to hire a high school graduate to work for the summer of 2017. “The student will be learning on the job, and we hope he will choose to stay for the long term.”
Best way to get your foot in the door
Joan recommends anyone interested in this trade to contact Brian Oulton with the PEI Trucking Sector Council, who can connect people with employers. Visit www.peitsc.ca.
“To apply with us, stop by with a resumé and three work references,” says Joan.
How to stand out during the hiring process
“Know something about the company before you come in for an interview, and prepare a list of questions you want to ask,” says Joan. “During the job interview, we ask what the applicant knows about BJ’s Truck Centre. If the person doesn’t know anything about us, we ask them to go home and educate themselves about our company, and then they can come back and talk to us again.”
Four successful Apprentices show commitment and enjoy their work
Apprentices can choose to do block-release training or work 10,000 hours and challenge for their Red Seal.
“We have a really excellent team right now, including our latest hires.
“Luke, one of our Apprentices, is from Newfoundland. He always has a smile on his face, no matter what you ask him to do. He has personality, commitment, and a willingness to learn. Luke will be working 10,000 hours and then will challenge for his Red Seal.
“Alex has been with us four years. He came here after grade 11 and worked two summers in a Co-op program. He is in his third blocking training right now. He works four nights a week from 4 pm to midnight, plus Saturday mornings.
“James is from Cape Breton and is a graduate from NSCC Marconi Campus, Sydney NS. James is registered with the province of Nova Scotia to apprentice on PEI, which is a recent agreement between provinces. James works the day shift, as do all new candidates until they are familiar with procedures that will enable them to join our evening team.”
Colton is from PEI, and grew up on a very large potato operation. He completed the one-year diesel repair program at NSCC in Lunenburg. “He is our most recent hire, and is the fourth to join our team in the past few months.”
“Before someone starts, they study our 30-page manual,” says Joan. “Then we go over it together and we all sign off on it, so there are no doubts as to the rules of employment. To not follow those rules is a reason for dismissal.”
Staff members are trained in all relevant safety courses. “Online computer training is required, which allows our company to be in the forefront when it comes to serving the industry.”
A Red Seal Technician is matched with every Apprentice Technician they take on.
“There are advancement opportunities within the company,” says Joan. “Some of our long-term staff started out as Apprentices and were promoted to management positions.”
What will the business look like in five years?
“Even as technology changes, trucks will always need repairs. The more technical they get, the more need for qualified parts and service Technicians to diagnose and repair the trucks. Our Technicians are very well trained. We have a lot of specialized equipment, such as a $100,000 DPF cleaner which cleans the filters in the new trucks.
“Our motto is You Matter, We Care, and that is something we believe in and we deliver as we continue to serve the transportation industry on PEI and beyond.”
For more information about BJ’s Truck Centre, contact Joan Macdonald at 902-566-4205 or visit www.bjtruckcentre.com.