When driving down the highway, there is no chance of missing truck driver Myrna Chartrand — and she wouldn’t have it any other way.
With her signature bright pink hair and black and pink truck to match, Chartrand, 40, is known for bringing light and joy to everyone she meets along the way.
“The hair has to go with the truck,” Chartrand said with a cheerful laugh. “That’s just how I am. It makes it easy for people to pick me out as the driver of the truck.”
Chartrand, who grew up in Oak Point, Manitoba, Canada, with her parents, Dave and Carol, and brother, Corey, now makes her home in Winnipeg. Her family is familiar with the trucking industry: Her father drove construction trucks when she was young, and her brother later became the first on-road trucker in the family. Chartrand soon had her eyes set on making trucking her career as well.
“I would have liked to become a truck driver right when I graduated,” Chartrand said. “Corey was already a truck driver, and he would tell stories of the road. They maybe were not the best stories; (they were) about people who would do harm or damage. My mom said that her little girl was not going to be a truck driver.”
So, Chartrand looked for another career.
“My mom gave me a college catalog and told me to pick something else that was not trucking,” Chartrand said. “I went to college at and got my diploma in chemical and land science technology.”
After graduating from Red River College Polytechnic in Winnipeg, Chartrand joined Apotex, a pharmaceutical company. She first began working there while still in school as part of a work experience program. After graduating, the company asked her to stay on — and she did, for seven years.
Although she enjoyed her work in pharmaceuticals, she said, trucking was still calling her name.
“I was just like, ‘I think it’s time for me to try trucking now,’” Chartrand said. “In my mind, I had some street smarts by that point, and I was adult, and I thought I could handle it. I called my family and said, ‘I think I want to be a trucker.’”
Shortly after following her call to the road, Apotex was sold, resulting in a number of layoffs. In Chartrand’s mind, this cemented the thought that she should follow her passion into trucking.
“It’s one of those things where I thought, ‘I won’t know if I like it unless I try,’” she said, adding that once she started trucking school, she started having second thoughts.
“I wasn’t sure if it was right for me. I wasn’t picking it up right away; I was not a natural. I’m one of those people where if I don’t get it right away, then I think maybe I shouldn’t be doing it,” she said. “My brother encouraged me, and kept telling me that I would get it. He said to just keep plugging away and encouraged me to keep going.”
And that’s exactly what she did.
“I am very glad that I did, because I absolutely love it now. I was lucky enough to have a good support group behind me,” she said.
After finishing trucking school, Chartrand got her first job with Lee River Transport in 2008.
“I literally went from the testing station, getting my Class 1 license, to Lee River, where they hired me on the spot,” she said. “I always joke that the paint wasn’t even dry on my license when I got my first job. I was very lucky. My brother worked there also, and we drove together for a while, with him teaching me the ropes.”
Chartrand was only with Lee River for a short time before leaving to help take care of her mother, who was fighting cancer. She took an administrative job at a local trucking company so that she could be with her mother in her final days.
Her brother also left the carrier, signing on with Portage Trucking. After the death of their mother, Chartrand says, her brother encouraged her to get back on the road. She jumped at the opportunity and joined Portage in 2009, where she remains today.
“My brother has been very good to me,” she said with a laugh. “I’ve only had two trucking jobs, and my brother helped me get both of them.”
That’s not to imply Chartrand doesn’t know what she’s doing — quite the opposite, in fact. In 2018, Chartrand was honored with the Manitoba Driver of the Year Award.
Chartrand loves her work and the variety it provides.
“Lots of people like structure — and structure is good at times — but I like seeing new things every day and meeting new people,” she said. “The friendships I’ve made along the way are really high on my list of good things about this job. A lot of my best friends are people I’ve met through trucking.”
Since joining Portage 13 years ago, Chartrand has had three trucks. Her second and third trucks have featured her signature pink, including a pink ribbon for breast cancer awareness. Although her mother did not have breast cancer, Chartrand said the trucks honor her mother’s life — and they open doors for conversations during her travels.
“I’ve had so many people come and tell me their stories of their experiences with breast cancer, and that is really important to me,” Chartrand said. “I don’t know them from Adam, but they share something very personal. I can relate to them when they tell me their stories, having lost a parent myself. I know what that feels like.”
Her current truck, black teamed with her iconic pink, is a show stopper wherever she goes.
Chartrand says she loves her career, especially the family atmosphere that trucking provides.
“The biggest surprise in this career has been the camaraderie and family in trucking,” she said. “I thought it was going to kind of be this secluded job, but we actually are a family. Nobody leaves you hanging.”