Isaac Instruments
Melanie Simard speaking to fleets at Isaac Instruments' User Conference.

Breaking barriers, one step at a time

July 14, 2023
Isaac Instruments’ Melanie Simard directs her team to real-world fleet needs—needs that she understands from years behind the wheel and as a dispatcher.

For more than 20 years in trucking, Melanie Simard has had stints as a professional driver, dispatcher, and fleet safety and compliance manager. For the last three years, she has taken all the experience she’s accumulated to her role as Isaac Instruments’ director of compliance, client service, and technical support.

Before hitting the ground running with North American ELD provider Isaac, Simard ignored many of the critics telling her she couldn’t drive a truck and that as an educated woman, she should instead work in an office. She turned that negative into a positive, making her dream of working for a fleet into a very attainable reality.

While in college, Simard began working part-time with one of her friends for a third-party logistics provider in the early 2000s. She loved the challenge of juggling multiple tasks at once, but she really wanted to become a load planner or dispatcher on the fleet side of the business.

“But I was 20 years old and never had a full-time job before that,” Simard said. “The idea of a woman dispatcher for men driving trucks back in those days—nobody would give me a chance. So, I decided to go drive these trucks, and that could be my entry into a fleet after that.”

After a government-sponsored program in Canada rejected Simard from obtaining her CDL because of her gender, Simard went off on her own, took a private course, and got her CDL.

“It started off with those challenges, but I really kept pushing because I really wanted to be on the fleet side,” she explained. “From the get-go, I fell in love with the industry, and that’s how I got started.”

See also: Women in Transportation 2023

Simard started driving for a fleet, and after three years, she was offered a position as a dispatcher.

“What I loved most was the nature of the industry itself,” she said. “What is great about trucking—whether as a driver, dispatcher, or office manager—is not one day is the same. There is always a surprise, always a challenge, always something new. To me, driving a truck and even dispatching wasn’t a job. I just loved it.”

After dispatching and working in fleet operations, Simard went back and forth between over the road and in the office before she had her son. Then she had to give up the 24/7 nature of the gig.

Simard ended up as a director of safety and compliance for a fleet in Canada when the ELD mandate took effect in the U.S. Although the fleet was in Canada, all their trucks were going into the states, so the fleet was forced to comply with the mandate. It was up to Simard to find an ELD provider and lead the implementation of the project and driver training efforts. That’s when she found Isaac.

“We were one of their first ELD clients, and I ended up falling in love with the technology side of the industry,” she told FleetOwner. “After three years of working as an Isaac client, I thought maybe instead of helping just my fleet, I could become a compliance specialist and my contribution could be for all of Isaac’s fleet clients.”

Today, Simard still leverages her experience from working as a driver, in fleet operations, and as an Isaac client to help smooth the transition for fleets adopting new technology.

“Clients that wanted to implement the solution when the Canadian ELD went into place asked, ‘How did you do it,’” Simard explained. “Having been in their position, I was able to coach them in another way.”

Simard reflects on her career over the last two decades with so much enthusiasm, even amid all the stereotypes and barriers she’s had to break through. Over the years, she has listened to her mentors, friends, and colleagues who have supported her, blocking out all of the negative comments—and at times, bullying—she received over the CB radio back in her driving days.

Her advice to women and anyone looking to join trucking’s ranks: Don’t feed into the negative energy.

“There were always people who supported me,” she said. “Don’t listen to the negative talk and stereotypes. There is always someone who supports women breaking barriers.”

“Don’t be afraid to get out of your comfort zone,” Simard added. “Age or gender doesn’t matter. Step out of your comfort zone. This is how you can grow and reach goals that you never thought would be achievable.” 

About the Author

Cristina Commendatore

Cristina Commendatore was previously the Editor-in-chief of FleetOwner magazine. She reported on the transportation industry since 2015, covering topics such as business operational challenges, driver and technician shortages, truck safety, and new vehicle technologies. She holds a master’s degree in journalism from Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Connecticut.

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