Torque uses the same coordinate system as 3ds Max. Characters and vehicles should be exported facing the +Y axis (or the equivalent "into the screen" axis if the modeling app uses a different coordinate system).
When exporting to DTS, one modeling-app unit equals one unit in Torque. When exporting to COLLADA, you are free to work in whatever units you like. They will be scaled appropriately when importing the model into Torque.