MISSISSAUGA, Ont. -- When he started Sousa Truck Trailer Repair a quarter century ago, founder John Sousa never dreamt he’d one day be celebrating the 25th anniversary of the company - along with about 500 customers and friends.
After all, the company was started with little more than an a homemade air compressor comprised of a hot water tank, lawnmower engine and single head piston installed in the back of a pickup truck.
“No, no, no, no,” he said when asked if, at the time, he could have imagined growing the company into a successful family-run business still going strong after 25 years. “I never imagined - not in a million years. I’ve been blessed.”
During an interview following the June 22 open house and anniversary celebration, Sousa made several references to being “blessed.”
“I’m really blessed with all that’s gone through,” he said, referring to the growing family that has gotten involved in the business, including his three kids, son-in-law, brother and cousin.
Much has changed since Sousa began his small trailer repair business in the 1980s. Back then he was servicing mostly 40-, 42- and 45-ft. trailers. Safeties weren’t heard of and the equipment was pretty much run into the ground.
“When I first started, there was no such thing as safeties on the trailers,” he recalled. “That all came about afterwards. And look at the size - we are now carrying two 53-ft. trailers on the road. It’s amazing how the industry has changed, and for the better.”
Sousa strongly believes there has never been more attention given to properly spec’ing and maintaining trailers.
“The biggest change I’ve seen is that customers are becoming more aware that the trailer is not just a box on wheels,” he said. “People are paying more attention and doing more work to the equipment. I know it doesn’t seem that way with the news of wheels falling off and all that, but in actual fact, I know that the equipment today is better than it was kept 15 years ago. People are more aware and conscious of the maintenance of the equipment. That’s the truth.”
Today, Sousa employs 38 staff, many of them mechanics. Sousa himself is a trailer mechanic and is still heavily involved in the day-to-day operations of the company. Often, he can still be found repairing trailers.
“I don’t pull wrenches the whole day, but if I have to get underneath and do some looking around, I don’t have a problem getting my fingernails dirty,” he said.
Sousa attributes most of the company’s success to honesty, diversity and surrounding himself with a strong support staff. He said honesty is a two-way street between his company and its customers. He noted diversifying to offer sales and rentals as well as repairs on both trucks and trailers has helped the company survive the slow periods. And he said he’s been fortunate to hire so many knowledgeable and loyal employees.
“I’ve been blessed with the people that I surround myself with,” he said. “In order for you to succeed, you have to have good people around you.”
Sousa also was grateful for all those who turned out to celebrate the company’s milestone.
“I’d just like to thank everybody that did come in and help us to have such a great day,” he said. “I want to thank everybody for being here with us and I want to thank all the customers for being a part of who I am today.”