Bennet Smoke MVSA’s safety man of the year and it’s truck rodeo season again

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bennet smoke wins mvsa safety award

Bennnet Smoke, Ontario operations manager for SGT 2000 Inc., is the MVSA’s 2012 Safety Man of the Year

Award season is upon us. This is about the time of year when our industry acknowledges and celebrates its champions from the previous year. Not least among these is the Motor Vehicle Safety Association which holds its annual safety banquet in May in Mississauga and has been doing so for 30 years.

You might recall Bob Smith, safety and compliance manager for Mackie Moving Systems, won the top Motor Safety Transportation Award last year. He was succeeded this year by Bennet Smoke, Ontario Fleet Manager for SGT 2000 Inc., who was named the 2012 MVSA Safety Man of the Year.

Smoke came up through the ranks, originally managing a fleet of trucks for KLM and then working as an owner operator for TransPro before landing the job at SGT. Smoke has been Ontario Fleet Manager at SGT’s Mississauga terminal for the last five years. He describes his duties β€œTo continue to train, educate (and) head up a team of mentoring drivers. I’m involved now with the federal government and SGT has now been given the authority for the Apprentice Program.”

Nominations for the award are based on a points system and candidates are scrutinized by the MVSA’s Selection Committee. Smoke took home a trophy, wall plaque, a diamond ring and a cheque for $500. SGT seems to do well at these awards, as their safety manager Shawn Jameson garnered the prize just a couple of years ago.

This is also Truck Rodeo season and regional truck driving championships are taking place in the coming weeks. The MVSA is also one of the sponsors of the events along with the Ontario Ministry of Transport.

I’ve written about these rodeos in the past when interest seemed to be waning. Companies don’t seem to be encouraging these competitions and drivers are reluctant to give up a Saturday in the summer to take part.

But there may be new enthusiasm on the horizon. Tom Boehler, director of Safety and Compliance for the Erb Group writes via email: β€œI am on the committee of the Central Ontario Regional Truck Driving Championships. We have some new committee members this year who are pushing for their drivers to compete at the event on June 8th at Conestoga College in Cambridge.”

This year the Ontario Championships will be held July 12-14 at Brantford, Ont., on the tarmac at the Brantford Airport. Ewen Steele, one of the directors of the competition tells me I’ll get a chance to try the course if I can make it that weekend.

Skills competitions like truck rodeos encourage a culture of safety, and I can’t really understand why companies would opt out of them. It’s a relatively cheap event to host and provokes the drivers to be the best they can be. Personally I’m a little nervous to compare my skills to the best drivers in Ontario, but I’m also curious to see how I will stack up.

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Harry Rudolfs has worked as a dishwasher, apprentice mechanic, editor, trucker, foreign correspondent and taxi driver. He's written hundreds of articles for North American and European journals and newspapers, including features for the Ottawa Citizen, Toronto Life and CBC radio.

With over 30 years experience in the trucking industry he's hauled cars, steel, lumber, chemicals, auto parts and general freight as well as B-trains. He holds an honours BA in creative writing and humanities, summa cum laude.

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