Cautious Optimism

Hello folks, I hope all are well.
I just returned from Truck World in Toronto a couple weeks ago and I must admit to feeling somewhat optimistic about the future. For the most part I am a skeptic when it comes to so- called experts telling us this recession is over because of a subtle change in some unknown suspect statistic measured by a bank I don’t trust. As the saying goes… I am from Missouri, show me! But when I walked the show floor and talked to old friends, I heard cautious optimism that orders were on the rise for equipment folks and freight volumes were on a bit of a rebound on the trucking company side. Good stuff; let’s hope this progress continues to gain momentum and things improve for both carriers and suppliers sooner rather than later.
I left the daily operations of a motor carrier back in the summer of 2005 and as I reflect on that decision it was probably one of the best- timed decisions I have ever made. After I consummated my deal on the sale of my shares I had a sudden realization that I no longer owned a truck. I felt as though something was missing and it took me quite a while to get over that feeling…come to think about it, I’m not sure I am fully recovered. When I grew up there was always a truck in the laneway and as a boy I spent my summers in a rig. Whenever dad came home the truck was mine to explore, clean, wash, and dream on… whatever. Until 2005 there had always been some form of control or ownership of a truck on my part. There is a strange, soothing connection between truckers and their equipment that subtly wraps its roots around the subconscious.
It’s funny…I still sometimes wonder what I want to be when I grow up. From time to time I admit that I feel an urge to get back into it (working with a carrier) at some level. It really is my comfort zone and it’s what I feel I know best. But I also have become comfortable in the numerous roles that have helped me fill the void that running trucks used to fill.
So what does one do (after discovering there really is such thing as “too much play”) to keep busy after a million miles on the road and twenty-plus years behind a desk running a motor carrier? Currently I enjoy working as an Executive Consultant for the good folks at NAL Insurance; they are a good group who offer a great service. They demand very little of my time and I enjoy being around people who are passionate about what they do. I try to contribute to their success whenever called upon or the opportunity presents itself. I also enjoy working with Owner Operators and talking to them in my role as CEO of ATBS Canada Inc.
We have a great service that is competitively priced to assist Owner Operators in achieving success and I thoroughly believe in the product and what it can do for folks. I was fortunate enough to have attracted Kim Richardson into the company as President. He’s a good man and both ATBS and I have benefited from his enthusiasm and business-savvy. Up until this month and for the past five years I also held the role of Executive Director of the carrier I used to run as President and Shareholder. That time has passed and it is now time to cut that tie entirely.
I also have invested time and energy into many non-profits such as the TCA, PTDI & the Apprenticeship Program that I have enjoyed contributing to over the past five years. One of the first things I did when I left the carrier I was running was to contact my old friend Peter Charboneau, the publisher of another magazine. I told Pete that I had some things that I wanted to say to the industry and asked if he was interested in printing some of my ramblings. Hard to believe it’s coming up to the five-year mark since I started sweating the monthly deadlines associated with contributing to a trade publication. I now write for two magazines and maintain this blog that I try and update at least one a month. I try and write the way I talk and think. In fact, I don’t try; it just comes out that way and hits a chord with some folks and rubs others the wrong way. So be it; I won’t change for anyone…why would I?
I often wonder how I might have performed in my past leadership role with a carrier in the turbulent times we’re currently experiencing. As one who readily admits that he has learned most of what he knows by doing the wrong things first, my ego tells me that having fought through a couple other economic downturns in the past may have helped me navigate successfully through this current financial storm. I like to think I would have been successful and could have avoided some of the carnage I have seen some carriers resort to, but who knows?
Some companies have not kept their heads about them during the downturn and have followed some outdated favourite formulas for success that don’t work the same as they used to. As a result their people and shareholders have suffered. I hate to see what the past few years have done to some once-great organizations but time rolls on and you either adapt or suffer.
On the other hand, some companies have prospered and look stronger than ever. Inspired, driven leadership with dogged determination to do whatever it takes to win is not a common trait. It can’t be taught and can rarely be bought but it’s what it takes when your back’s against the wall.
Safe Trucking to all.
Ray J. Haight

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Mr. Ray Haight has enjoyed a successful career in transportation starting as a company driver and Owner Operator logging over one million accident free miles prior to starting his own company. After stepping down from a successful career managing one of Canada’s 50 largest trucking companies, Ray focused on industry involvement including terms as Chairman of each of the following, the Truckload Carriers Association, Professional Truck Drivers Institute, North American Training and Management Institute and the Ministry of Training Colleges and Universities voluntary apprenticeship of Tractor Trailer Commercial Driver, along with many other business interests, he enjoys a successful consulting business, also sitting on various Boards of both industry associations a private motor carriers. He is also Co-Founder of StakUp O/A TCAinGauge an online bench marking service designed to assist trucking companies throughout North America focus on efficiency and profitability within their operations.

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  • Congrats Ray on your move forward in Trucking, its hard to give up control sometimes but it makes a person test their own metal. Keep trucking!!