When he accepted the position of president of the Private Motor Truck Council of Canada in 1993, Bruce Richards wasn’t expecting to stay on for more than the three years he had initially agreed upon. Twenty-one years later, he has finally decided to step down as president, so that he can pursue other interests.
The PMTC announced Mike Millian, formerly of Hensall District Co-op, will take over as president of the organization. Richards will remain on as a consultant for as long as he’s needed. Truck News executive editor James Menzies recently caught up with both men, for a chat about how the change will affect Canada’s private fleet community.
TN: Bruce, the announcement came as a surprise to me personally, but it sounds like you’ve been planning for this transition for some time. When did you decide the time was right to step back and when did the search begin for your successor?
Richards: I actually started thinking about this about a year or so ago, talking it over with my wife and thinking about it. Then, I guess that it was around September that I finally decided. I approached our Executive Committee with a complete plan for a transition.
We were aiming for the end of 2014; we just missed that target by a couple weeks. Once Mike put his hand up and agreed to be a candidate for us, it made the transition that much easier.
TN: Mike, I know you have a pretty high profile within PMTC but for those who don’t know you, what should we know about Mike Millian?
Millian: Most of my working life has been in the trucking industry. I started out in the industry as a truck driver when I was 18 years old. I grew up on a farm. When I went off the farm and got into trucking I spent the first three years hauling cattle and pigs and other forms of livestock, as well as grain trailers on and off the farms.
When I turned 21 I wanted to spread my wings and get into the longer haul things so I went into long-haul trucking for five years. I covered 48 states and six provinces. After five years of being on the road, I came off the road and became a full-time driver-trainer for two years, teaching new students who had never been in a truck before how to drive a truck.
After two years, I went into safety and compliance and training. I was with that company for nine years and that’s when I entered the private fleet industry, when I went to work for a company called Hensall District Co-Operative. I was with them for 12.5 years. I looked after their fleet management – safety, compliance, training, licensing, etc. for their commercial trucking fleet. It was a fleet that went from 40 trucks when I joined up to their current level of 140.
TN: That’s quite the varied background. I’ve seen you speak at PMTC events and you strike me as a real fleet guy. Now you’re stepping into an association role that will be a little more of a bureaucracy, dealing with government, etc. How easy, or difficult, do you expect that transition to be?
Millian: It’s nice to have Bruce here in a consulting role to help with the transition. That’s one area where Bruce is going to be able to help me a ton. Bruce has a lot of experience in the political end of things, working with politicians and getting his point across in the proper way.
Bruce is still going to be here to help out as needed in a consulting role.
We’ve actually added a person. We now have more fleet experience. Let’s be honest, even when you’re working in a fleet, there’s still politics involved. You’re still dealing with managers and other people. You still have to try – especially if you’re in safety and compliance – to sell why your ideas are good ideas.
TN: On the other hand, having that real-world fleet experience could be invaluable in this position, couldn’t it?
Millian: I think that definitely will help me and will make PMTC even stronger than we were. We’re gaining resources.
TN: Bruce, what are some of the most pressing issues facing the private trucking community that Mike will have to get up to speed on quickly as you hand over the baton?
Richards: One of the issues that’s been around for a long time, but does not seem to be abating at all, is that of recruitment. We’re doing some work with Trucking HR Canada. That’s just one of those things that we have to continually source information from our members about their successes in dealing with this. How they’re going about it and what they’re doing that isn’t like everybody else. It’s just something that’s not going to go away and I think that still remains our number one issue.
TN: How long are you planning to stay on as a consultant, Bruce. Is there a finite time period or are you staying as long as you’re needed?
Richards: I’ve been in this role a little over 21 years, James. I’m not anxious to turn my back on it. I would see my direct involvement diminishing as Mike’s role increases. PMTC will know best when they don’t need to call me anymore. Until they stop calling, I’ll be available to assist in any way I can.
TN: Mike, what excites you the most about this new role? What are you looking forward to achieving?
Millian: Just continuing on with what PMTC has been doing. Continuing on with a that role and keeping our place in the industry and continuing to be a valuable resources to our members.
I’m looking forward to the direct involvement with our members, helping our members out. Dealing with them on a face-to-face, personal basis. Furthering their interests in the private trucking community and industry. Not only keeping our prominence as an association in the industry but increasing our prominence in the industry as well.
TN: You clearly see a lot of value in being a member of PMTC – you’ve been an active member for years. How do you get the message out to other private fleets that there are benefits to belonging to the association?
Millian: That’s the million dollar question that everybody’s trying to answer, no matter what business they’re in. They are always trying to increase their profile and get their name out there. The biggest selling point we have is our current members.
The PMTC’s biggest selling point is their members share the information back and forth. They’re not really competing with each other in the same field, so they’re very free and easy with helping out other members.
If a member has a question and we can’t answer it, somebody that’s a member of our association can and often does. They are our biggest selling tool.
The other way is to try to get more people out to our conference. You’ve been to the conference. Anybody who’s been to the conference will tell you it’s one of the best educational conferences to go to. I think that’s where they’ll see the value in membership.
TN: How long do you see yourself in this role? Are you going to follow in Bruce’s footsteps and say on for 20-plus years?
Millian: Whether I’m going to be here for 20 years, that I can’t answer. Do I see myself being here for one, two or three years? No. It’s not something I see myself getting into and walking away from and turning my back on.
Bruce has built a lot of stability within the office of PMTC. I think that’s something we want to continue. I don’t think we want somebody rotating in and out. That’s not good for the association and it’s not good for me. I don’t move around a lot. I like to get in somewhere, dig in, put my heart and soul into it and try to do the best I can for the association and for my career as well. Ultimately, it’s up to the Board of Directors how long somebody’s here. My plan is to put my heart and soul into this and be here for the long run.
TN: Bruce, I’ll let you have the last word. It’s been a good run for you. Any final words as president of PMTC you’d like to share?
Richards: Thanks for that opportunity, James. There are just such a lot of really nice, intelligent, informed people in this industry. I don’t just mean within our membership. There are so many who have helped me along the way – in government, outside government, in the industry, in our membership, outside of our membership.
In my view, you just can’t do that job without that type of support. I am extremely grateful to every one of those people who over the last 21 years have willingly lent a hand to answer my questions. It has been a great ride. I enjoyed almost every minute of it.
James Menzies is editor of Truck News magazine. He has been covering the Canadian trucking industry for more than 15 years and holds a CDL. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @JamesMenzies. All posts by James Menzies