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Alberta’s Finest

BANFF, Alta. - The Alberta Motor Transport Association (AMTA) has awarded Pat Thorne of Canadian Freightways its Driver of the Year award, because of his safety record, a strong work ethic and superio...


BANFF, Alta. – The Alberta Motor Transport Association (AMTA) has awarded Pat Thorne of Canadian Freightways its Driver of the Year award, because of his safety record, a strong work ethic and superior customer service.

“Pat always focuses on safety in the performance of his job, but he also is aware of something that only the best of the best behind the wheel comprehend,” said Terry Warkentin, fleet sales manager, Volvo Trucks Western Canada, who made the presentation to Thorne at this year’s AMTA annual convention.

“He realizes that he is much more than someone who transports loads from Point A to Point B. He is also a salesman and the face of his company, Canadian Freightways. In Pat’s words: ‘Our industry is called trucking, but it’s actually customer service, and if you do your job with that in mind, you, your company and your customers will be a lot better off.'”

Thorne has been in the professional driver’s seat on and off for 27 years, with the majority of his career spent covering city routes. It was a preference that came about according to Thorne, after becoming dissatisfied with long hauls. Warkentin suggests, however, that city routes may offer social advantages to Thorne.

“Perhaps a big part of the reasoning behind his choice is the fact that as a city driver, Pat has more frequent contact with customers than his highway compatriots,” said Warkentin. “A self-confessed ‘people person,’ Pat says the best part of his job, is the time he spends with his customers and fellow drivers.”

Thorne’s professional attitude was instilled in him by a tough task master: his father-in-law Doug Arbic. The mentor at B-Line Fast Freight, the carrier where Thorne first ‘cut his teeth’ in the industry, according to Warkentin, was relentless about promoting a strong work ethic with his employees. If Thorne messed up a delivery, as Warkentin tells it, Arbic would assign him the toughest routes for a few days, until he felt a lesson had sunk in. At that point he would assign Thorne an easier route, but not before asking if he was capable of the task.

“Arbic taught his drivers to be ethical, to work hard, and to respect their customers – and made their day whenever he left them with the compliment ‘Good lad,'” said Warkentin.

The last 15 years of Thorne’s career has been with Canadian Freightways.

Safety Person of the Year Award

It was with a heavy heart that the AMTA paid tribute to John Tessier at its annual convention.

The prominent AMTA member, transportation safety advocate, and multi-award winner for safety initiatives passed away on March 25.

“John was a teacher, a writer, curriculum developer, consultant and a mentor of many industry leaders, and John was synonymous with trucking safety in Alberta,” said Marie Hibbard, vice-president of Bow Valley Insurance Services, who posthumously presented the AMTA’s Safety Person of the Year award to Tessier, via his son Tyler and his wife, Chris Tessier.

Hibbard noted that Tessier started in the industry as a driver, and early on made his mark as a devotee of transportation safety, earning a million mile safety award in 1978. “So, John did more than talk the talk,” she said. “He also walked the walk.”

It was as a driver with Laidlaw and Canada Post, where Tessier developed a love for trucking and a passion for safety. “His philosophy was that drivers and trucking companies alike should conduct themselves as professionals, so that everyone could be safe on our roads and, most importantly, get home safely at the end of the day,” said Hibbard, borrowing on Tessier’s safety mantra.

Tessier helped build the AMTA into the organization that it is today, added Hibbard. He was a part of the Alberta Trucking Industry Safety Association’s (ATISA) beginning in 1995, and was involved with the merger of ATISA and the Alberta Trucking Association in 2000, when the AMTA was formed.

He coordinated the safety policy for the new association, establishing and overseeing the Injury Reduction and Training Committee. Tessier was also instrumental in developing the association’s monthly regional meetings, held throughout the province. He spearheaded the Provincial Truck Driving Championships – more commonly known as ‘Roadeos,’ and was also heavily involved in the Canadian Truck Driving Championships, added Hibbard.

Tessier has earned numerous honours for safety development in his career. He received the Innovation Award from Alberta Infrastructure and Transportation for the HAT and Collision Preventability Review programs. In 2004, he received an Outstanding Service Award from the National Association of Safety Professionals, and its parent organization, the International Association of Safety Professionals, through UNESCO.

“John was given a lifetime membership in these two organizations, for his continuous efforts towards improving workplace health and safety – the only Canadian resident to receive this prestigious recognition,” said Hibbard.

As impressive as these awards may be, Hibbard noted that it is the words of his “industry brethren” that reveal how influential Tessier was to the trucking industry in Alberta.

Outgoing AMTA president Gene Orlick of Orlick Transport, called Tessier a good mentor who encour- aged the past-president to serve on the AMTA executive committee. “He also encouraged me to build a safe trucking company, and made me understand that safety actually saves you money, rather than costs you money.”

Dean Paisley, president of Lethbridge Truck Terminals and an AMTA director, noted that Tessier made transportation safety interesting, and spoke with equal candor to executives and drivers alike. “He was instrumental in bringing the national Roadeo to Lethbridge in 2004, the first time it was ever held outside of a major city. Drivers still talk about what a great time they had at that event.”

Tessier retired from the association in June 2007, with ambitions to further his career promoting transportation safety.

“Unfortunately this part of his career was cut short by his illness,”said Hibbard. “John, I know you’re listening. I speak for the entire industry -for everyone present and for those from our industry who cannot be here today. We thank you for your devotion to safety. We thank you for showing us the way. You are missed, but you and your safety lessons will be remembered. Always.”

Service to the Industry

The AMTA also paid tribute to one of its most devoted, appreciative, and gregarious members at its annual convention.

Gene Orlick, an AMTA past president and now director-at-large on the newly-elected board, received a standing ovation from convention attendees before he was awarded the Service to the Industry honour, which was presented by Domenic Tesone of Dalton Timmis Insurance.

In his presentation, Tesone spoke about the history of Orlick Transport, and noted that the company has been synonymous with trucking in Alberta for over six decades.

The first Orlick Transport was owned by Orlick’s uncle Tom, who once retired, endorsed the same company name to be used for a new entity in 1995, operated by the younger Orlick.

Long before developing his own business, Orlick was encouraged to become involved with the AMTA by his father Max and uncle at the first Orlick Transport.

That initial nudge left a lasting impression. Over the years, Orlick has contributed to numerous AMTA fundraising campaigns, membership drives, safety initiatives and enforcement issues -including serving on the AMTA executive board, the association recalled.

One success that occurred during his presidency that is a source of pride for Orlick, is the establishment of the AMTA’s Centre of Excellence, which recently broke ground. (See related story and photo on this page).

Dispatcher of the Year

Robert Enns of Bison Transport was named the 2008 Alberta Dispatcher of the Year at the convention.

The Bison Transport management team praised Enns’ work
ethic, and indicated that he is an integral part of the team.

“He has all the typical competencies associated with the role of dispatch in abundance,” relayed Shaw Tracking’s Dan Green, who also lists employee attributes that include excellence at communication, analytical skills, and a commitment to finding the right solution.

“But perhaps the most valuable characteristic Enns brings to the Bison organization is an attitude of ownership and enthusiasm for the company operation,” added Green.

Associated Trades Award

The recipient of this year’s AMTA Associated Trades award was Dwayne Warawa, branch manager for Ocean Trailer in Edmonton.

Warawa has been involved with the trucking industry for over 21 years, according to AMTA president Richard Warnock, who presented the award.

Warawa’s involvement with the AMTA coincided with his joining Ocean Trailer.

About five years ago, he became more involved by helping to organize the Edmonton Draw Down committee and the golf committees.


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1 Comment » for Alberta’s Finest
  1. James Leer says:

    Thanks for sharing! My cousin has been looking to go into trucking. He was wondering what the best trucking companies would be? He was hoping you would be able to help. If you know that would be awesome.

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