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AMTA awards industry’s finest

BANFF, Ata. -The Alberta Motor Transport Association (AMTA) held its annual convention in late April, where it took the opportunity to reward some of the industry's finest ambassadors.

BANFF, Ata. -The Alberta Motor Transport Association (AMTA) held its annual convention in late April, where it took the opportunity to reward some of the industry’s finest ambassadors.

Canadian Driver of the Year

A Medicine Hat-based driver with a 33-year career and 3.94 million collision-free miles, has been named the Canadian Trucking Alliance/Volvo Trucks Canada Driver of the Year for 2007.

Perley MacDonald, who drives for McMillan Transport, was presented with the award at the AMTA’s annual convention.

“Mr. MacDonald exemplifies the outstanding truck drivers with whom Canadians share the road,” said David Bradley, the CEO of the Canadian Trucking Alliance. “It is a great honour to recognize him with this highly-coveted award.”

Rod McMillan, the president of McMillan Transport, describes his award-winning employee, as an “old-time trucker,” who is easy to work with, and is very generous with his trucking expertise. “He has an amazing sense of humour; is very humble; and is always willing to share his insight and experience with any person that is new to the industry.”

McMillan is particularly proud of MacDonald’s impressive driving record, as well as other professional attributes that are appreciated by the company. “Perley’s dedication to our company and customers is excellent, and greatly appreciated by everyone. Congratulations Perley: everyone at McMillan Transport is very proud of you, and also proud to work with you.”

MacDonald transports freight to destinations in Canada’s western provinces, and has been repeatedly honoured for driving excellence during his lengthy career.

Provincial Driver of the Year

The AMTA also presented its own provincial Driver of the Year award, to Phil Jellicoe, who has been collision-free for 23 years, and 13 years in a row without a single accident.

According to a tribute made at the AMTA convention, trucking was all Jellicoe ever wanted to do. As soon as he got behind the wheel, he knew he had found his niche. He drove for Whitecourt Transport for 36 out of a total of 40 years in the business, mainly driving city delivery routes in Edmonton.

“He said that while he did a few highway runs throughout his career, (but) his overriding love was city driving, calling it, ‘an absolute pleasure,'” said Bradley, the CEO of the CTA, who made the presentation.

“He liked the fact that there was no speed involved -at least on his part -and there was no need to rush, as long as the deliveries made it to their destinations. And after a few years, he got to know the city streets like the proverbial back of his hand. This enabled him to always be able to take the quickest, yet at the same time, safest routes available.”

Recently Jellicoe retired from Whitecourt Transport. Asked what made him such a success at his chosen profession, he replied: “I think you have to love what you are doing. I did and I still do. Behind the wheel, you have to be cool, calm and collected. A nervous, edgy driver will be his own worst enemy. Then, you have to be aware of your surroundings. That is, know your vehicles, loads, routes, the alternate routes and which construction projects are taking place at the time. Armed with this knowledge, a driver is then able to anticipate potential problems. Often, I know when another vehicle is going to change lanes or make a turn before they actually perform the maneuver. That’s just experience.”

Service to the Industry

The AMTA also presented its Service to the Industry Award to a popular and humble past-president. Henry VanSteenbergen began in the industry as a youth with his father’s company, Western Alberta Produce, while he tried to decide about post-secondary studies, according to Tom Prochinsky of Trailmobile, who presented the award.

“Well, he never did pursue that university program and the Alberta trucking industry is the better for it,” he said.

In the mid-1980s, VanSteenbergen and his father discussed succession, but in 1987, Lilydale Inc. made a generous offer which the younger VanSteenbergen couldn’t resist, according to Prochinksy.

After the sale went through, VanSteenbergen worked for Lilydale, but eventually bought Legal Transport, a one-truck operation that hauled eggs for Lilydale. He changed the name to Legal Freight Services and in just over 17 years, grew the company to 50 tractors and trailers.

Prochinsky noted that VanSteenbergen decided to sell a year ago, but signed a one-year contract to stay on in an advisory capacity.

“That one-year contract is up shortly and Henry will be leaving Legal Freight,” he said. “Fortunately, he won’t be leaving the industry. After completing his last few courses, he intends to conduct COR auditing for the WCB PIR (partners in injury reduction) program.”

Dispatcher of the Year

A good dispatcher is one of the most valuable and versatile employees in the company, according the AMTA, which crowned one of its member companies’ best dispatchers at its annual convention.

“They are operations people, administrators, managers, and salespeople,” said Dan Green, an account manager for Shaw Tracking, who made the award presentation.

“They are the first line of representation of your company to your customers, and of your company to your drivers. Their position is truly the cornerstone of any company and they must be able to balance profitability along with fairness and good judgment.”

Green also said that a good dispatcher will promote employee loyalty, and consequently lower driver turnover.

On top of that, a good dispatcher will improve fuel mileage by ensuring the load is delivered efficiently and ultimately ensure economic and customer service success, he added.

“A great dispatcher cares about the safety and well-being of your drivers,” said Green, before announcing that the AMTA had selected Debbie Begg for the award, a dispatcher with H&R Transport.

“One of the drivers had this to say about Debbie:’She is very conscious of the elements that create the working environment: client care, safety, driver well-being, courtesy, teamwork, and problemsolving; (which) are just some of these elements. Speaking as a driver, she has never put my health or safety at risk.'”

As well as dispatch, Begg is responsible for first contact with new drivers; orientation for new drivers, not only learning to navigate throughout North America, but also the administrative maze that a new driver must address. On top of these duties, H&R Transport has praised Begg’s assistance with new foreign staff, who must adjust to a new way of life, not only with work, but also with home life.

“Debbie has always taken the extra time to ensure these new folks are looked after,” said Green. “H&R’s overall success truly reflects the outcome of her continuous efforts.”

Safety Person of the Year

A tragic incident long ago was a life-altering experience for Joe Woodcock, who was named the AMTA’s Safety Person of the Year, at its annual conference.

“The safety bug bit Joe early in life,” said Marie Hibbard, the vicepresident of Bow Valley Insurance, who made the AMTA presentation. “As an 18-year-old truck driver, he was amazed at the frequency with which his fellow drivers took life-threatening chances.

“He recalls being in the shop one day, when a fellow driver – who was also a close friend – attempted to replace and refill a tire from his truck. While his friend was leaning over to focus on his task, the tire and rim blew apart, killing him instantly. That incident had a lifelong effect on Joe. From that point on, he became an advocate for safety, believing in a concept he terms ‘safety compliance through education.'”

Woodcock’s interest in safety was also instilled by experiences working with the Calgary Police, where he served for 18 years, 10 of those as a traffic collision investigator and six years with the commercial vehicle unit, according to Hibbard. The past eight years have been wi
th DECC Safety Services, as a safety consultant, advisor in transportation, instructor in air brakes, vehicle inspector, safety program developer and commercial vehicle driver evaluator, she added.

Woodcock’s own corporate philosophy for safety, is that he believes that when everyone: drivers, support workers, dispatchers, supervisors and senior managers; become educated about safety, share common safety goals related to accountability and common sense, compliance happens, said Hibbard.

“The challenge is to get everyone on the same page. Joe points out that safety goals cannot be achieved by one audit alone.”

Woodcock has expressed concerned to the AMTA about new issues faced by the trucking industry, such as highway infrastructure problems, overcrowded roads, and driver impatience and distractions – such as cell phone use. “Joe believes these are concerns for all of us who use the roadways and it is up to all of us to solve the problem,” said Hibbard.

Associated Trades Award

Finally, the AMTA presented the Associated Trades Award to Al Sibilo of Milestone Insurance.

The AMTA paid tribute to a career that goes back to the mid-1980s when Sibilo first joined Zurich Insurance as an underwriting trainee, while he was attending the University of Alberta.

“It didn’t take Al long to realize he had a passion for the insurance industry, and before he knew it, Zurich had promoted him to supervisor – and then account manager,” said Greg Sokil of Sokil Express Lines. “Throughout his insurance career, Al’s specialty has been commercial automobile insurance, particularly trucking fleets.”

From Zurich Canada, Sibilo moved on to Markel Insurance in 1995, as western regional manager based in Alberta, which was the beginning of his extensive involvement with the AMTA, according to Sokil.

“In fact, he became a member of the conference committee, and has served on many (committees) over the years. He has also served on the member services committee and the AMTA Education Foundation.”

In 2005, Sokil started Milestone Risk Management & Insurance Services, and then joined with McLean & Shaw Insurance last year, with the intention of continuing to serve the trucking industry – only from a different angle, said Sokil.

The award was appreciated by Sibilo, but he feels it may have been somewhat premature, as far as his past involvement with the AMTA and his future plans. “I do think this is a job that I am just getting started in,” said Sibilo, who has no hesitation in committing himself to future AMTA projects. “I think I will work with the AMTA for another 20 years.”

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