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APTA Safety Council has strong family roots

TRURO, N. S. - Safety is practically a family business for a Truro, Nova Scotia family. It began when a career trucking industry gentleman by the name of Jack Cotterill helped found the Atlantic Provi...

TRURO, N. S. – Safety is practically a family business for a Truro, Nova Scotia family. It began when a career trucking industry gentleman by the name of Jack Cotterill helped found the Atlantic Provinces Trucking Association Safety Council in 1980. Twentyeight years later, his son John is in his third year as its chairman, and his daughters Kellie and Jamie pitch in at the Safety Councilhosted truck rodeo.

“It is kinda cool that my father was involved in the creation of the Safety Council 25 years ago and then later I am its chair,” says John, who’s day job is manager, safety and driver services with Clarke Road Transport in Halifax. Before becoming Safety Council chair, John was its vice-chair for two years and secretary-treasurer for two years prior to that.

Jack came from a family of dump truck drivers in Grand Bend, Ont., spent some time as a driver and then linked up with CN in the years when it owned trucking companies around Canada, John recalls.

“In the late 1970s my father was running Husband’s Transport in London, Ontario. Then CN transferred him to Truro in 1979 to be regional manager for Eastern Transport. APTA did not have a safety council at that time and he saw the need to establish one,” he recalls

Jack did see its creation, but he died in February 1983 at the age of 38 while hauling firewood into the house with John. His funeral included a procession down Highway 102, accompanied by Eastern Transport trucks. Jack was buried back in Ontario.

Still a Truro resident, John has been with Clarke Road for a year and a half. For 13 years before that he was with Advantage Personnel in Halifax, supplying straight truck and tractor-trailer drivers to companies in the Atlantic Provinces. He also drove cross-border for three years and locally for a year.

From the outset, the Safety Council took on major responsibilities, including co-ordinating the provincial and national truck rodeos, selecting the winner of the then Mack Driver of the Year award and carrying out safety blitzes.

Today the Safety Council’s mandate includes recommending and promoting safety in the trucking industry, promoting and co-ordinating provincial driving championships and driver appreciation days and co-ordinating and hosting training seminars for safety professionals to ensure up to date compliance with regulatory issues.

The Safety Council gives the trucking industry a voice on matters such as hours-of-service, weights and measures and drugs and alcohol, including between Canadian and US departments of transportation.

“You need a strong voice when dealing with the government. Often we are asked to attend events hosted by the government, for example, load securement meetings,” John explains. “The Safety Council’s presence brings some reality into government bodies. It is a good two-way relationship.”The Safety Council also keeps APTA members up to date on government/industry business.

The Safety Council lets the government know about highway safety issues, such as sites of concern. “A good example is in Halifax where there are really sharp turns. Based on our advice, engineers cleared a lot of bush around some ramps so drivers can see them,” John says.

The Safety Council still carries out safety blitzes, most recently at Murray’s Truck Stop in Woodstock on Sept. 9-10, in conjunction with National Safety Week.

The Council has revitalized the Atlantic Provinces Driving Championships, which, according to John, had badly petered out in the past 10 years. Referred to as simply ‘the rodeo’ more often than not, winners go on to compete at the National Professional Truck Driving Championships, which the Safety Council has hosted four times.

“The rodeo is a huge event, with about 80 entrants. Among the activities, Clarke Road bought a remote-controlled tractor-trailer and kids get to maneuver it through a mini-course. Kellie runs the mini-event every year,” John says.

Three years ago the Safety Council started an annual cross-border safety seminar with the Maine Motor Safety Council.

“We bring in keynote speakers and discuss best practices. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration speaks at it and government bodies from Nova Scotia and New Brunswick speak at it,” John says.

The Safety Council also hosts certified director of safety courses and accident investigation training for trucking companies’ safety officers. The highest profile and perhaps most revolutionary activity, John says, is the relationship the Safety Council has developed in the last few years with the departments of transportation in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Maine. “It has really begun to pay off and it has made drivers more comfortable dealing with them.”

John’s work has helped maintain a strong and relevant Safety Council. “The Safety Council is,” he says, “the persistent voice that ensures that drivers stay safe.”

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