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Best and bravest awarded at 80th OTA convention

TORONTO, Ont. - The trucking industry's best and bravest were honoured during the Ontario Trucking Association's 80th annual convention at the Toronto Congress Centre Nov. 16-17.

TORONTO, Ont. – The trucking industry’s best and bravest were honoured during the Ontario Trucking Association’s 80th annual convention at the Toronto Congress Centre Nov. 16-17.

Canadian Truck Hero

Shawn Berube of St. Paul, Alta. has been named the 2006 Bridgestone Firestone Canadian Truck Hero for saving the life of a man trapped in his rig as it was engulfed in flames.

Berube is the 50th trucker to be recognized as part of the program, which rewards a Canadian trucker who demonstrates an act of heroism while on the job. Courage, quick thinking and integrity in the face of an emergency are attributes shared by all Bridgestone Firestone Truck Heroes.

Berube qualified for the award thanks to his actions on March 31. He was using a pay phone in Michipicoten, Ont. when he smelled smoke.

“I smelled smoke, and at first I thought it was coming from the fireplace at the nearby restaurant,” he recalls. “But then I could see the smoke coming from the window of a transport truck parked in the lot between two buildings.”

Berube ran to the truck and pulled the driver from the passenger’s side, where he had bunked for the night. The driver, Bernard Bublish of Saskatoon, Sask. was disoriented from the smoke and covered in soot when Berube pulled him to safety. Shortly after Bublish was removed from the truck, it erupted in flames. Bublish recovered from the incident.

“When truckers are on the road across this vast country, they never know when circumstances and situations might arise where they are required to lend a helping hand, render a service, or perform a heroic deed,” said David Scheklesky, general manager, commercial truck tires, for Bridgestone Firestone. “For Shawn Berube, what had been a routine evening quickly became a rescue operation in which he, literally, exhibited courage under fire.”

Berube was presented with a $3,000 cheque for his actions

Dispatcher of the year

Ben O’Hara, a dispatcher with Trimac Transportation in Sarnia, Ont. has been named the 2006 OTA/Cancom Dispatcher of the Year. O’Hara accepted the award in front of a packed Toronto Congress Centre during the OTA’s annual convention Nov. 17.

The award is handed out each year to a dispatcher who has demonstrated a commitment to customer service, safety, driver well-being, courtesy, team work, problem solving and community service or volunteer work. O’Hara has been dispatching with Trimac for four years and has worked as a dispatcher for 15 years overall.

Upon accepting the award, he was quick to credit Trimac’s team of owner/operators for making the award possible.

“To be successful, you need to be part of a great team,” O’Hara said. “We have a great team of owner/operators at Trimac.”

O’Hara oversees 33 O/Os every day, dispatching loads of liquid bulk products across North America. Those who know him best say he earned the award thanks to his ability to work well with those owner/operators and also for his customer service skills.

“Ben is the one person I think everyone would like to be around and work with,” said one Trimac O/O. “His professional attitude, work ethic, telephone manner and sense of humour promote an excellent atmosphere, and this has a very positive impact on the drivers he dispatches.”

Before O’Hara took to the stage, there was a moving tribute to another well-respected dispatcher. Pat Maslen, a dispatcher with Challenger Motor Freight for eight years, was recognized posthumously. Maslen was up for the award, but sadly he succumbed to cancer in June.

“Individuals like Mr. Maslen are definitely seen as role models. While inflicted with a deadly disease, Pat was able to inspire others and motivate himself. We would like to congratulate his wife and family for having such a courageous family member,” said Mike Ham, Cancom Tracking vice-president.

Challenger president, Dan Einwechter, paid his respects to Maslen and pointed out he was so committed to the profession, that he arranged his cancer treatments around his work schedule.

Service to the industry

Don Anderson, founder and president of Don Anderson Haulage in Stouffville, Ont., has been awarded with the 2006 OTA-Trailmobile Service to the Industry Award – the highest honour bestowed on an executive in the Ontario trucking industry.

The OTA-Trailmobile Service to Industry Award honours an individual who, by their commitment, vision, leadership and unstinting service, has made an outstanding contribution to the development and success of the truck transportation industry in Ontario. The selection was made by a panel of Anderson’s peers, most of whom are previous winners themselves. The award is a charcoal portrait of the recipient.

Together with his wife and business partner Maris, Anderson has been an active supporter of the OTA for more than 25 years, serving on the board of directors for many of those years.

Considered by many as an innovator in the transportation business – currently in the over-dimensional load business – Anderson has often seized the opportunity for added growth. Anderson travelled to Germany where he purchased the first of what would be several multi-wheeled transporters, which have enabled Anderson Haulage to tackle even larger over dimensional moves.

As jobs became larger and more complicated and the province increased demands and restrictions on the size of loads going over the road, Anderson also had the foresight to create a strategic alliance with a railway which has resulted in the continued growth of the company.

Some say one measure of business success is the loyalty of your employees. A total of 18 of Anderson’s drivers have 20 years or more of service with the company and six of those have been with Anderson for over 30 years.

Anderson lives in Stouffville with his wife, Maris. Their four children Mike, Liz, Jane and Sue have all worked at Anderson Haulage at one time or another.

National driver of the year

Merv Connolly is fast becoming one of the most decorated individual truck drivers in the business. The 56-year-old owner/operator with L.E. Walker Transport took home the OTA/Volvo Trucks Canada National Driver of the Year Award Nov. 16. The award recognizes a driver who holds a collision-free driving record and demonstrates a high level of courtesy both on and off the road.

Connolly had previously won the OTA’s provincial Driver of the Year Award in 2005. Though the industry veteran has earned a great deal of respect as a safe driver – having amassed nearly five million collision-free kilometres over 38 years – he has also gained notoriety for his lifesaving efforts, helping lift a vehicle off a trapped man and assisting a passenger who had been ejected from the vehicle following an accident in January 2005.

Connolly’s efforts during the accident were not overlooked by the province, as he was awarded the Ontario Provincial Police Commissioner’s Citation for Lifesaving.

He also was Truck News’ most recent recipient of the Owner/Operator of the Year Award at the Fergus Truck Show in July. These awards went along with the recognition he had already received from the Ontario Safety League for his long years of accident-free driving.

“It’s very nice to be up here. It’s a great honour,” said a humble Connolly during the OTA ceremony, with wife Donna by his side. “I’m not a very good speaker, I stumble a little bit, but I can tell you I’m a real good driver.”

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