The expression “safety comes first” is something heard a lot in the transportation industry, but for Betty Taylor, it is an expression she lives and breathes by.
Taylor has been involved in the transportation sector of Ontario’s health and safety system for more than 32 years.
Her career began in February 1982, when she was the receptionist for what was known as the Transportation Safety Association.
“I was responsible for looking after the mailing list of all the companies that were affiliated with us,” she said. “And through that I gained a lot of knowledge and met some extraordinary people and was exposed to incidents and information that I never would have been able to before. I learned all about trucks and trailers and air brakes…all that goes with trucking.”
In 2010, the association amalgamated with two other industries (the electrical industry and the construction industry) to become the Infrastructure Health & Safety Association (IHSA).
Over the last three decades, Taylor has worked for the association in a variety of roles where she gained an overwhelming amount of knowledge on truck safety.
Today, Taylor is the transportation outreach coordinator for IHSA, but this year marks Taylor’s last with the association as she is set to retire, officially, at the end of December.
Over the three decades of her career in the industry, she has been involved in many different safety initiatives, including the Fleet Safety Council where she is the coordinator.
For the uninitiated, the Fleet Safety Council is a group of driver-trainers and transportation professionals who work with IHSA to promote safety and improve driver behaviour through increased training. The council has monthly chapter meetings across
Ontario held between September and June.
“It’s an excellent opportunity for members to network and participate,” said Taylor. “The association talks about what is current in legislation and they have presentations on distracted driving, ergonomics and everything that relates to trucking. It is a very knowledgeable and informed group. It started out with just one chapter in Toronto and that’s the one I started with. And now there’s eight chapters across Ontario.”
Her three decades of experience in the industry has allowed Taylor to experience many changes in the industry, especially when it comes to safety.
She said that back when she started, safety wasn’t much of a concern to fleets, but of course today that is different.
“Safety has now come to the forefront for the companies,” she said. “There is a focus on safety now, there is better equipment, they are safer trucks…a lot of the bigger companies, and even some smaller companies are putting more effort into making sure their drivers are properly trained and have good safety background.”
Taylor added that technology has also changed trucking immensely and for the better.
“There’s also so many new safety features that are put on the trucks that they have,” she added. “Shaw Tracking is one of the companies that have the onboard satellite so you can track a driver if they get into a problem, or now you can locate the load. Before it wasn’t that easy. It’s a more efficient business now. For instance, Erb Transport developed a way of removing snow off the top of trailers. For years people would complain that ice and snow would fall off of trailers and do damage to their cars. They were the first that I knew of that did develop a piece of machinery that removed snow.”
Taylor said that though injuries are still prevalent in the industry, safety initiatives like putting a focus on distracted driving has helped.
“There are still a lot of injuries but it’s not as bad as it used to be,” she said.
Taylor was also around when the Truck Driving Championships first came to be 32 years ago.
She has been involved with them ever since and has been involved in all regional, provincial and national levels.
“I guess after four or five months into my tenure with the company, the Truck Driving Championships came into effect,” she said. “And I started at a very minimal level in helping (those involved) get ready for the event. And then it just sort of expanded from there. My involvement went from just doing the distribution of driver’s kits to actually sitting on the committee and being part of the executive that works with the various companies as well as looking after the nationals which comes here every eight years.”
She said the Truck Driving Championships were one of her favourite events over the years because of the energy it generated from province to province, company to company, and driver to driver.
“I really enjoyed the Truck Driving Championships,” she said. “When it comes to presenting who the Grand Champion is, they get so excited. I mean it’s a real honour to win but one of the things that we point out to all the drivers is that they’re all successful that they’ve made it this far. You have to be a certain type of driver to be involved in the championships. It’s nice to see that they are given the recognition they deserve. It’s not easy to be out of the road these days because of construction and traffic. I drive the 401 every day so I see these drivers are faced with on a daily basis.”
Taylor said she is looking forward to her retirement (and “not waking up at 5:15 a.m.”), especially being able to get back into the old hobbies that fell to the wayside while she was busy working. Taylor also said she doesn’t want to cut trucking out of her life completely and will still try and volunteer at her favourite trucking events.
“I’m planning to continue to continue my relationship with the Truck Driving Championships,” she said. “But on a much lower level than I was before. I’m going step back from that a bit. I think it’s time for someone else to step in. There’s a lot of people younger than myself who have a lot of really good ideas and know how to communicate and how get the word out there and engage people and that’s the kind of thing the championships need more of.”
While she steps back from her duties, she said that she hopes the trucking community continues to thrive and that safety remains on the forefront of every company’s agenda.
“I really hope they find qualified drivers,” she said. “It’s a concern for many companies. I just really hope that they can find really good individuals, male or female. And of course, I want the industry to maintain safety because it’s important for everyone – drivers, companies, and those around them.”