I’ve got a pretty good gig. I get to travel the world, drive trucks, rub shoulders with industry leaders and be among the first to see new technologies and vehicles. But ask me what the highlight of this job is in any given year, and I’ll tell you it’s none of the above; it’s phoning our Owner/Operator of the Year to inform them they’ve won the prestigious national award.
When I inform the winner, I’m usually greeted by silence as they struggle to find the right words to express their gratitude. Being an owner/operator can be a thankless job, and they’re not used to the recognition.
This year’s reaction took the cake. An emotional Than Vermilyea was soon crying tears of happiness. For him, more than other past winners, receiving the award was sweet vindication. Than – or TV, as he’s affectionately known by friends and customers – knew from a young age that he wanted to be a truck driver. He dropped out of school to pursue his dream as soon as he was old enough. Even then, he had already spent years practicing his backing techniques using his father’s farm tractor and manure spreader.
Than had, and to this day has, a passion for the industry that’s lacking in so many modern day drivers. He is a true independent owner/operator, which in itself is becoming increasingly rare. He serves a variety of customers in the Quinte region, near his Belleville, Ont. home.
For Than, achieving success was accomplished the old-fashioned way, by building a loyal customers base over many years of delivering personalized service. If you call TV, you’re dealing with TV. He’ll show up on time and deliver the load – and if he screws up, he won’t try to lay the blame at anyone else’s feet. That simple philosophy has endeared Than to many of his customers, who lined up to recommend him for the award via many glowing testimonials.
As enjoyable as it is to notify our winner, it’s equally painstaking to eliminate from consideration the other deserving finalists. I wish we had more of these awards to give away, but restricting it to one per year is essential to retaining the integrity of the award.
Than was joined by his family and friends at our Toronto offices for the presentation of the cheque, plaque, ring and other gifts. Then the sponsors – Castrol, Goodyear and Mack Trucks – loaded him up with more gifts. Then, it was off to a nice restaurant for a memorable dinner.
The next morning, Than returned to our Toronto offices for an interview. You can read all about him in this month’s cover story. You can also check out Trucknews.com over the coming weeks for video highlights from our interview.
As I got to know Than, I realized there was good reason behind the outpouring of emotions upon learning he won the award. Because he chose trucking over a formal education, he’s heard over the years he was a failure. The success he has achieved in the industry – with or without this latest accolade – says otherwise. He has carved out a decent living in one of the most competitive and challenging of businesses. I’ve seen MBA-holding executives run trucking companies into the ground. Than has resisted the temptation to add trucks or to hire drivers, instead focusing on delivering a personalized service the big guys can’t deliver. Congratulations, Than. You deserve it!
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