Truck News recently interviewed John Cyopeck, the newly elected chairman of the Canadian Trucking Alliance. The following is the text of his interview with Truck News:
TN: Congratulations on being appointed chairman of the Canadian Trucking Alliance. You have almost 50 years experience in the industry. During that time you’ve helped turn around your company, Canpar Transport, you’ve driven truck, you’ve worked on the dock, you’ve even been a Teamsters steward. You are also the first chairman in the CTA’s history from the courier sector. How will this rich background help you in this role?
Cyopeck: It is an honour to represent the industry across the country. We have such a great staff that it makes it easy on the chairman. I understand every facet of the industry. When I walk into a place or see something going on, having done it, I know if it is done right or wrong. I also believe that I have the ability to relate to the various modes of transportation given my background and experience.
TN: This winter you were diagnosed with a brain tumour, which was removed in mid-February. You are currently undergoing further treatment. How are you feeling?
Cyopeck: Nobody ever thinks something like this will happen to them. When you find out, your life changes automatically. A lot of the stuff I used to worry about, I look at them now and wonder why I ever let them bother me.
At the same time, in the end you only have two choices: you either fight it and go at it in a positive manner or you give up. I am now undergoing radiation treatment and will finish my last treatment on June 2. Then comes the wait – four to six weeks for an MRI. That will determine whether I will need chemotherapy, which I can do at home by pill. You get the hair loss but that’s a big deal with me, right? Or if everything shows up good on the MRI, I just go back every three months for a checkup.
I’ll tell you, anybody that feels hard done by, should spend one hour in the waiting area for radiation or chemo and they will understand how lucky they are. But I’m doing fine. Mentally I’m fine, physically I’m a little more tired in the afternoon but I’m continuing to work every day. Prior to the treatments I was in the office by 7:30 to 7:45 a.m. and I am still here by 9 a.m. after having my treatment downtown. I want to continue to work. I don’t want to be sitting around.
TN: Fighting this is a challenge in itself. Many in the industry were impressed that you decided to also take on the challenge of chairing the CTA. Why did you do it?
Cyopeck: I did actually think about whether I should – more for the sake of the association, than for my sake.
But CTA CEO David Bradley basically said “You are not going to turn this down. If you have treatments that prevent you from attending functions, there are other former chairmen who will fill in.” And Evan Mackinnon, the most recent past chairman, came to me personally and said when you be can’t there, know that I will be there for you.
And I personally thought this would keep my mind active. They say you learn who your real friends are during trying situations and I’ve realized just how many friends I have. I am humbled.
TN: I understand you are doing more than fighting for yourself. You are involved in a project that could help many others battling cancer. What can you tell me about it?
Cyopeck: I’m working on the Delivering a Dream Campaign for Trillium Hospital with Rick Gaetz, CEO of Vitran Corp. I’m personally donating $100,000 to Trillium for the housing of a new MRI unit and I’ve committed to raising $1 million.
We are over halfway there. I have to put back; I have always believed in that, it’s part of my upbringing. I came from the other side of the tracks and I’ve always believed in that, not only personally but corporately.
TN: Let’s talk about industry issues. Freight volumes were up significantly in 2004 in many sectors. How has the first half of 2005 shaped up in terms of business?
Cyopeck: Things have softened a bit in some of the industries. At Canpar, for example, we are still ahead from a volume point of view compared to last year but the people we use as subhaulers are asking for loads whereas last year we had trouble in the first couple of months finding available capacity. I think there are some uncertainties in the market and it’s just not one particular item that’s affecting freight volumes and the economy right now.
The automotive industry is over supplied and is looking to cut costs. When our dollar gets strong, the export market falls off because exporters can’t be competitive with their prices or because there’s not enough margin for them.
But I also strongly believe that as long as the housing market remains strong, the retail side of our business will remain strong. When people buy houses, they buy up a lot of other things.
– The remainder of Truck News’ exclusive interview with CTA chairman John Cyopeck will be featured in next month’s issue.
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