LETHBRIDGE, Alta. — Doug Paisley knows one of his company’s secrets to success is to carry on the reputation his father built over decades serving the industry.
Doug’s father, Dean Paisley, started in the trucking industry in 1966 before moving with his wife, Deana, to Alberta to join H&R Transport.
Driving for the carrier as an owner-operator, Dean saw firsthand the rapid growth H&R experienced through the mid-‘70s. Al Foder ran the company, who eventually moved Dean to an office position where he was instrumental in steering H&R in the right direction.
Dean took his experience from H&R to a new challenge with Lethbridge Truck Terminals (LTT), which he purchased from the Wilkie family in 1989.
Doug, now president and CEO of LTT, said his father, who was always an independent person, was looking for something he could do on his own. Running LTT was a perfect fit, but not always an easy one.
“It was a lot tougher, I can imagine, back in those days,” said Doug. “We’re pretty connected now, we have our cellphones and our GPS, and we know where everything is. I can’t imagine doing what we do now without that stuff, but they did it. But I’m sure every night it was on their mind.”
The economic downturn in the mid-‘90s was another hurdle Dean had to overcome.
“I’m sure there were a lot of pay periods where Dean didn’t take his paycheck,” said Doug. “But we got through it, we grew, said ‘yes’ to everything and found a way to keep it going and grow with the industry in Lethbridge.”
LTT has grown exponentially since Dean first purchased the company. From a four-truck, four-staff operation, serving three primary customers, LTT now boasts 50 trucks and around 60 employees.
Doug bought the company, including the land and building where it is headquartered, almost five years ago. His father was 68 at the time and ready to have his son take the helm.
“That’s when Dean said ‘I’m 68 and it’s time for me to bugger off,’” said Doug. “We were growing, it was organically happening and it’s not that Dean wasn’t excited about it, but at 68 he’d already been through it.”
By 2013, LTT embraced Dean’s philosophy of saying “yes” to pretty much any opportunity that came along.
“I think our reputation speaks for itself that way,” said Doug. “We’re not perfect, we make our mistakes, but we’re there for guys. That’s been our niche, we’re there for everybody. The reputation makes me proud. And that’s what makes us sustainable.
“We’re not everything to everybody, we’re not the cheapest guy, but when we say we’re going to do it, we do it.”
Doug takes his company’s reputation seriously, and has not only focused on growing LTT from a business standpoint, but also maintaining its distinction as a carrier that gets the job done.
“I’ve had trucks break down on the side of the road, I’ve had drivers where something has come up and they can’t go. Well that’s not my customer’s problem, that’s mine,” said Doug.
“We’ll tell you there’s an issue but we’re going to get it done, we won’t leave you hanging. I’m shocked at how many times people get left hanging…you find a way.”
The approach to business Dean instilled and Doug preserves has also had an effect on those who work for LTT. Doug praised his employees, saying LTT is fortunate to have the staff it does. He pointed to his director of operations, Aaron Schaaf, who Doug said always finds a way to get a job done and work through any issues that may arise.
“His work ethic is there, and that was one of Dean’s big things…you can teach anybody anything, but if they don’t have a work ethic, you can’t work with them,” said Doug. “(Schaaf’s) work ethic is unmatched.”
As chairman of the Alberta Motor Transport Association, Doug is aware of the challenges facing the industry.
The Canadian dollar, interest rates, an aging workforce, and industry demands have all been taxing for many carriers. The effort to increase rates has also been difficult.
“It’s been a tough slug to get them increased because there is competition out there,” said Doug “We’ve tested that water on occasion and put those rates up. When you have a rate increase there is the next guy waiting right there who’s willing to offer that service.”
The image of today’s truck driver is another concern for Doug. He admitted that drivers could be at fault for their waning reputation as the “pride of the road” back in the ‘50s and ‘60s.
“I think when the opportunity came for them to self-regulate and look after themselves, they were busy making a great buck and working, so they didn’t get caught up in trade certification and getting a program in school…they were driving,” Doug explained. “Now I believe our generation is paying the price…we don’t have that, and now there’s so much bureaucracy and red tape to get all those things done.”
Doug said drivers need to take pride in the job they do, as should the industry as a whole.
“I think we are the essential service,” he said. “No disrespect to anybody else…we’re all important. But as cliché as it is, without us truckers, there’s no fuel at the pumps and you can’t drive. Nothing in the stores to eat, nothing to buy to wear, you can’t build a house. It’s everything, yet our drivers aren’t given the due they’ve earned.”