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From gear-jamming to number-crunching

OSHAWA, Ont. - Her deep understanding of the needs of a trucker is one of the reasons Maria Fotheringham has shifted gears from driving to running her own accounting firm.Fotheringham Bookkeeping/Acco...

BOXED IN: Fotheringham works through one client's receipts.
BOXED IN: Fotheringham works through one client's receipts.

OSHAWA, Ont. – Her deep understanding of the needs of a trucker is one of the reasons Maria Fotheringham has shifted gears from driving to running her own accounting firm.

Fotheringham Bookkeeping/Accounting and Income Tax Service caters almost exclusively to professional drivers and more specifically, owner/operators.

“I miss the driving but I’m very comfortable doing this,” she says. “If I can help other drivers keep things straight, then I think I’m going where I want to go, helping drivers.”

Fotheringham drove tractor-trailer for almost 15 years, some out of her native Edmonton and the rest out of Ontario. She has worked for several different companies and has hauled a variety of things, including gravel.

The last trucking job she held was with Oshawa, Ont.-based Can Truck, where she met her second husband Al Fotheringham who was also a driver. Her husband helped her finally decide to leave driving after an incident left her scared.

“I went to open the trailer door handle and it sprung back and snap,” she explains. “I ended up with a few stitches in the head and he said, ‘That’s it you’re getting an office job, you’ll be safer there.'”

In 1980, Fotheringham took an accounting course in Edmonton and 16 years later upgraded her skills at Durham College where she scored perfect on her final test.

She spent time working as a bookkeeper, accountant and office manager before being laid off.

Thinking back to the help she had previously given friends in the trucking industry – such as getting their papers in order come tax time – she decided to hang out her shingle and make her living doing what came naturally to her.

She opened her own business through an employment insurance self-employment, training program.

“I love it, it’s a passion,” she says of her experience with accounting. “I’m the type of person, if I’m out a penny, I won’t let it go. It’s got to balance.”

Driving truck has as much paperwork as any other business if not more, explains Fotheringham.

” You have to be on top of it. Your truck is your business, that is your lifeline,” she explains.

Still making pick-ups

What sets her service apart from many others is its focus on truck drivers. She is willing to pick-up an owner/operator’s financial information at the driver’s convenience.

“Rather than having them take it in some place, I just go over once a month and pick up all their stuff and sort it out for them,” she says. “I’ll drive to their homes, meet them at a truck stop, drive out to their yards, wherever. The convenience is for the driver.”

It is important to understand what drivers go through and how important their home time is, she says. Her idea to pick up the paperwork saves the drivers having to send their receipts by mail or courier to an out-of-town company. The monthly contact can also benefit the trucker, allowing the opportunity to address areas of concern immediately as opposed to three to four months down the road. This saves a lot of grief.

When doing her market research, she found many accountants don’t want to touch truckers because this is what they get (referring to her kitchen table which supports several shoe boxes and grocery bags filled with receipts).

But that didn’t phase her one bit.

“I think a lot of it is the time factor. When they (drivers) are doing long distances, they’re only home for a day or a day-and-a-half, and sometimes they’re only home once every three weeks,” she explains

“If they are anything like my husband, when you’ve been on the road that whole week, you want to come home, put your feet up and relax. You don’t want to be running around dealing with all this stuff.”

For now, Fotheringham is looking to provide her service in the Durham region. “Even if they work in the Durham region, they can live elsewhere.”

The best advice Fotheringham can give to any owner/op is to keep all of their receipts.

“I know the government allows $33 a day for meals. That has been challenged and now it’s up to $48 provided you have receipts. General receipts for fuel, repairs, truck washes, mobile telephones, stuff like that, keep those handy.”

When asked what career she prefers of the two, driving or bookkeeping, she hums, haws and struggles with thought.

“Don’t think I still don’t get that urge,” she says. “I still hold my licence so if worst comes to worst, I’ve got the back up.”

Fotheringham can be reached at 905-728-8147 or 905-728-8435. n

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