DEBERT, N.S. – People like Gord Peddle don’t just happen overnight. It takes a lifetime of being immersed in an industry you love, with just the right amount of family backing to get your foot in the door. For Peddle, president and CEO of DD Transport, he didn’t so much choose trucking as trucking chose him.
In the early ’70s, Peddle’s father started up a Newfoundland-based company called Riverbend Transport, hauling commodities for grocery stores and chains like Home Hardware.
“My Dad was one of those pioneers that started out with one truck,” Peddle said. “He started out with not enough money to buy one.”
After operating under the Riverbend name for a few years, Peddle’s father discovered another company called DD Transport, known for its flatdeck operation, was in the process of dissolving. Ultimately, the senior Peddle decided to buy the company. DD and Riverbend eventually amalgamated, changing both the name and the freight type to match DD.
Because of his father’s pioneering during these years, Peddle found himself born into trucking and it quickly became his passion. By the time Peddle got involved in the business, DD was based in Clarenville, Nfld. hauling mostly lumber, construction equipment and other heavy equipment. He started out as a self-described “grease monkey,” but eventually got behind the wheel when he was old enough to have a licence. Along with his five years of driving, Peddle also had a stint doing mechanical work and even learned about dispatch.
But throughout the whole process, Peddle was learning all the financial aspects behind the business as well. It was this knowledge, coupled with Peddle’s own desire to constantly improve himself, which eventually pushed him into management.
“Sometimes I wonder if my Mom and Dad had a planned strategy or if it was just an evolution, because they did in fact show me all angles of our business – from sales to finance to mechanical to dispatch to operations,” says 42-year-old Peddle.
When Peddle began getting more involved with the company, DD had only the Clarenville location with about 12 to 14 trucks. But as business continued to expand, so did the interests of father and son, with the junior Peddle starting up a new sales office in St. John’s, Nfld. in 1997.
“It gave me a whole new responsibility and Dad could keep his responsibility,” Peddle said. “We were working in two different directions, but for the same focus and reason.”
Today, DD has expanded to include a third location in Debert, N.S. and its fleet now includes about 200 pieces of equipment and growing.
“In the last 10 years, we’ve seen some pretty good growth but DD has not stopped growing yet. I’ve not stopped growing yet; I don’t feel I’ve reached my plateau,” says Peddle.
Though there are a good number of carriers operating similar flatbed operations in Atlantic Canada, Peddle says that many years of experience coupled with financial stability have enabled the company to buy equipment when required and allow them to grow into a larger carrier. But even though DD has experienced some good growth, competition is still stiff, so Peddle says the company is constantly striving to provide its customers with something unique.
“We try to treat customers hands-on, knowing their business, with a special customer service if you will, and not get lost in the giant mix,” he says. “It’s very hands-on work, which matches us because we’re very hands-on people. We push it daily and we haven’t yet lost sight of what value there is in customers and customer service. It’s hard to get larger when you’re like that, but that’s what we enjoy doing.”
Peddle has now held a senior management position with DD for almost 10 years, and in the last two he’s taken over the company’s reigns as president and CEO. But in addition to his work with DD, Peddle also keeps himself busy serving on a number of boards, including the Canadian Trucking Alliance, the Canadian Trucking Human Resources Council and the Atlantic Provinces Trucking Association.
But Peddle credits his eight-year stint with the APTA as having the most influence on the way he does business today.
“For whatever reason, they showed up on my doorstep one day and told me all the great things about the APTA. At that time I was a sheltered young businessman in Newfoundland that didn’t know too much about trucking outside of the four corners that I was in,” Peddle admits. “So it was a grand thing for me to come to the mainland, if you will, and sit amongst carriers that I still have the utmost respect for – the Armours and the Day & Ross’ and the Midlands of the world.”
Though at one point Peddle thought he would be chewed up and spat out by the larger carriers, he credits them with helping build his confidence and growing both personally and professionally.
“As my wife can contest, whatever I do, I do with both barrels blazing. I can’t just be in an association, I’ve got to be a big part of it. I also believe that if you’re going to make changes, you’ve got to roll your sleeves up and get at it. So I guess that’s the reason why I’m the vice-chair of the APTA,” he explains.
He also credits the APTA with helping him realize the great value behind change and evolution.
“When you don’t stay on top of things, you’ll get left in the dust,” he says.
Getting left in the dust is also a constant concern for many trucking companies operating out of the East Coast, especially with more and more carriers coming into the region and saturating the market.
“The outbound freight out of Atlantic Canada is deplorable right now – it’s way down. And to add insult to injury there are new carriers coming into this field simply because nine times out of 10, we’re not able to get the inbound capacity of consumables because we’re not getting enough trucks out,” Peddle laments.
The East Coast tends to suffer from harsher weather and rougher terrain, not to mention the problems associated with a rising Canadian dollar and fuel costs. Those challenges aside, Peddle says there are still opportunities on the horizon, including the Atlantica concept that would link Eastern Canada and the US in a trading partnership.
As far as DD’s own future is concerned, the father and son team are still going strong, with Peddle’s own two sons positioned as possible heirs to the DD throne. However, Peddle knows better than to count those chickens before they’re hatched.
“I don’t want to get myself caught up in wishful thinking, because I think that can muddy up your decisions as you move forward. I take every day as it comes,” he says. “I am very proud of my industry, I am very proud of the company and I would love for my two sons to get involved in the trucking industry in one way shape or form, whatever that may be.”
And as the trucking industry continues to age and the number of new drivers continues to dwindle, Peddle acknowledges the need for an industry-wide change – a change Peddle is driving to meet head-on.
“I don’t think the solution is to bring in foreign workers. I don’t think the solution is to increase our population. I think the industry has to change. Some will accept that change and some won’t. I think those of us who continue to try to evolve and change will survive – and I hope that’s me,” Peddle says. “I’m prepared to make whatever change I need to make to be comfortable in 10 or 20 years time – whether I’m 60 trucks, 600 or back down to six, it doesn’t matter. I will stay in trucking.”
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