With wildly fluctuating fuel costs, rising insurance premiums and low pay rates constantly plaguing Canadian owner/operators, I often have to ask - Why?Why bother owning your own truck and being burde...
With wildly fluctuating fuel costs, rising insurance premiums and low pay rates constantly plaguing Canadian owner/operators, I often have to ask – Why?
Why bother owning your own truck and being burdened with these ever-present issues when you could just hop behind the wheel of someone else’s truck, and quite often bring home a comparable paycheck when all is said and done?
I’ve come to learn it boils down to pride. Pride of ownership, pride of having more control over your bottom line and the pride that comes with being your own boss – to one extent or another.
It’s been said at times that this once proud industry is seriously lacking that element of pride that was once so prevalent. However, if you look hard enough, it’s not difficult to find it, sometimes in the most unlikely of places.
A case in point was hammered home when I visited Freightliner’s Portland Truck Plant earlier this month, where production of Western Star trucks recently began. Knowing a bit about the sense of pride most Canadian Star owners take in their ‘built-in-my-backyard’ rigs, I was admittedly concerned this may be lost in the transition.
However, having spent a day touring the facility and seeing Western Star’s transplanted workers in action, I now know the sense of pride associated with this unique truck won’t be dampened by the move.
About 80 people from the Kelowna plant uprooted their families and relocated to Portland, rather than face the prospect of giving up their passion for building Western Star trucks. The total number of Kelowna-based employees who offered to move exceeded Freightliner LLC’s expectations.
Sadly, however, there are a number of workers lost in the shuffle. Assembly line workers are not eligible for U.S. working visas, meaning the majority of employees from the Kelowna plant are still out of a job. While it would be somewhat understandable for these individuals to hold a grudge against the company responsible for this life-altering decision to move Western Star production to Portland, that hasn’t been the case. There’s been little resentment towards the company, only a burning desire to see this proud nameplate survive the current downturn in the market and thrive.
Remarkably, about 16 Kelowna-based assembly line workers are temporarily in Portland to train their replacements – with no guarantee of a job to return home to. And Carsten Reinhardt, plant manager of the Portland Truck Plant, says they’re doing it without any sense of self-pity or animosity.
While they’ll be out of work within months, they are committed to passing on their unmatched experience to ensure the quality of the Western Star brand isn’t compromised by the move.
In fact, when Reinhardt stood in front of the 700 Western Star employees who called Kelowna home and announced the impending move, he says he was overwhelmed by the reaction.
One worker stood up and vowed: “We’ll build top-quality trucks until the very last one goes out that door.”
For those 80 or so (mostly managers and engineers) who did relocate, the decision to do so speaks volumes of their pride in the product they call their own.
Most of them have settled within a few blocks of each other in Vancouver, Wash. – or Kelowna South as it’s now known to them. For many people, the closure of the Western Star assembly plant in Kelowna was a sad occasion. However, it’s comforting the Western Star pride wasn’t forgotten behind in the move.