BRIGHTON, Ont. - George Fraser is not retiring. At 73 years of age, the loss prevention, safety and compliance expert is just not ready. Certainly, most other men his age may be happy to be finished w...
LOOKING AHEAD: At 73 years of age, safety consultant George Fraser is still going strong and hasn't ruled out working into his eighties.
BRIGHTON, Ont. – George Fraser is not retiring. At 73 years of age, the loss prevention, safety and compliance expert is just not ready. Certainly, most other men his age may be happy to be finished with their careers, but Fraser says he’s just not one of those “hobby guys” content to wile away their golden years playing shuffleboard in Bermuda shorts and knee socks.
Perhaps this is not surprising coming from a former Naval officer who calls a recent bout with cancer a “little interruption.” But to truly understand Fraser and his Herculean work ethic, you need to go back to the beginning.
Fraser was born on June 15, 1934 in Alder Point, N.S. and raised in a community overrun with fishermen, farmers and coal miners. His father was a coal miner, albeit begrudgingly. (“He hated it. He hated every day he went underground,” Fraser recalls.) Fraser himself was named after an uncle who was killed in the great disaster known as Dominion No. 12 Colliery Explosion, where 65 miners died in 1917.
As a youngster, Fraser worked with his grandfather hauling logs out of the woods with horses in the winter and delivering lobsters in the summer.
Fraser left home at age 14 and went to Kingston, Ont. and joined a merchant ship, sailing around the Great Lakes and the coast for the next six years.
“The work ethic was pretty strong coming out of the Depression. If you got a job you hung on to it,” Fraser says.
Fraser got his first taste of trucking by driving “a mile or two into the bush” with officers from the Merchant Navy, even though he didn’t have his licence. Eventually, once his superiors trusted his skills, they allowed Fraser to take the truck on the highway to fuel up.
After two years on the ship, Fraser had accumulated a good sum of money (being neither a smoker nor a drinker), so he went and bought a two-tonne truck and started hauling stone and wood legally. At the ripe old age of 16, Fraser had become an owner/operator.
“That was one of my proudest moments,” he says.
The thing that drew Fraser to trucking the most was the freedom; not wanting to be restricted like he had been when he had worked in a lobster factory.
“You had to be there, whereas as soon as you loaded a load of corn starch, for example, now you’re free and you can go wherever the hell you want. You could go to the high school and visit a girlfriend if you wanted.”
Fraser continued to work both in the Navy and as an owner/operator until he was about 22. He spent 28 years total in the Royal Canadian Navy, having joined as an Ordinary Seaman and retiring as Lieutenant Commander. During his time in the Navy, he worked in Naval Intelligence, security, communication, safety and training – all vital skills that would come to help him in the trucking industry in later years.
Fraser was also often involved with sports in the Navy and organized a number of sports and recreation activities. After taking a sports course at Durham College, Fraser ultimately applied for and was accepted as the general manager of the Jeux Canada Games held in Saint John, N.B. in 1985. It was there Fraser first met Dick Oland, who in addition to being president of the Jeux Games’ volunteer board of directors and executive committee, also happened to be the president of Brookville Transport in Saint John. Impressed with Fraser’s work at the Games, Oland expressed an interest in hiring Fraser as Brookville’s chairman.
Though Fraser initially returned to Ontario, he eventually came back to the East Coast, using the skills he had picked up in the military to become Brookville’s director of safety and general manger. Upon joining, Fraser quickly realized the company needed to better follow proper rules and regulations, and quickly developed a reputation as an expert in the field.
After a few years, other companies, like AXA Boreal Insurance in London, Ont., learned of Fraser’s skills and character, and wanted to get him on-board. Fraser agreed, and worked with AXA Boreal for nearly eight years, giving loss prevention advice to “every trucking company around,” he recalls.
When Fraser turned 65, AXA Boreal told him it was company policy that he retire, but Fraser was far from ready. He decided instead to form his own company, Fraser’s Consulting Agency, where he would work as a safety consultant for fleets. For the past 14 years, Fraser has been the go-to guy for loss prevention and safety and compliance, and has also worked as the director of safety for Sharp Transportation in Cambridge, Ont. since 1999. As a consultant, Fraser provides specialization training and guidance in facility compliance audits, accident prevention and analysis, CVOR analysis, ACE/RNS, C-TPAT/FAST and CSA/FAST; and also offers seminars in transportation of dangerous goods, Hours-of-Service (US and Canadian), border crossing and FAST driver certification, fleet safety personnel training, and dispatching. Not bad for a guy who’s supposed to be retired.
But in December 2005, something happened that would threaten not only Fraser’s livelihood, but his life. Fraser went to see his family doctor that month after feeling a lump on his throat. After six months where numerous specialists were ambiguous about the lump’s malignancy, an oncologist finally used the word “cancer.”
But Fraser – who is not one to shy away from the subject of his illness – was not about to take the news lying down.
“When I first went in there I felt like I’m in my corner, waiting for the bell to ring,” he recalls. Fraser began receiving chemotherapy and radiation treatments at Princess Margaret Hospital in Toronto in June 2006, but soon after treatments began, the frightful situation was compounded when Fraser suffered a massive heart attack. Thankfully, Fraser’s general good health allowed him to bounce back and he continued receiving cancer treatments just two days after the heart attack.
But after Fraser’s doctor saw shadows in his CAT (or MRI), it was decided he would need surgery. The doctor told him the incision would be a “dimple,” but Fraser says he was split from his lower neck to his head and required 29 clamps to stitch him back up.
“That was some dimple,” he jokes. The operation and treatments were a success and Fraser is now on the mend. “It hasn’t changed my ways other than appreciating the fact that I’m alive,” he says of his illness.
Not one for traditional hobbies, work has become a hobby for Fraser who has four or five different projects currently on the go in addition to his duties with Sharp. Though a moderate slow-down is likely, Fraser intends to keep working as long as health permits, and hasn’t ruled out working into his eighties. And though Fraser admits he sometimes misses the freedom of the open road, his work as a consultant has provided him with a new and enviable kind of freedom: the ability to enjoy his retirement years doing something he loves – without ever having to retire.