Movin’ on up

by Sonia Straface

TORONTO, Ont. — At 21 years old, Tara Whiteman had just graduated nursing school and was ready to embark on a career of tending to sick patients. However, after just two years of working as a nurse, she gave up her scrubs for a safety vest after a friend’s advice, and began driving team for Kriska Holdings.

Tara Whiteman

Twenty years later, and she hasn’t looked back.

Today, Whiteman is still working for Kriska, only now she has moved up the ranks and is the company’s safety and compliance supervisor.

Trucking is filled with stories like these – people who started out in an industry they didn’t know much about and ended up sticking around for years, proving trucking has an abundance of career paths for just about anyone. For Whiteman, her pull to become a truck driver in 1997 was that it was a career with adventure.

“At first, I thought (driving trucks professionally) was a bit off the wall,” she said. “But then I thought about it some more and thought, I’m young. I could at least try it. I hadn’t traveled much and I wasn’t tied down so I thought it was a great opportunity for me at the time.”

After two years she handed her keys in and worked on the inside where she eventually made her way into the safety department. Whiteman’s been in her current role since 2014, and in 2017 celebrated 20 years with Kriska in total.

“It’s such a rewarding career,” she said. “It’s challenging, and totally unpredictable. If you’re the type of person who doesn’t like to do the same thing day in and day out, then this industry is for you. I love this industry and I love working so close with the drivers because I know what a hard job that is to do.”

Like Whiteman, Bob McKiernan started in trucking in the ’90s.

McKiernan began at Challenger Motor Freight in Cambridge in 1992 as a truck mechanic. He worked there for a few years but after his wife got pregnant with their son, McKiernan moved back home to London to be with his family.

Eventually, in 2003 McKiernan got a job at the London Challenger facility, where he was the team lead for the midnight shift in the shop.

“I worked that shift for five or six years,” he said, “and then the day shift team lead quit and I applied for his job and got it.”

Today, McKiernan is the maintenance manager at Challenger’s London facility. And it’s a role he relishes.

“Whether you’re a mechanic on the floor or a manager like me, you are always learning and training every day,” he said. “Because trucking is changing every day and we have to make sure we can keep up. Challenger is a great place to work because they push us to have that training and encourage it. I make sure my mechanics set aside one to two hours every week so they can go on the computer and do training.”

Brooke St. Jacques started at Bison 10 years ago when she was just 23 years old as an outbound assistant.

In a short period of time, she moved to become a dispatcher, then a fleet manager, then was a team lead for the night operations. After maternity leave, St. Jacques returned as the turnpike fleet manager. Then she was the team lead for turnpike, west highway operations supervisor, and the U.S./Pacific northwest planner. Today she is the supervisor of the west highway fleet operations.

Brooke St. Jacques

St. Jacques said her moves throughout the company are the result of her wanting to better herself as a Bison employee and trucking professional.

“If you recognize yourself as someone who wants to keep learning, Bison allows you create that path for yourself,” she said. “Bison has always been accommodating for me and will never hinder someone’s desire to grow.”

Eventually, St. Jacques, now just 33 years old, says her end game is to become operations manager.

“More than growing in my career at Bison, I’ve grown as a person,” she said. “Everyone I work with, we’ve all become super close, like one big family.”
St. Jacques went to college and studied hotel and restaurant management but after getting into trucking, she found it difficult to leave after her changed perspective on the industry.

“When I first got into trucking I thought it was a man’s world. I thought it was dirty and grimy and unprofessional. I never thought about how it worked, how things got from one place to another,” she said. “But now that I’m in it, it’s so much different than what I thought it would be. It’s professional. It’s fun. It’s exciting. There’s a new challenge every single day and it’s rewarding. I get a lot of satisfaction knowing that I’m helping bringing goods to store shelves every day. I would definitely recommend any jobs in trucking to the younger generation. It’s a job where you can go home and understand your wins for the day. And I think that’s something that everyone wants.”

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