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My first 25 years in trucking

I recently celebrated my 25th anniversary of joining the trucking industry. Over that time, I have had the opportunity to learn from some of the greatest entrepreneurs and business leaders this countr...

I recently celebrated my 25th anniversary of joining the trucking industry. Over that time, I have had the opportunity to learn from some of the greatest entrepreneurs and business leaders this country has ever produced.

I will be forever grateful to those industry leaders -some of whom like Doug Smith, George Hendrie and John Kennedy are no longer with us -who took a chance on a very young guy at the time to lead the association they had built.

That is not to say that the job doesn’t come with its frustrations. Dealing with government and sometimes with the conflicts within our large and fragmented industry can be trying. Far and away though, it continues to be a terrific experience and I cannot imagine doing anything else.

The success of any organization is a reflection of its people. As the ‘boss,’ I tend to be the most well-known of the association staff and end up the recipient of a lot of the recognition that has come our way. However, one person does not an organization make.

Over the years, I have been blessed by an amazingly dedicated, hard-working and talented team of individuals who deserve a lot of credit. They have in equal measure supported me, put up with my idiosyncrasies, inspired me, made me laugh, brought me up short when I needed it, and done a great job.

Most of them have been with me, and therefore have been working on behalf of the industry, for years. My wingman is senior v.p., Stephen Laskowski. Steve is the number two in charge at both CTA and OTA. But, he is more than that. Steve has proven himself over the past 16 years as a tireless fighter for the industry and a great leader in his own right. He is one of those rare finds and we are lucky to have him.

The rest of the management team is also made up of exceptional individuals. After me, our longest serving employees are v.p. of finance and membership, Joanne Benac (24 years) and my executive assistant, Jackie Dobrowolski (23 years).

Joanne was my first hire. Her job was to operate our first PC, believe it or not. Today, Joanne is doing the job that at least three people used to do -managing the accounting for both CTA and OTA, overseeing our commercial products and services, managing our membership administration and running our convention.

Jackie, more than anyone in the office, puts up with my personal foibles, is always watching my back, making sure I am where I am supposed to be, and competently and professionally dealing with everyone she comes into contact with.

There is no-one better at the game of politics than Doug Switzer, v.p. public affairs (12 years). Doug has an uncanny ability to be able to work with all sides on an issue, regardless of political stripe and to communicate our concerns directly to politicians in a language they understand. That is no easy feat.

Ron Lennox, vice-president who came over from Transport Canada a decade ago, and now holds down the fort at CTA’s office in Ottawa, is the quintessential “steady Eddie.” He’s methodical, unflappable and entirely dependable. He is CTA’s point man on security, tax and labour issues.

A couple of relative newbies round out our policy team. Geoffrey Wood, v.p. operations and safety (seven years), is a “truck wonk.” Whether its weights and dimensions issues or safety regulations like hours-of-service or EOBRs, Geoff is our man.

Jennifer Fox, v.p. Customs, (four years) is as her title suggests our resident Customs expert. In this day and age, that is such an important area of interest for the industry, we are fortunate to have someone of Jennifer’s ability and background representing us on those issues.

Our maintenance and technical advisor, Rolf Vanderzwaag (14 years) brings a vast technical knowledge to the mix. But, Rolf is also one of the most entrepreneurial people you will ever meet, which has enabled us to bring many new products and services to the industry.

Of course, keeping things running on a daily basis requires a dedicated group of unsung heroes. Rodney Fowler, v.p. information systems (12 years) maintains our computer and communications systems, which often means working off hours and dealing with multiple demands from us non-technical types.

We have the best group of administrative assistants you will find anywhere. Melanie Kowdrysh (16 years), Yvonne McCauley (15 years) and Karen McDowell (12 years) backstop the entire workflow. Christa Joseph (16 years) does an extraordinary job collecting our accounts receivables -one of the most important jobs in any business. Esperenza Tome (16 years) handles our commercial products sales, which has become an essential part of our financial underpinning. Last but not least, our newest hire, Deanna Pagnan, is quickly blossoming as a communications professional and brings a youthful presence to the staff, which includes developing, for example, our social networking strategy (something those of us of a certain age simply can’t understand).

I am greatly indebted to each of these fine people. Without them, I would not have survived and thrived for 25 years and the industry would I think be the worse for it. Thanks guys.

-David Bradley is president of the Ontario Trucking Association and chief executive officer of the Canadian Trucking Alliance.

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2 Comments » for My first 25 years in trucking
  1. Lakyn heighway says:

    I get the feeling that this driver loves what he does and he will not change a thing. I hope that I will have the same experance as him

  2. bill penner says:

    Is it a violation of a driver’s human rights if a shipper detains him for several hours,takes his keys and denies him access to washroom facilities. This is really ticking me off because it happens a lot. This would never fly in any other work place. Why us?

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