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OTA rewards industry’s finest folks;

TORONTO, Ont. - The Ontario Trucking Association's 81st annual convention was once again a platform for rewarding the trucking industry's top figures -from driver to dispatcher to executive.

LIFE-SAVER: Tim Ferguson's quick thinking and driving skills helped prevent a fatality.
LIFE-SAVER: Tim Ferguson's quick thinking and driving skills helped prevent a fatality.

TORONTO, Ont. –The Ontario Trucking Association’s 81st annual convention was once again a platform for rewarding the trucking industry’s top figures -from driver to dispatcher to executive.

Driver of the Year

Jeffrey MacLean, a driver with SLH Transport in Vaughan, was named the 2007 OTA/Volvo Trucks Canada Driver of the Year at the event. MacLean has driven two million collision- free kilometres during a career that has spanned 35 years on the road.

Each year the award goes to a professional transport driver who has a collision-free driving record and is an exemplary truck driver both on and off the road. A keepsake trophy, cash prize and a trip to the OTA convention were all part of the award. MacLean is an active participant in truck driving championships, having earned an astounding 10 first-place finishes at provincial competitions.

At the 2006 National Truck Driving Championships he was presented with the Grand Champion trophy. He also served as media spokesperson at both national and provincial level competitions.

MacLean has also been recognized for safe driving with awards from the Transportation Health and Safety Association of Ontario (THSAO). He is also committed to the Fuel Economy Challenge, a program designed to promote excellence in saving fuel through the use of good driving habits. The program rewards fuel savings earned as a result of skilled use of progressive shifting, proper speed management and gentle acceleration and stops.

“Jeff is vigilant in protecting the well-being of the motoring public through his defensive driving techniques,” says Gord Gillespie, president of SLH Transport. “He has a strong, professional work ethic and is a great ambassador not only for SLH, but our entire industry. His knowledge, skills and experience are second to none and we are extremely proud of his accomplishments over his 35 year career on our team. We congratulate Jeff on this achievement, and wish him continued success in the years ahead.”

Bridgestone Firestone Truck Hero

Tim Ferguson, who drives for the Guelph-based Mackinnon Transport, saved one, if not many lives with his bravery, quick-thinking and compassion which helped earn him the 2007 Bridgestone Firestone Canadian Truck Hero award.

In recognition of his achievement, Bridgestone Firestone Canada (BFCA) presented Ferguson with a $3,000 cheque and a commemorative trophy at the OTA convention. Bridgestone Firestone will also donate $3,000 to a charity of Ferguson’s choice.

When nearing an overpass southbound on Highway 400 near Barrie last February, Ferguson reacted swiftly as a pedestrian, in an attempted suicide (according to police reports), suddenly ran out into the lane in which he was travelling. Ferguson braked and brought his truck to a stop on the shoulder of the highway, in front of the pedestrian. He then led the distraught individual to the safety of his truck, but the person promptly jumped out and headed back toward the highway.

As the pedestrian tried to jump in front of oncoming traffic, Ferguson bravely gave chase across the lanes, tried to motion for cars to stop, and finally caught and calmed down the individual before getting the person back to the truck. According to the police report, Ferguson’s actions and driving skills prevented this incident from becoming a fatal motor vehicle accident.

“A hero, by definition, is a person who commits a remarkable act of bravery, displays courage or strength of character,” said David Scheklesky, general manager, commercial truck tires, for BFCA. “Tim Ferguson certainly fits this description. His professionalism, compassion, and complete unselfishness at a time of crisis were truly extraordinary. He is a most worthy recipient of our Truck Hero Award.”

Service to the Industry award

Doug Smith, founder of Manitoulin Group and a true trucking pioneer, was recognized as the latest recipient of the OTA-Trailmobile Service to the Industry Award at the convention. The OTA claims the award is the highest honour bestowed on an Ontario trucking executive and is presented each year to an individual who has made an outstanding contribution to the development and success of the trucking industry.

Smith grew the company over 50 years through strategic acquisitions and lane expansions. The company now operates more than 60 terminals throughout Canada.

Smith, however, has always operated the head office from the small town of Gore Bay on Manitoulin Island. Smith has grown the company from a single truck which operated for the family business Smith’s Wholesale beginning in 1957. The truck was used to transport food products from the Ontario Food Terminal in Toronto to the Manitoulin Island region. In 1960, Smith had sold the food wholesale company and purchased Hill’s Transport, renaming the company Manitoulin Transport.

As owner of a fledgling company, Smith was responsible for loading the trucks with furniture, driving them and also maintaining them. He quickly gained a reputation as an innovator, and became known for his use of “Supertrucks” -cabover tractors with a 13-ft dromedary box. The box allowed him to transport temperature-controlled freight to Northern Ontario while also pulling a stake and rack trailer. He could also haul heavy products such as lumber and steel south with the unique configuration.

Smith was ahead of his time when it came to achieving good fuel mileage, governing his trucks at 90 km/h in the early 1980s. As part of the award, he received a charcoal portrait of himself.

Dispatcher of the Year

Dan Risebrough of Tandet Dedicated was also honoured at the convention as the 2007 OTA/Shaw Tracking Dispatcher of the Year.

The annual award goes to a dispatcher who demonstrates an outstanding commitment to customer service, safety, driver well-being, courtesy, teamwork, problem-solving and community work. This year’s winner has been with Tandet for 18 years, 11 as dispatcher.

He is responsible for dispatching loads for more than 100 drivers who operate across North America. Risebrough is a former professional driver, an experience which has helped him in his role as dispatcher, he said. Risebrough took home a plaque and a cash reward.

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