SALABERRY-DE-VALLEYFIELD, Que. — Sitting at the boss’s end of the table in a glassed-in conference room, Andreea Crisan fields my questions about her aspirations for the trucking industry. “Whether we like it or not, the industry is not a cool place. There is a lot of room for improvement,” she says. Crisan is passionate about helping to make the industry a better place.
Executive vice-president of Salaberry-de-Valleyfield, Que.-based Andy Transport, the 66th ranked Canadian carrier by size this year, Crisan grew up immersed in the company her father and company president, Ilie Crisan started in 2001.
She helped paint her dad’s first tractor and did the payroll for a second driver as a pre-teen. “As the company grew, my tasks diversified and became more complex; for example, logbooks, safety, customs clearance, dispatch and customer service,” Crisan says.
While in university, and even during her stint with a law firm in Shanghai, she did even more complex work for the company, such as writing and reviewing contracts, branding, Web site work, policies, procedures and forms, and bidding on projects. She received her law degree in 2012, and that year she committed full-time to Andy, her namesake.
“It was really (at Andy Transport) that I felt that I got my calling. Here I feel that everything is for my company. This is the one business I wanted to see expand. I have a love of the industry, a belief in the company. The opportunity I have here to be part of the growth and decision making – it’s very rare for someone my age,” Crisan says.
Crisan is the public face of a fleet numbering 250 tractors, 400-plus trailers and a handful of flatbeds; her dad prefers working in the background. Her internal responsibilities include operations, legal, safety, marketing, strategic decision-making (of which she is in charge) and IT.
Four trucking industry topics particularly interest her: women, entry-level drivers, regulations, and law enforcement. She acknowledges without hesitation that she wants to be an advocate for women. “I want to create awareness. I’m interested in participating at roundtables. I want to be an inspiration to younger women in general.”
She is active with the Women in Business Association (Quebec Charter) and has hosted a class of women from Option Ressource Travail, a Valleyfield organization that helps women get into male-dominated industries.
“I talked about the industry and how it works. One of our women drivers spoke with them. I gave them a tour,” she says. “I do think it is important to let women know that the industry exists and that it is open to welcoming women.”
On the one hand, she sees progress. “I think that in Canada we are starting to see the first steps towards making the industry more women-friendly,” she says.
That is certainly the case at Andy, where women are a majority in operations, represent half of the safety team and run IT. The company currently has just a couple of female drivers. It is working to change that by, for example, recruiting drivers’ wives, with some success. “We are creating the awareness. It is an option,” Crisan says.
“There are certain things we can do, such as with the equipment we buy; for example, comfortable and adjustable seats, and more adjustable seatbelts. We try to accommodate our women drivers by giving them easier routes, routes so that they can get home more often,” she notes.
“We are still in the early stages of seeing women in all ranks of trucking,” Crisan adds. “Companies need to set up the framework to deal with sexual harassment and aggressiveness.” As for the road experience, she spent her high school summers crisscrossing the continent with her dad, and knows the scene.
“To be honest it is not all that attractive for women to be part of it,” she observes. “It is getting better at some truck stops, cleaner, more lighting, but challenges include showers, safety and parking availability. There are more improvements to be made, like gyms, healthier food, and hotel rooms. People have higher expectations now.”
Working conditions are important to all entry-level people. Two years ago Andy signed up with IdleAir, a Knoxville, Tenn. company that connects truck cabs to electricity, air-conditioning, satellite TV and the Internet.
“The engine can be left off. The driver can relax and sleep better at night,” Crisan says.
Layover hotels and rebates for memberships in fitness clubs like Énergie Cardio and GoodLife Fitness, some of which are next to truck stops, are other ways Andy makes drivers’ lives more pleasant.
On the topic of wages, she says, “Drivers play a crucial role in the economy, but their wages are disproportionate to the risks and working conditions. Look at any job when an employee makes a mistake. The consequences are very different than when a driver makes a mistake. The consequences can be a high fine that is out of proportion to the offense. You take someone in an office or in another industry – it is very rare to touch an employee’s pocket or image. I just feel like everyone is breathing on the drivers. From regulators, shippers, law enforcement…some are looking down (on us). If the industry had a better image, that would solve some of its concerns.”
Crisan’s interest in regulations follows naturally from her legal training. However, she makes a curious observation: “In law school I did not have one optional or mandatory course in transportation law. It is the same in other programs. By introducing transportation early in the education system, it would create awareness and curiosity about entering the system. We have to create more awareness.”
And then there is law enforcement. Crisan would like to speak to regulatory bodies and enforcement agencies about trucking.
“The feedback I get from most drivers is that two camps have been created and that there is little cooperation between the two. Some officers can be really harsh toward drivers, and not show respect,” she observes.
Here again she has first-hand knowledge, having once suffered a traumatizing experience at the hands of police on a run with her dad in the US.
“We should all focus on the common goal of promoting road safety and security, while making sure that everyone is treated with respect,” she says.
Crisan is carefully choosing paths into positions where she can exert an influence.
“I am ambitious and opinionated. I know what my values are. I am very picky about what organizations I join. They really have to fit.”
At 25 years old, she acknowledges that she might not be quite ready to join a club of the more established women in the trucking industry, so I suggested she start her own.
She smiled her enigmatic smile and replied, “With whom? It would be just me.”