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Ryder fleet exec named Maintenance Manager of the Year

TORONTO, Ont. - It was business as usual by 3 p. m. on May 29 for Dan Cushing, director of maintenance for Ryder Canada, who found him- self sitting at his desk in Mississauga, prepping for a meeting ...

TORONTO, Ont. –It was business as usual by 3 p. m. on May 29 for Dan Cushing, director of maintenance for Ryder Canada, who found him- self sitting at his desk in Mississauga, prepping for a meeting after one heckuva whirlwind afternoon. Not two hours before, Cushing had become the 20th recipient of Volvo’s Canadian Fleet Maintenance Manager of the Year award, one of the most coveted awards in the field.

After being swept away by trade media for pictures and interviews and shaking hand after hand in congratulations, Cushing hopped into his black pick-up and was on his way back to work. No beers with the guys from the shop. No long weekend taken to celebrate. No, any celebration Cushing had planned would have to wait until after hours, when the job was done.

Cushing was presented with the award during the Canadian Fleet Maintenance Seminar.

Just before Ryder’s director of maintenance learned of his win, Don Coldwell of Volvo Trucks Canada read off a list of Cushing’s accolades, saying he was “well-respected by his peers in the industry” and that “his knowledge has both breadth and depth.”

“While preparing for tonight’s presentation, in speaking to associates of the individual, one word came up over and over, and that word is passion,” Coldwell said. “This gentleman has a sincere passion for his profession. And the passion is truly demonstrated by his actions.”

An initially speechless Cushing, who was “a little in shock” at the announcement, said he was “honoured” to receive the award, and thanked a variety of people during his speech, including members of the Automotive Transportation Service Superintendent Association (ATSSA),CFMS members, his wife, his co-workers, and his students, two of whom were in attendance.

“It’s very nice (to win),”the father of two later told Truck West. “You know, all you want is a thank-you from people that know you for what you do and I do give a lot extra and I give it every day.”

Cushing was surprised to find his wife, Audrey, in attendance, and gave a comical “Hi Audrey” when he spotted her during his acceptance speech. His wife had been alerted to Cushing’s win several days before the actual event, but Cushing didn’t take heed of her subtle fashion tip.

“When I left the other night, she said, ‘Don’t you need to take a tie and a shirt and all that?’ And I said, ‘Nah, not this year. It’s usually in the cooler weather.’ We used to have this event in April,” said a tie-less Cushing shortly after his win.

As winner of the award, Cushing receives a sapphire ring, plaque, a paid trip to a Volvo assembly plant, and also has his name added to the large glass trophy that sports the names of all past winners.

Cushing has been employed by Ryder for 28 years, but has been in the industry for more than 36 years. During that time, Cushing has held a variety of production and management positions, having been most recently promoted to director of maintenance.

Cushing is responsible for all aspects of commercial vehicle maintenance activity at 42 Ryder facilities across Canada, with a fleet that consists of 7,000 Class 8 straight trucks, 4,200 Class 8 tractors, and 3,500 trailers.

Cushing is responsible for a staggering 550 maintenance employees, 380 licensed technicians and 70 apprentice technicians. With Cushing overseeing the process, Ryder offers a variety of training programs including ones that focus on preventive maintenance; air conditioning; OAP certification; OEM-specific training; brake, air and hydraulic systems; and suspensions and drivetrains.

Vic Wintjes of V. W. Transcon Services, who nominated Cushing for the award, says Cushing has been “instrumental” in the development of the Toronto District School Board CITI Motive Power co-op program.

Cushing has also served on the Ministry of Education’s industry advisory committee for the truck and coach apprenticeship program, is currently serving as chairman of education and training for the Toronto chapter of the ATSSA, and is an active member of the Ontario Trucking Association (OTA) member council.

The word “passion” came up again in Wintjes’s nomination letter when talking about Cushing’s enthusiasm for promoting the skilled trade of commercial vehicle mechanic, through his involvement with schools, training institutes, and job fair days across the country.

As part of this work, Cushing has spent a great deal of time counselling students and parents on the merits of a career in maintenance and has organized student tours of shops and manufacturing plants in an effort to recruit new apprentices into the industry.

“I like passing on our information to younger people,” Cushing told Truck West, but he is quick to deflect credit for his success to his boss, who Cushing says gives him a lot of latitude when working with students. “He wants us to work with the schools. He wants us to support coop programs, job shadow programs, summer jobs, anywhere we can help out young people get started on their careers.”

Cushing says that one of the best practices a maintenance manager can follow is properly training his employees. “I try to look at all my employees and say,’Could they sit in my chair next week or next year?’ That’s what I have to do.”

In addition to training, Cushing says that knowing your customer is key to being successful in the field. “You’ve got to know your customer, what he wants, what his hot buttons are, and that way you can deliver.”

But Cushing says that the number one issue that both he and Ryder take to task is vehicle safety.

“Our company drives safety, so it’s up to us guys in the shop, or myself, I guess, to start with and get it filtered down, to deliver a safe truck on the road. We are very concerned about that at all times,” he says. “I know when our trucks are overdue or are coming up for their inspections, and we have systems that trigger that this truck is overdue, and I’m on the phone with those guys. There’s just zero tolerance.”

But Cushing says that in order to take home the Canadian Fleet Maintenance Manager of the Year award, a great deal of dedication is required.

“I enjoy the trade and I enjoy some of the things that we accomplish,” he says. “But you’ve got to have drive every day. You’ve got to keep pushing on the things that you believe in.”

And that should be no problem for a guy who wins the biggest award in his field and runs right back to the office. I guess when the Volvo’s Coldwell referred to Cushing as “passionate” about his job, he wasn’t just padding the guy’s ego. Cushing was for real.

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