Star gazing

by Sonia Straface

CAMBRIDGE, Ont. — Shelley Uvanile-Hesch has a sweet new ride.

A brand new Western Star 5700 XE, specially-wrapped to embody the message she wants the world to know, is hers to keep come April 16.

Uvanile-Hesch, who has been driving trucks professionally for 17 years, is the CEO of the Women’s Trucking Federation for Canada (WTFC). And close to 18 months ago, she had a concept for a truck she thought would never be realized.

Shelley Uvanile-Hesch with her new truck, Miss Destiny Star.

“This truck was a design concept I’ve had for quite some time,” she said. “Wraps are quite expensive and we’re a non-profit, so it wasn’t really possible to do it on my own.”

One day, she explained, she mentioned the idea to a friend at Highway Western Star, her local truck dealership, and he advised her to email Kelley Platt, who was president and chief diversity and inclusion officer at Daimler Trucks North America at the time, for funding.

“So I did,” she said. “I sent her an email around December telling her what I’d like to do…and she went for it. Right off the hop. There was absolutely no hesitation on her part.”

Fast forward a few months and today Uvanile-Hesch is proudly driving around a truck that showcases the diverse members of WTFC. Uvanile-Hesch herself is featured on the truck along with other women from the industry and Federation members, including an operations manager, a public-relations specialist, and a truck technician.

“We spent a lot of time planning, back and forth in December,” she recalled. “We wanted to focus on our members. Every lady on the truck is a member of WTFC. My hope is, I can’t change the wrap on the truck every year, but these ladies will be on our promotional materials for a year, and then every year I’d like to change the ladies on the promotional materials to showcase different ladies across Canada that are part of WTFC.”

Her hopes for the new rig is that it can inspire women both inside and outside of the industry.

“What I’m trying to get across is there’s so many ladies out here in the industry,” she said. “And I want them to open up about what they do. It’s not that they’re not proud, it’s that they’re afraid of ridicule. But there is no ridicule out here in trucking. And it’s time to start sharing that with the public. Our hope is to draw more positive attention to the industry. There’s so much negative publicity for trucking as a whole, and we need to change that. And if it takes this beautiful truck to make people come out – mainstream media more than anything else – and recognize this industry has a lot of good to offer, then that’s what we’re hoping to do.”

Uvanile-Hesch said she will be bringing her new truck to industry events across the country starting on April 19 at Truck World in Toronto. She will also be bringing it to job fairs across Canada including Epic Jobs 2018 in Brantford, Ont., where more than 1,500 Grades 8 and 10 students will get to take a look at the new truck up close.

“I went last year with my old truck and there were so many girls who loved learning about the truck and the trucking industry,” she said. “I’m hoping the girls that attend this year will show even more interest now with the new truck. Last year at the same event I had 1,100 students climb up into my truck. So hopefully there’s even more excitement this time around.”

The truck will also make an appearance in British Columbia’s Truxpo, she added.

Uvanile-Hesch said none of this would have happened if it wasn’t for Sharp Transportation Systems’ president and owner Shawn Baird.

“He is phenomenal,” she said. “I think sometimes, people don’t stop to realize I attend a lot of events. The truck goes to a lot of events. And (Baird) owns a smaller company, so it’s lost revenue for him when I’m not driving and he still supports me no matter what. He’s a very big supporter of women in the industry.”

The truck, lovingly referred to by Uvanile-Hesch as “Miss Destiny Star,” was designed by Promotional Graphics Group.

“At the end of the day, I want the truck to be a symbol to stress to women in the industry how important it is as women to stick together and start promoting our industry because that’s the only way we’re going to get others interested in trucking,” she said.

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