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The Riddle behind a great shop

MARKHAM, Ont. - It is a fitting outcome of Jim Riddle's 30- plus year career in maintenance that he should be named Canada's Fleet Maintenance Manager of the Year at the Canadian Fleet Maintenance Sem...

MARKHAM, Ont. –It is a fitting outcome of Jim Riddle’s 30- plus year career in maintenance that he should be named Canada’s Fleet Maintenance Manager of the Year at the Canadian Fleet Maintenance Seminars.

Not just because Riddle, the current director of maintenance for Sudbury, Ont.-based William Day Construction, was one of those responsible for creating the award in the first place more than 20 years ago. Nor simply that he embodies the many characteristics attributed to him by Don Coldwell of Volvo Trucks Canada, the award’s sponsor, including pride, professionalism, dedication and a commitment to safety and education.

No, the award seems most fitting for Riddle because of his wholehearted appreciation and support of CFMS, the arena that has been home to the award for the past 22 years and to which Riddle credits much of his career’s success.

“The relationships that I built with suppliers, manufacturers, other fleet men, other people in the repair business, and all different walks of our industry, absolutely made a huge difference in all of the occupations that I have had that have lead up to what I do today,” Riddle said in an interview with Truck News.

“I see a great value to the CFMS. It is a gathering and a collection -there are no colours here, and it is meant specifically for the advancement of maintenance. That is my core; I really believe that doing it once, doing it right and being proud of what you do is parcel and part.”

The centrepiece of that system of core beliefs is for Riddle to perform his duties on a human level; to be neither dictatorial or overbearing, but to be approachable and have a sense of humour. And part of that approachability comes from his position in the shop -his literal position.

“I really have directed the maintenance shops from the shop. When I was given the job, the first thing I did was move the maintenance office into the shop, not in the general office, not because I was there to spy, but my employees recognize that I am there if they need me. I interact on the floor all day, every day,” Riddle says.

“I help them solve problems and I let them teach me. I did not learn everything I learned on my own; my men have taught me. Together, we develop our best practices and we take pride that our fleet works hard; it works 24/7. We take pride in that we have relatively few driver complaints, we have relatively few operational dispatch complaints and we have relatively few customer complaints, all of which relate to the maintenance of the equipment used.”

While Riddle’s “human” approach to managing was enough to secure him a place in the CFMS history books, he offered audiences at the awards ceremony a glimpse of his own humanity, becoming emotional when speaking of his employer in his acceptance speech.

“I have to give credit to my employer. Since I went there, I have been given absolute unbridled authority to run the maintenance department… the ability to just take care of business and not be under the thumb, not be judged, but have the total confidence. I would like (my employer) to be recognized because he told me that the last years of my career would be the best years, and I believe that,” Riddle said during his acceptance speech.

But while his impassioned speech may have compelled more than a few eyes in attendance to become teary, he has also proved he has the ability to produce a few smiles as well.

When asked what a maintenance manager does when he’s reached the pinnacle of his career, Riddle’s response?

“I obviously can’t consider retirement for at least a year because I have to bring the trophy back.”

And if he has his way, Riddle will be back, continuing his relationship with CFMS for many years to come, inspiring future generations of maintenance managers to rise to the top of their game -and perhaps one day, the top of their industry as Riddle has.

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