Tops in the Shop

by Adam Ledlow

TORONTO, Ont. – A “totally overwhelmed” Richard Sharpe of MacKinnon Transport captured the coveted title of Volvo Canadian Fleet Maintenance Manager of the Year at the 44th Canadian Fleet Maintenance Seminar (CFMS) surrounded by his family. The award was presented during CFMS’s closing lunch at the Doubletree International Plaza Hotel May 30.

“I am absolutely surprised,” Sharpe said. “Neither MacKinnon Transport or my family led on that this was happening, so when I saw those people in attendance at the last second it blew me away.”

The winners of the prestigious award are chosen by their peers based on a group of criteria including maintenance and safety, staff supervision and driver training.

“I am personally very familiar with the Canadian Fleet Maintenance Manager Award and the high level of national recognition associated with the award,” wrote Evan MacKinnon, president and CEO of MacKinnon Transport in Sharpe’s nomination letter. “I am absolutely confident that Richard would exemplify the quality of individual worthy of the prestigious recognition.”

MacKinnon was on-hand, as were Sharpe’s wife and his children, as an emotional and surprised Sharpe accepted his honour. “I’m humbled to be amongst my peers and receive an award like this. It’s so overwhelming,” Sharpe later told Truck News.

Sharpe, who has been serving the industry for 30 years, began his tenure with MacKinnon Jan. 1, 2005 as maintenance manager until he was promoted to vice-president of fleet services. In his current position, Sharpe is responsible for all aspects of fleet maintenance, including asset management of over $13 million of company-owned fleet equipment (including 770 pieces of equipment) and responsibility for all company-operated facilities, which include the main terminal and repair facility as well as all warehouse locations. All aspects of safety and compliance, as well as driver recruitment also fall under Sharpe’s supervision.

Training also plays a key part for MacKinnon’s maintenance staff and technicians, as Sharpe organizes or oversees truck manufacturers’ training, OEM manufacturers’ training, in-house training, and apprenticeship training, in addition to other mandatory training.

Sharpe has also been involved with the industry’s recently minted apprenticeship program. MacKinnon has been an integral part of the creation and shaping of the new program, and Sharpe has been involved as an appointed member of the Industry Advisory Committee to the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities as a truck and coach technician. As part of the committee, Sharpe works to present ideas for program initiatives and develop recommendations for the Minister regarding the curriculum, process and application of apprentices.

MacKinnon itself has initiated a variety of programs and projects under Sharpe’s watch, and already in his short time with the company Sharpe has been lauded for his “attention to detail, his exceptional analytical ability and his intimate knowledge of the transportation industry.”

“Through his strong leadership, our overall maintenance costs have been reduced by his implementation of standard operating procedures that have improved the shop’s productivity while reducing our parts inventory,” wrote Greg Coughlin, MacKinnon’s vice-president of sales and marketing, in a letter of support for Sharpe’s nomination. “While working closely with the operations department, he has been able to increase the equipment availability and reduce our emergency and on-road repairs, which has resulted in an increase in our on-time pick-up and delivery package. In conjunction with our safety and driver training department, Richard has been instrumental in implementing changes in our systems and our driver’s daily work habits which have increased our fuel economy by reducing idle time and (increasing) the driver’s cruise control usage. During my 25-plus years in this industry, I have never dealt with a maintenance manager whose overall understanding of the industry is so diverse.”

But when asking Sharpe how he believes he achieved the honour of being named maintenance’s top man, he is quick to deflect any praise away from himself.

“I couldn’t tell you what went through the judges’ minds,” he said, humbly. “Ultimately I’ve got to give credit to MacKinnon Transport for preparing the nomination. I know that they’ve put a lot of effort and detail into it, obviously. This award is a by-product of their hard work as much as anything else. If they don’t support me, we don’t accomplish it. I truly, truly see this as a company award, not an individual award.”

Despite Sharpe’s modesty, his own efforts and his strong work ethic are apparent to everyone around him and even surface during his downtime – if you can call it that. True to his Scottish roots, Sharpe and his wife Catherine operate a 100-acre farm with 300 head of sheep and Sharpe is also an active member of the Clan Stuart Society, which works to promote Celtic culture, the Gaelic language, Celtic music and history.

You might even see Sharpe tossing a caber or two at an upcoming Highland Games event, where he has been active in the caber and Braemar Stone activities for a number of years. In addition to cabers, Sharpe has also been tossing a baseball around since he was six, but recently hung up his cleats to coach his own team, the Caledonia Cubs.

But now having achieved the highest honour in any Canadian maintenance manager’s life, Sharpe is nowhere near close to hanging anything else up just yet. If anything, Sharpe says the award will make him push himself even harder.

“I think the challenge now is to prove this every day to people, truthfully, to walk the walk. It’s a great reward, a great honour, but we have to earn that every day. You’re only as good as your last game so you’ve got to look for another game.”

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