IRISHTOWN, New Brunswick — You’d be hard-pressed to find a busier woman than Jo-Anne Phillips.
Phillips is a New Brunswick-based entrepreneur, who runs a number of successful businesses with her husband, Dan Boudreau. Most notably, they own Jeramand Trucking, a 22-truck fleet with 27 drivers on its roster.
They also own a construction business, and a chrome and detailing shop – the only chrome shop east of Quebec. On her own, Phillips owns a fitness and wellness business called Tozai Synergy.
On top of all of that, Phillips, a Manitoba native, is a known face in the trucking world as she is part of the Canadian Image Team for Women in Trucking (WIT). She is also credited with organizing and developing the Convoy for Hope – Atlantic, raising awareness for breast, colorectal, lung, and prostate cancer. So far, the convoy has raised close to $300,000 for the cause in Atlantic Canada. And she sits on the advisory board for Prostate Cancer Canada (PCC), Atlantic Division.
Most recently, Phillips was named WIT’s member of the month.
Phillips got her start in trucking when she was just 19 years old. And like many in the industry, she broke into trucking because of her father. Family friends of hers, who owned concession stands across Canada, needed someone to drive truck for them, as someone who was pursuing the job couldn’t seem to get his licence.
“My father made a comment to him saying, ‘Joanne could do that with her eyes closed’,” she recalls. “And the friend said, ‘If she can get her Class 1 licence and travel with us, we’ll give her a portion of the business.’”
So that weekend, Phillips and her father practiced in a truck and that Monday morning she passed her Class 1.
“So, I traveled across Canada and learned a lot that year,” she said.
From there, Phillips transitioned into the crude oil pipeline industry in Western Canada driving truck and instructing other up-and-coming drivers – which afforded her a lot of income in a short period of time – something she desperately needed as she was a bobsled athlete for Team Canada.
During all of this, she earned a degree in kinesiology and exercise physiology from the University of Calgary, and a Bachelor of Science, dietetics, nutrition degree from the University of British Columbia.
Eventually, in 2006 she moved to Atlantic Canada with her fitness business, consulting and working with fitness clubs, where she met her now-husband and they started seeing each other. Today, they own a multitude of businesses together that are flourishing better than they could have imagined.
“We are very proud of our businesses,” Phillips told Truck News. “We feel incredibly blessed to work with the teams that we built in these businesses. Everyone is so reliable and dependable.”
Phillips said Jeramand is one of the rare trucking companies that boasts a very low turnover rate.
“I think the turnover rate is so low because our drivers get the best of both worlds,” she said. “Because we broker with big companies, our drivers get the feeling of security that they would with a larger fleet. But they also get that warm, fuzzy feeling of working for a small, intimate company. We really do treat our team like we work for them, and that bodes well. We remind them that when they’re driving at 1 a.m., 2 a.m., 3 a.m., we’re also working, and we’re here to help them at any time of the day or night. And they really appreciate and respect that.”
Lucky for her, Phillips’ other businesses blend well with trucking. Her chrome and detailing shop – called Never Enuf Chrome & Detailing – flourished thanks to the strong roots Phillips and her husband built in Atlantic Canada.
It also helps that Jeramand trucks advertise the business by having clean, attractive trucks on the road.
Tozai Synergy, the wellness business Phillips owns also lends well to trucking. For Tozai, Phillips works with independent practitioners, chiropractors, massage therapists, and naturopaths helping to develop wellness programs, and do motivational speaking and coaching.
“This fits into trucking too because we’re finally seeing drivers and others in trucking take accountability for their own health, which is really exciting to see,” she said.
And while she is passionate about the businesses she works for, she is just as enthusiastic for the volunteer groups she is a part of.
Prostate Cancer Canada and the Convoy For Hope – Atlantic holds a special place in Phillips’ heart, as her husband was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2014. Thankfully, the cancer was detected early enough, and he is now cancer-free.
“With prostate cancer, it’s 100% treatable if it’s caught early,” Phillips said. “But unfortunately, we are still losing too many men to this. And it’s because if men are talking about anything below the belt, they’re usually lying or bragging. They don’t like to go to the doctor, like most women do.”
She advocates for men to have their PSA (Prostate-specific antigen) test done, and for them to pay attention to those numbers.
As well, she is vocal about having more women in trucking, not only to help bridge the gap for the need of drivers, but to better the industry.
“Women in Trucking has been a great organization to be affiliated with,” she said. “Not only do they support and lobby for the trucking industry as a whole, but the focus on involving more women is brilliant. It has been a male-dominated industry for so long, and I think we’ve really missed out on not targeting getting more women into trucking earlier. There are so many reasons why women impact the health of an organization and an industry.
Research shows there’s improvement in productivity and innovation when there’s both and men and women in a workplace. (Having more women in the workplace) also reduces staff turnover, which is one of trucking’s top concerns right now, since it has one of the highest turnover rates in any industry. Women tend to be more empathetic and we do have a greater willingness to help and to improve communication, which is good news for any business.”
Ultimately, Phillips’ end game is to keep inspiring and encouraging more women to give trucking a try.
“Trucking is the pulse of our nation,” she said.
“It’s why we have access to water, access to electricity, it’s why we can move our vehicles and buy fresh produce. Trucking is an amazing industry and such a special community.”
Sonia Straface is the associate editor of Truck News and Truck West magazines. She graduated from Ryerson University's journalism program in 2013 and enjoys writing about health and wellness and HR issues surrounding the transportation industry. Follow her on Twitter: @SoniaStraface. All posts by Sonia Straface