It has been a year of firsts since the Covid-19 pandemic landed on Canadian shores last January, and last week, the Manitoba Trucking Association (MTA) had another first – a virtual awards gala.
Srecko “Stretch” Vasik took home the Volvo Trucks Canada Manitoba Driver of the Year, an award normally presented after the Professional Truck Driving Championships, another event canceled due to Covid-19.
“When people talk about who they want their kids to grow up to be like, they would point to somebody like Stretch,” said Robin Dolyniuk, bulk manager with the Kleysen Group, who described Vasik as hardworking and energetic, with a strong work ethic.
Vasik has accumulated more than one million miles in his 19-year driving career with the Kleysen Group. He is a member of the Driver Advisor Board, Health and Safety Committee, and is a mentor to new drivers.
Vasik was chosen as the Driver of the Year from a list of MTA-Inland Industry Excellence Award winners, which included 10 drivers in total.
The remaining MTA awards are traditionally presented in person during the association’s annual awards gala in Winnipeg, Man.
But as MTA executive director Terry Shaw explains, the association was forced to make a decision regarding its annual gala.
“Not recognizing our deserving industry members was never an option,” said Shaw. “With the fantastic support of our event and award sponsors we were very happy to be able to continue recognizing those in our industry who so greatly deserve it, despite having to adjust how we approached that recognition. Thank you to all our sponsors and congratulations to all our award winners.”
This year’s MTA/Red Coleman Service to Industry Award went to John Erik Albrechtsen of Paul’s Hauling.
“I’ve known John Erik for almost 40 years,” said award sponsor Gary Coleman, “and one of the things that strikes me about him is his never-ending willingness to give back.”
There was also a new award, the Bridgestone Canada Trucking Hero Award, which was presented to Devon Olafson of Portage Transport.
Olafson helped save a collapsed colleague’s life by performing CPR until paramedics arrived.
“Watching Devon perform CPR and saving a coworker’s life, it still chokes me up,” said Bernie Driedger, president of Portage Transport. “It is amazing that we can have that kind of professionalism on our staff and I am super proud of him.”
John Mauseth of Beaver Truck Centre was the MTA/Payne Transportation Associate Trades Member of the Year.
And Bison Transport took home a pair of awards – the RPM Safety Award and MTA/Omnitracs Distinguished Member Award.
“For over 20 years, I have had the good fortune of calling Bison Transport a customer,” said Steve Atnikov, sales director for Omnitracs, “and I can’t think of a more deserving recipient.”
Also new this year was a Salute to Industry Award presented by Ocean Trailer. Normally, this is presented to pioneers in the industry, but instead recognized the dedication and sacrifice Manitoba’s trucking industry has made during the Covid-19 pandemic.
“In 2020, we all became pioneers of the trucking industry as we faced the new frontier created by Covid-19,” said Mack Keay, Winnipeg branch manager for Ocean Trailer. “We have always known that our work was essential, and this year, our work was more essential than ever.” The virtual event was held on YouTube and can be viewed here.
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