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Safe driving, heroism and leadership celebrated at OTA convention

TORONTO, Ont. -- Leading executives from the Ontario trucking industry gathered at the Ontario Trucking Association (OTA) convention here today, but it was the actions of a couple of drivers that drew some of the biggest applauses.

TORONTO, Ont. — Leading executives from the Ontario trucking industry gathered at the Ontario Trucking Association (OTA) convention here today, but it was the actions of a couple of drivers that drew some of the biggest applauses.

Driver of the Year

Robert Hulme was honoured as both the Ontario and Canadian Driver of the Year, having racked up more than three million accident-free kilometres over his 37-year career.

The SLH driver was on-hand with wife Christine and children Kevin, Lori and Trevor, yet unaware that he was receiving the national award. Brent Weary, regional vice-president, sales and marketing with Volvo Trucks Canada, presented the award.

Hulme hauls Sears merchandise between Sudbury, Sault Ste. Marie and Manitoulin Island and many of his three-million kilometres have been run on city streets.

In addition to his years of safe driving, Hulme was awarded for possibly saving several lives when his co-driver suffered a medical emergency near Elliot Lake last year. Hulme noticed the driver was in distress, pulled the spike and steered the truck away from oncoming traffic before driving his partner to the hospital.

Hulme, 60, also has earned a reputation for happily offloading his own freight, whether it be sofa pillows or refrigerators.

“Just like the mailman, Bob is an SLH-man who delivers his merchandise through rain, snow, sleet, and freezing rain,” says Don Gray, SLH’s safety coordinator and driver trainer. “As long as the roads aren’t closed you’ll find Bob making sure customers’ orders are delivered.”

Sylvain Moffatt, SLH regional manager, added: “Bob is certainly one of the most skilled and safest drivers to drive for SLH – no small feat considering the often harsh driving conditions in Northern Ontario. Bob takes great pride in the work he does and he’s a true ambassador for SLH and the trucking industry.”

Canadian Truck Hero

Another driver honoured at the OTA convention was Darryn Belanger of Kriska Transport, who was awarded for his heroics on three separate occasions.

Most notably, Belanger was recognized for coming to the rescue of another Kriska driver, who flipped his rig avoiding a collision with another motorist who had lost control of his car.

The accident last July on Hwy. 401 saw Kriska driver James Monaghan trapped in his cab with diesel fuel leaking onto the pavement and catching fire. Belanger helped free Monaghan from the wreckage, while extinguishing some of the flames. Belanger then stayed with Monaghan until help arrived while also keeping other motorists safe as they arrived on the scene.

“The adrenaline was pumping and I just focused on the task on hand – getting James out of the truck no matter what,” Belanger recalled. 

On another occasion, Belanger helped a pair of women whose car had spun into a ditch during a snowstorm in Woodstock, Ont. He even pulled their vehicle out of the ditch with a set of chains he was carrying.

And another time, Belanger witnessed an accident and pulled over his truck to ensure everyone was alright.

“Darryn is a model professional as evidenced by his selfless act of bravery and kindness,” said Mark Seymour, president of Kriska Transportation. “We’re proud to have Darryn as part of our organization. He quietly goes about his business and is now a hero amongst his peers.”

Belanger received the award from Leighton Watkins, regional manager for eastern Canada with Bridgestone.

Service to Industry Award

Of course, it wasn’t only drivers being recognized at the OTA convention. Paul Leader, senior vice-president of Atlas Canada received the prestigious Service to Industry Award, sponsored by Shaw Tracking.

The aptly-named Leader has been in the industry for 40 years and has always been involved with the OTA. The association said he used to hitchhike on weekends from London to attend OTA courses in Toronto.

In 1994, Leader chaired the association and he would go on to head the OTA Image Enhancement Committee. Leader also formed the first ever OTA Road Knights team.

Leader was chair of the OTA when the trucking industry suffered its high-profile wheel-off crisis. The OTA said it was Leader who helped formulate a plan to improve the industry’s safety performance and reduce wheel-off incidences.

Leader is still an OTA board member today.

Pioneer, Half-Century Club Members

The OTA also took the opportunity to honour some of its longest serving members.

Vernon Erb was inducted into the Half-Century Club, recognizing 50 years of involvement in the trucking industry. Erb launched his trucking career in 1956 and still drives today, while also serving as chair of Erb Group.

Pioneer Club members are honoured after 25 years of service. This year’s inductees include: Wendell Erb, Erb Group; Scott Tilley, Tandet Group; Doug Coleman, Doug Coleman Trucking; Chris Banks, Tandet NationaLease; Brad Thiessen, Freightliner Canada; John Thompson, Huron Services Group; and Corey Cox, Tandet Logistics.

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