Ed Roeder named Fleet Maintenance Manager of the Year (June 01, 2003)

by Ingrid Phaneuf

TORONTO, Ont. – Egotistical is certainly not a description that could be applied to Ed Roeder, this year’s Canadian Fleet Maintenance Manager of the Year.

Roeder, who was awarded the prestigious honor at the annual Canadian Fleet Maintenance Seminar held in Toronto in May, was quick to acknowledge the contribution his suppliers and co-workers have made to his accomplishments.

“I just want people to know that those are the people who made me look good: the guys on the floor, the suppliers and my supervisors,” Roeder said in an interview following the presentation.

He admitted the award came as a surprise.

“I knew I was nominated, but I had no idea I would win. I just feel so honored to have my name on that trophy along with the other names there.

“I know some of those guys personally, but others, I just know from their reputations. And I never would have thought that I would have my name on the same trophy as them,” said Roeder.

Be that as it may, Roeder’s nomination and subsequent win came as no surprise to Bill Dinino, last year’s winner and a member of the selection committee for this year’s award.

“I think he got 17 nominations, and I believe the decision of the selection committee was unanimous,” Dinino said.

The award is given out annually by Volvo Trucks Canada with the winner chosen by a judging panel consisting of two past winners and trucking business magazine editors. Applicants must work with at least 25 Class 8 vehicles (Muir’s has 250 tractors and 850 trailers). A minimum of 80 per cent of the repairs and maintenance on their fleet must be done in their own facilities. They must have five years maintenance experience (Roeder has been with Muir’s for 18 years) and three of those years must have been spent as a full time maintenance manager (Roeder has been maintenance manager since 1990). Last, but not least, applicants must be directly involved in the spec’ing of new equipment (Roeder has traditionally spec’d for longevity but is now looking at a new set of standards for his company’s growing cross-border business).

But accomplishment and industry participation is what separates winners from the rest of the applicants, and Roeder obviously had what it took to capture the hearts of judges.

According to the nomination form submitted by management and employer Richard Muir, Roeder’s contributions to the company and the industry in general have been invaluable.

“He certainly has made a significant contribution in his 18 years here,” Muir said.

The nomination forms tell the story in short form, of how Muir designed the company’s Concord maintenance facility from the ground up in 1998, making sure it would be roomy, warm and well-lit enough for staff; how he was instrumental in designing (with the help of suppliers) a trailer with a permanent decking system that could still be pushed aside and up the trailer walls when it wasn’t needed; how Roeder was instrumental in bringing maintenance tracking into the computer age by making the transition from a paper to a digital system in just a few months.

Not to mention Roeder’s ongoing participation in industry organizations, such as the Automotive Transportation Service Superintendents’ Association (ATSS), Toronto Chapter, where he spends much of his time promoting the recruitment and training of future mechanics at colleges and high schools.

“Attracting more people to the industry is one of the biggest problems our industry faces now,” Roeder said.

“Even now, we’re having to outsource work when we have too much volume at the shop. Eventually, even the places we outsource to will run out of people. It’s a problem that has to be solved.”

Roeder says another, more personal, challenge for him and Muir’s will be to purchase or develop a software system that will work with both black boxes and engine computers, both of which the company now has in its fleet.

Technical problems aside, Roeder is also a stickler for safety. Inspection procedures in place for both the trailers and tractors are integrated in the maintenance software system, so mechanics are reminded when and what to inspect on a regular basis. (The inspection checklists themselves are regularly updated by Roeder and his staff).

“And every single item that comes in for a repair, be it a tractor or a trailer, we always check the brake strokes.”

Training is also a priority, with road tests for new drivers, as well as drive-alongs for drivers who’ve been involved in an incident.

“Everybody develops bad driving habits over time,” Roeder points out.

You’d think with all the energy Roeder puts into his job, he’d have little time for a home life.

Roeder ruefully admits it hasn’t been an easy ride for his wife, Debbie.

“She’s had to take a lot of s–,” he admits. “But she’s been there for me all along. In fact, there was a time when our fleet was a lot smaller, with 40, 50, 60 trucks, that I would get calls in the middle of the night when trucks broke down. My wife knew a lot of the drivers’ names.”

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