TORONTO -- Volvo-Mack Canada president retires; thanks loyal customers.
August 1, 2014
TORONTO — After more than 30 years in the trucking industry both here and abroad Gordon Hellowell has called it a day. President of the combined operations of Mack Canada and Volvo Trucks Canada since 2003, he retired recently. His successor is Steve Polzer, formerly chief financial officer.
Until last December, Hellowell was also senior vice-president for North American dealer development for the two companies, both operating under the Volvo Group umbrella. In fact, he was responsible for the integration of Mack and Volvo in Canada and, before that, in Australia.
Hellowel began his Mack career in 1988 as director of leasing for North America, based in Allentown, Pa. By 1992 he was back in Canada as vice president of sales. Before joining Mack he spent 10 years with Ryder Truck Rental Canada, where he served in a number of finance and sales positions.
A native of England, and a graduate of Percival Whitley College in Halifax, his trucking career began with the management of a brewery’s truck fleet there.
Hellowell says Montreal is the single most interesting and challenging market in Canada
Asked what he sees as the biggest industry change over the years, Hellowell has no hesitation. It’s the business savvy of both dealers and carriers, he tells Today’s trucking in an exclusive interview. “The dealer network is much more professional now. There were many small dealerships way back, many factory stores, but they’re all bigger and more sophisticated now. Honestly, things aren’t that different in terms of how the basics are managed.
“But the customers are also much more sophisticated now,” he says “They’re much less confrontational, much less adversarial. They’re more interested in being business partners. They realize that an adversarial approach doesn’t work any more.”
As examples, he cites the relationships that Mack and Volvo enjoy with the TransX Group and Challenger Motor Freight respectively. Both carriers, Hellowell says, have helped their favored manufacturers resolve technical issues instead of butting heads over them. Both sides win when business is done that way, he says.
The most challenging part of his career? Not a single moment or a single issue, he says, rather a city. Doing business in Montreal — and making money in the process — is “a challenge.” But, he adds, it’s probably the most interesting single market in North America as well as being the toughest one.
And a wish for the future? Hellowell answers instantly: “I’d like to see a bigger push from the provinces to deal with technical training and apprenticeships. Ontario and B.C. are pretty good, and Quebec isn’t bad, but the rest are sadly lacking.”
In an effort to service its own needs, the Mack/Volvo combination is about to extend its sponsorship of the technician program at Centennial College in Toronto to include Fanshawe College in London. It’s also moving its in-house school in Calgary to the British Columbia Institute of Technology in Burnaby. And a similar program will be launched in Quebec City next year.
“This isn’t just a wish,” Hellowell says. “It’s a necessity.”