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***SPECIAL: INSIDE BISON TRANSPORT (October 31, 2003)

Bison drivers speak from the heart about life on the road with one of Canada's fastest growing carriers.


Bison drivers speak from the heart about life on the road with one of Canada’s fastest growing carriers.

"It’s the best company I’ve worked for in
terms of getting you home on time."
For Ian Reid, a 52-year old Company Driver with almost a quarter century of highway experience spent under several carriers, Bison Transport has proved to be an oasis of understanding in the sea of indifference that can characterize carrier-driver relations.

“I came here in 1993 and really liked the place. You will find a lot of the drivers here are like that. Bison seems to be a haven for a lot of drivers who worked for other companies and were so fed up they were just about ready to get out of the industry and came here and found things to be very different,” says Reid.

Reid hauls general freight across the U.S. and Canada in his Kenworth T2000 and he adds that although he works long-mile lanes – he’s on the road 10-12 days at a time on average – Bison’s dispatch team has earned his respect with its uncanny ability to get him home on
time, all the time.

“It’s the best company I’ve worked for in terms of getting you home on time. And they don’t sit you on the trips, either. They have some really smart people in-side their operations. Usually when you run south you don’t sit at all,” says the Virden, Man., resident, who logs about 140,000 miles a year. He adds that Bison’s dispatch has gone out of its way to ac-commodate special requests when necessary, such as with the passing of his father.

“When my dad was close to death seven years ago, they kept me on a lane where I could run back and forth from Regina to Calgary so I could stop at home to see him. When he passed away they said take as much time as you want. They are very compassionate that way,” the former Navy sonar man says.

Running into the U.S. and across Canada can make it difficult to keep up with the different rates and stay on top of the paperwork. Reid certainly found that to be true with past employers. But he says the greatly simplified system employed at Bison makes for hassle-free experiences when it comes to payments.

“Their policy on tolls is a good example,” he says. “I’ve been with other companies and they would give a float for U.S. tolls. There’s nothing worse than having to pay it out of your own pocket and then driving back and having to fight with the company to get paid. Sometimes it would take two or three months. Here you have an account and you withdraw your money out of it for tolls, put in your receipts and it’s processed in 24 hours. There are no hassles.”

"When you look at the big picture ,
they’re pretty tough to beat”
Thanks to his sales background, Ross Wishart, knows how to turn a profit. This Owner-Operator with 14 years experience under his belt takes a no-nonsense approach to his business.

“You have to think of it as a business,” he says. “I would rather fix a $5 problem today than wait a week till it becomes a $50 or $100 problem. And you have to put some away for a rainy day. That’s important.”

Equally important to Wishart is being contracted to a company that’s just as interested in his success. Wishart logs 130,000 miles a year, working 10-11 days at a time and he knows the only way to make money in his business is to keep the wheels moving.

“What’s the difference with Bison? They’re truly on top of their game. They plan two to three days ahead for load assignments. There’s no sitting waiting for loads. You talk to guys contracted with other companies and they sit there for days,” he says.

Running a profitable business also requires being shrewd about expenses and Wishart takes advantage of Bison’s tire account to save money on tires and Bison’s lower shop rates to keep his 2002 Freightliner Classic running in perfect order.

His no-nonsense approach to business, however, doesn’t mean that Wishart doesn’t notice the personal side of being part of the Bison organization.

“They treat you like a person here. You are on a first name basis with everyone from the people in the shop all the way up to the company president,” he says. “I’ve made a lot of good friends working here. My father passed away a few weeks ago and right away they have me off the load I’m supposed to be hauling and going home. What more can you ask for?”

“When you look at the big picture over the eight years I’ve been here, they’re pretty tough to beat.”

“Bison’s professional attitude
is what keeps me here”
When Paul D’Aoust comes to work, he comes to work.

“I enjoy the diversity of driving; the different challenges, even the different climates I face. I couldn’t see myself working in one place all the time. And I’ve got a strong work ethic. When I come in for a day’s work, I put in 110%. There’s no other way to look at it. The customer has to be satisfied before I am,” says the 48-year-old Company Driver with Bison Transport.

But after 13 years on the road, D’Aoust expects his carrier to be working for him too.

“When you’re driving you never completely know what lays ahead. You know where you’re going but you never know for sure what could happen on the way to getting there. It takes a lot of pressure off a driver when he knows there is a lot of experience behind the operation he works for,” says the six-year Bison veteran. “I think Bison’s professional attitude is really what keeps me here. They just seem to be planning ahead all the time, interested in making my employment here better for me.”

Just as working hard is important to D’Aoust, so is a balanced lifestyle, something he finds Bison, unlike many carriers, understands and accommodates.

“Time off is important to me. I do leave my work when I park my truck. I like to call up my son and daughter. Always on the agenda is breakfast Saturday morning with them. They are both avid fishermen and we can’t seem to get enough of it,” he says. “I’ve never had any problems getting the time that I needed while I’ve been with Bison. Nor do I feel any pressure about the dispatcher needing to call me on my day off. Again, that’s due to the planning they do here. I know other drivers who end up sitting by the phone.”

“This company wants to make sure
the equipment you’ve got is safe”
With 17 years experience driving truck and a father who drove for a quarter century,
you could say that for Kevin White driving is in the blood.

And when you love your job as much as he does, it’s important to find an employ-er who can appreciate that. After four years hauling paper to the midwestern U.S. and parts of Canada for Bison Tr ansport, most recently in a Volvo 660, White believes he’s found just that.

“It’s the best company I’ve ever worked for,” the 45-year-old Company Driver says. “What’s unique about Bison is the way they treat you. To a lot of companies you are just a truck number and that’s what they go by. Most companies I’ve worked for it’s ‘do it our way or you don’t work for us.’ Bison works with you. When you want to get home, they get you home. You don’t have to argue. And it’s more personalized. They call you by name, and they actually know you when you walk in the building.”

He adds this is an attitude that extends to Bison’s hours of service and maintenance practices.

“They want you to run 100% legal here. If you tell them you are out of hours or you can’t make it with the hours you’ve got they will find some other way to get it done,” says White, who runs about 120,000 miles per year and averages 10-11 days on the road at a time. “And the equipment is well maintained. If some-thing is wrong with the truck they fix it right away. This company wants to make sure the equipment you’ve got is safe.”

“If you are any kind of businessman
at all, Bison will profit and so will you”
Neil Bailey has spent 35 years behind the wheel, a good chunk of those trying to make his dream of running his own operation come true. Each time he’s found that financial success came at too high a
price.

“It felt like I was working 24 hours a day, seven days a week, just trying to keep everything on the road and the drivers going. It was just too much. Three years ago my doctor told me to shut it down and get the heck off the road. My wife and I looked at it and agreed enough is enough,” says Bailey.

Now he’s trying something different.

Stress-induced health concerns may have brought an end to his last attempt at being an Owner-Operator but not his love for the road. He started driving a company truck for Bison Transport, which within a couple years, brought him to the next crossroad in his career. The 55-year-old is now enrolled in Bison’s Lease Operator Program, and he feels he finally has the program and backing necessary to succeed.

“Bison’s lease program is set up in a way I think is fair. Most of these programs aren’t. I believe Bison thought through the details and set it up so that if you are any kind of businessman at all, Bison will profit and so will you,” he says. “And the miles are there too. They’ve promised at least 12,000 miles a month and they’ve delivered.”

He explains that Bison’s lease program puts away a percentage of his revenues towards repairs to be done at Bison’s shop; that way money is always on hand to cover unexpected situations. It’s also designed as a “walk-away” lease. At any point, with 30-days notice, if it’s not working out, the operator can walk away, losing only the money that’s been accumulated in the maintenance fund, which stays with the truck.

And he’s found that Bison’s commitment to designing a lease operator program that truly boosts the operator’s chances of success is peace of mind he can take to the bank.

“My paycheque has never been shorted. When I was a Company Driver, every Friday, as regular as clockwork, it was in my bank account. As a Lease Operator, it’s the same thing; it’s there. Other companies I’ve worked for will tell you they will pay you Friday and it might be Wednesday before you get it. And when you do get it, there are one or two statements that are missing and you have to go fight for them. And then they say we’ll put it on the next pay and they’re using your money for another month.” 


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