Bison celebrates 50th anniversary

Commemorative Bison trailers feature the photos of every employee.

Fifty years to the day that Duncan Jessiman launched Bison Transport by deploying 18 trucks in Winnipeg, Man., the company held numerous events at facilities across Canada to celebrate the milestone.

To say the company looks vastly different today is an understatement. What began as a small domestic truckload operation has evolved into a multi-national, $750-million transportation company, including logistics, intermodal, flatdeck, expedited, and refrigerated divisions. Speaking to customers, suppliers and staff at the Mississauga terminal May 28, Norm Sneyd, vice-president of business development, attributed the company’s success to its people.

“I can’t say enough about them, as they are the reason we have reached this 50-year milestone,” he said. “Our family works incredibly hard to ensure our customers’ service expectations are met, and that our drivers are well taken care of, 24 hours a day, every day.”

Sneyd had special praise for the company’s drivers, who’ve helped Bison achieve its status as North America’s safest fleet, as deemed by the Truckload Carriers Association, 13 years in a row. Another source of pride for Sneyd was that in 2016, Bison drivers were named provincial trucking association drivers of the year in all provinces where Bison had offices, including the national title.

He also thanked the company’s warehouse and dock employees, technicians and office staff. He noted Bison’s Mississauga warehouse won an award this year for having an inventory accuracy rate of 99.8%.

In addition to publicly thanking its employees at special ceremonies across Canada, Bison also has deployed about 20 trailers that feature photos of every Bison employee.

Jeff Pries, head of sales and marketing for Bison, pointed out the 50-year milestone is just the beginning for the company.

“Next week, Norm and I are going to a five-year planning meeting and we’re going to set some very aggressive goals,” he said, adding the company is coming off one of its best years ever in 2018.

Bison’s road to success

Here’s a timeline of key events in Bison’s 50-year history:

1969: Duncan Jessiman founds Bison with 18 trucks in Winnipeg, Man.

1970: Bison makes its first acquisition, local carrier RC Owen Transport.

1979: Bison grows again, purchasing local carrier Echo Transport.

1981: Bison expands beyond its domestic routes, delivering into the U.S. for the first time. It spent the next decade growing organically.

1991: Bison moved heavily into retail, initiating a relationship with Walmart that remains today.

1996: The company moves into warehousing in Winnipeg to better serve its customers.

1998: Bison deployed satellite tracking, committing to becoming a technology leader.

2000: The company got into the expedited segment, primarily hauling for FedEx and other couriers. It also opened a terminal in Mississauga, Ont.

2001: Unable to meet demand internally, Bison launched a logistics division, which today moves 5,000 loads a month.

2003: Bison moved into a new facility in Winnipeg.

2004: Bison diversifies again, adding a refrigerated division that today consists of 650 reefers. It also launched a long combination vehicle fleet, which today consists of 220 dedicated tractors.

2006: The company gets into the intermodal business with its own 53-ft. containers. It also opened a terminal in Calgary, Alta.

2007: Bison buys Glencoe Transport, a truckload carrier in Kelowna, B.C.

2011: Expanding into the U.S., Bison purchases Britton Transport in North Dakota.

2012: Bison grows its U.S. presence with the purchase of Scott Transportation. It also buys 15 acres in Mississauga, Ont., to store equipment in a secure yard.

2013: Facilities are opened in Regina, Sask., and Edmonton, Alta., completing the company’s western expansion.

2014: Bison expands into the flatdeck segment with the purchase of Searcy Transport in Winnipeg, Man.

2015: A new facility is built in Mississauga, Ont.

2019: Bison buys H.O Wolding in Wisconsin and the intermodal business of Celadon.