TORONTO, Ont.– A strategy that effectively combines preventative maintenance to keep trucks on the road generating revenue with a quick response to any unexpected breakdowns is key to any well managed fleet. Yet the maintenance professionals responsible for keeping those trucks on the road don’t always receive the attention and praise they deserve.
To celebrate the dedication of maintenance professionals, there is a long-standing award that is coveted by industry professionals who understand how critical maintenance managers are. It’s called the Canadian Fleet Maintenance Manager of the Year Award and it recognizes the best in the business.
The award has been running for 26 years and counting and is presented in conjunction with the Canadian Fleet Maintenance Summit (formerly Canadian Fleet Maintenance Seminar). Though the award is sponsored by Volvo Trucks Canada, Volvo has no say in who takes home the prize. A separate committee including those in the trade media, and past winners of the award combs through every nomination and ultimately chooses the winner.
To be eligible for the award the maintenance manager in question must have his/her fleet located in Canada. The fleet must include at least 25 class 8 vehicles and 80% of all repairs must be done in-house. In addition, the nominee must be a Canadian resident, he/she must have at least five years of fleet maintenance experience, three of which must be as a full-time maintenance manager, superintendent or director and he/she must be involved in the spec’ing of new equipment.
This year, the Canadian Fleet Maintenance Summit (CFMS) is taking place on April 13 and the 2016 Canadian Fleet Maintenance Manager of the Year will be revealed there. The winner takes home the shiny trophy for a full year (with his/her name proudly engraved in it) which he/she can display in their terminal, a Super Bowl-like ring, as well as a plaque. Volvo also foots the bill for the winner to visit one of its manufacturing plants.
But past winners say the award is much more than just the pride of having their name on a trophy. It’s about recognition. It’s about relationships. And it’s about opening doors.
“Winning the award was a great door-opener for me,” said Jim Pinder, who won the award in 1998 when he was a maintenance manager at MacKinnon Transport. “Right away I had the chance to speak at the Australian Fleet Maintenance Conference. The award gave me credibility as an international speaker so I went there in 1999 to their maintenance conference. Part of the award at the time was also a trip to Sweden and I had the chance to tour Sweden with my wife. It really opened up a lot of doors for me professionally.”
Today, Pinder is the corporate fleet director at Erb Group of Companies and is a well-known figure in the maintenance community.
“I think by winning the award, it was a thank you from the industry for the work that I was doing. It was recognition that I probably went up and above what a regular person would do,” said 2008 winner Dan Cushing who worked with Ryder Leasing at the time. “It was just nice to know that someone noticed that wow this guy is doing something and that’s all you want to hear. It was a nice way to say thanks. And there’s so many people who don’t get recognized every day.”
Cushing worked with Ryder for 31 years before moving on to Paccar Leasing. He is recently retired, though he is still involved in the trucking community as vice-president of the Automotive Transportation Service Superintendents’ Association (ATSSA).
“This award is so important to the industry,” added Lloyd De Merchant who won the award in 2014 when he was with Penske Truck Leasing Canada. “We don’t get a lot of recognition in the industry. People don’t understand what it takes to be a mechanic. In the olden days when I was a mechanic on the floor, they called us grease monkeys. We’re not grease monkeys, we’re technicians. To comply with all the regulations, to run safely, and to make sure that your fleet is one that pulls into a scale house and the MTO comes out and gives you a pat on the back means something. It’s a pride thing to know that you don’t cut corners. This award recognizes that.”
De Merchant, who is now the director of maintenance for Midland Transportation Group said that after winning the award, he asked his boss at Penske if he could travel to all of his shops.
“And I did and I thanked all my guys because technically it wasn’t just me who won that award, it was every single person that was part of my team,” he said. “It had my name on (the trophy), but it was their hard work that got me there. It was probably the best thing that’s happened to me. It was a nice pat on the back for someone actually seeing that I come to work every day and care about the people as much as the business.”
De Merchant went on to say that an added benefit of the award is the relationships he’s built with other maintenance professionals.
“After winning the award, I had a lot of people reaching out to me for job opportunities,” he recalled. “And it was really an ice-breaker and it opened up a lot of doors and got me sharing best practices with other people like myself. I didn’t have that before. (Winning the award) got me into a group of a lot of good contacts where I can share things and best practices and it’s making me stronger every day.”
According to past winners and Volvo sponsors, all 26 former winners of the award had three things in common: they were innovative, they were active in their communities and they all have safety as their number one priority.
“All of our past winters have been innovators,” said Steve DeSousa fleet service manager for Volvo Trucks Canada who has been a part of the award and the CFMS for more than 20 years. “They are always implementing new maintenance programs and practices that are new to the industry. Those have been key to the winners. I also think most of the winners have been very active in the industry in terms of being involved with local maintenance chapters or maintenance associations in the area.”
This is especially true for last year’s winner Chris Iveson of Challenger Motor Freight who is one of the more forward-thinking maintenance people in trucking today. At the time he won last year, he boasted that at the end of 2015, half of his fleet would have collision mitigation systems on them and he also welcomed the new generation of remote diagnostic compatibilities with open arms. He is also active in promoting the trade to students at Centennial College and Conestoga College.
As last year’s winner he will help select the 2016 award winner.
“I’ll be looking for people that are sort of similar to me,” Iveson said. “People who are forward thinking and innovative. Those that are advocates in our business and are continuing to fight the good fight with the college trades and getting youth involved in our business. I’ll be voting for someone who is active in colleges to ensure that we have a future.”
“I think to be a good maintenance manager, your priority should be to make sure that trucks that leave your shop are safe for the highway,” said Cushing about what he thinks all winners of the award should possess. “That’s always been my personal goal: what goes out the door has to be safe. So I think all winners should be making safety a priority.”
Even though the award has such a rich history, this year marks a special one for the award because of the new life that is being breathed into CFMS. PIT Group along with Newcom Business Media partnered with the ATSSA, CTEA, OTA and TMTA to rebrand and reintroduce the CFMS. Attendees can expect a fully educational day of events with knowledgeable speakers and panel discussions with experts in the trucking industry.
“This is a very prestigious award and after 26 years of presenting it, it is nice to breathe some new life into this award again and it’s nice to see it getting the awareness it deserves,” said Tracy Gerber, marketing manager, Volvo Trucks Canada. “We’re very excited about it this year, especially with the new and improved conference it is a part of.”
Sonia Straface is the associate editor of Truck News and Truck West magazines. She graduated from Ryerson University's journalism program in 2013 and enjoys writing about health and wellness and HR issues surrounding the transportation industry. Follow her on Twitter: @SoniaStraface. All posts by Sonia Straface