In Memoriam: Truck Town Terminals founder Mike Dorken
An industry icon, described by a friend as “larger than life,” passed away Nov. 8 due to Covid complications.
Mike Dorken, 78, moved to Canada from Germany with his family early in life. It didn’t take long for him to develop a passion for all things automotive – a passion he pursued by stealing cars as a teenager.
That landed him a sentence at a reform school in Northern Ontario run by the Salvation Army, where he was allowed to drive a tractor, recalled longtime friend Chuck Snow. It was an experience that set him on his path to becoming a trucking industry success.
“He was in his glory. It was his first taste of heavy equipment and he came out of there driving,” Snow told Today’s Trucking.
Dorken’s parents moved back to Germany when he was about 18, but he opted to stay in Canada to build a life. He borrowed some money from a former teacher to fund his first truck.
“Mike was a real proud Canadian,” Snow said. “He built an empire out of that one truck. He learned to drive it, to fix it, and he learned the trucking business and became very good at it.”
Dorken steadily grew his business, called Record Vehicles, which primarily served Record Chemicals.
“He did really well with it,” Snow said. “He had great trucks and great drivers and built it up into a business of about 30 trucks.”
After deregulation, Dorken changed the name to Trailer Shuttle Systems and continued expanding. He bought a five-acre parcel of land in Mississauga and built his first terminal.
“He was an early adopter,” said Snow. “He was running air disc brakes before anyone else was 35 years ago. He would try things. He wasn’t afraid of technology.”
Later, Dorken realized a dream by building Truck Town Terminals in Milton, Ont., on a 50-acre plot of farmland he acquired before the area was developed. It was a fuel station combined with a driver-oriented truck stop, shop, warehouse, and scales, loosely modeled after the Ontario Food Terminal.
Dorken made the news in 2007 when he pulled off one of the biggest drug busts in Canadian history at the time. Dorken noticed a suspicious looking truck driver in his private parking lot. When the driver refused to answer his questions, he gave chase in his vehicle, ultimately barricading the tractor-trailer near a Hwy. 401 ramp, according to media reports at the time.
Ministry of Transportation officers and police arrived at the scene and discovered 205 kgs of cocaine valued at $20 million hidden among a load of baby carrots.
“He was an impressive guy. He filled up the room and could be imposing,” Snow said.
Dorken moved to Alberta and continued driving trucks for friends, just to keep active. When he could no longer keep his commercial driver’s licence, he took up a new passion, as an Uber driver using his two Teslas. He had become infatuated with Elon Musk and electric cars and wanted to give Alberta residents the opportunity to ride in and enjoy the electric car experience. Dorken developed Covid en route to Florida with his wife Judy and passed away near Kissimmee.
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Again , Mike was good to me. At the time I reminded him of myself and did he remember me. After dropping my driveshaft on the ground, ya he remembered me. I said I wanted to buy one of his trucks, he said ok but reservedly didn’t think I could do it. I was for awhile running 4 Chicago’s a week. I did it. Now , sure wish I could buy another truck from Mike, he always maintained his fleet very well. Those were good times back then . I miss them. Rest in peace Mike, for a job well done , my friend.