Industry vet Ken Hellawell passes away

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ORILLIA, Ont. — A great man and a major figure in the Canadian trucking world has left us. Ken Hellawell, in his 85th year, passed away in Orillia on May 8, 2016. To say he will be missed would be an outrageous understatement. He was such a pillar in the trucking safety world, and involved in so many initiatives – a pioneer of truck safety in so many ways.

Ken Hellawell
Ken Hellawell

Back in 1964 a small group of safety managers and stakeholders met at the Seaway Hotel on Lakeshore Blvd., in Etobicoke, Ont. Ken was there representing OK Express along with Stan Bond from Smith Transport and a handful of others. This was the genesis of the Transportation Safety Association and the Fleet Safety Council that carries on to this day.

I met Ken when I started working OK Express, where he was driver-trainer-consultant, probably in the mid-1970s. But before that time he’d already enjoyed a storied career driving for Smith Transport out of Commissioners Street in Toronto, running Montreal along old Hwy. 2.

His son Darren tells me he was involved with the move to piggyback trailers via rail in the early 1960s and I do recall him showing me some pictures of Smith Transport’s pigs getting chained down beside the Lakeshore from those times.

Ken Hellawell taught me to double clutch, probably in 1976-77 or so, in an underpowered Hino diesel. Ken sat beside me showing me the ropes as we roller-coasted the hills on Hwy. 400. But the really interesting connection for me is that Ken used to write a column in Truck News, and probably inspired me to start writing about trucking and its community.

Ken had a long career as owner of ProTrans, his truck safety consulting business, and worked with many carriers. But Ewen Steele, past president of the Ontario Truck Driver Championships remembers him fondly from the yearly competitions.

“A fixture in truck driving championships from being a competitor, a sponsor, a president of the championships and an ambassador. Driver, fleet owner, sponsor – he knew them all – and they knew him. Rarely was there a new person show up on the scene that Ken didn’t engage in conversation. The world is not likely to see another like Ken, that mould was broken long ago,” Steele reminisces.

Ken Hellawell
Ken Hellawell

As a journalist, I’d run into him over the years at various safety awards dinners, but I was shocked to hear about his passing. He had been suffering from bone cancer and we’d lost touch.

He is survived by six children: Karen, Doug, Robin, Darren, Brent and Jody, and was a loving grandpa to numerous grandkids. A celebration of his life is being held June 5 2-4 p.m. at the Lindsay Legion, 12 York Street North, Lindsay, Ont

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Harry Rudolfs has worked as a dishwasher, apprentice mechanic, editor, trucker, foreign correspondent and taxi driver. He's written hundreds of articles for North American and European journals and newspapers, including features for the Ottawa Citizen, Toronto Life and CBC radio.

With over 30 years experience in the trucking industry he's hauled cars, steel, lumber, chemicals, auto parts and general freight as well as B-trains. He holds an honours BA in creative writing and humanities, summa cum laude.

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  • My years of knowing Ken long before he joined our family at O.K.Express Co. Are memberable
    We shall never forget his contribution to O.K. And our industry