AMTA Driver of the Year Pat Thorne (right) and his wife Cheryl receive the award from Terry Warkentin, fleet sales manager, Volvo Trucks Western Canada.
BANFF, Alta. — The Alberta Motor Transport Association (AMTA) has awarded Pat Thorne of Canadian Freightways its Driver of the Year award, because of his safety record, a strong work ethic and superior customer service.
“Pat always focuses on safety in the performance of his job, but he also is aware of something that only the best of the best behind the wheel comprehend,” said Terry Warkentin, fleet sales manager, Volvo Trucks Western Canada, who made the presentation to Thorne at last week’s AMTA annual convention.
“He realizes that he is much more than someone who transports loads from Point A to Point B. He is also a salesman and the face of his company, Canadian Freightways. In Pat’s words: ‘Our industry is called trucking, but it’s actually customer service, and if you do your job with that in mind, you, your company and your customers will be a lot better off.’”
Thorne has been in the professional driver’s seat on-and-off for 27 years, with the majority of his career spent covering city routes. It was a preference that came about according to Thorne, after becoming dissatisfied with long hauls. Warkentin suggests, however, that city routes may offer social advantages to Thorne.
“Perhaps a big part of the reasoning behind his choice is the fact that as a city driver, Pat has more frequent contact with customers than his highway compatriots,” said Warkentin. “A self-confessed ‘people person,’ Pat says the best part of his job, is the time he spends with his customers and fellow drivers.”
Thorne’s professional attitude was instilled in him by a tough task master: his father-in-law Doug Arbic. The mentor at B-Line Fast Freight, and the carrier where Thorne first ‘cut his teeth’ in the industry, according to Warkentin, was relentless about promoting a strong work ethic with his employees. If Thorne messed up a delivery, as Warkentin tells it, Arbic would assign him the toughest routes for a few days, until he felt a lesson had sunk in. At that point he would assign Thorne an easier route, but not before asking if he was capable of the task.
“Arbic taught his drivers to be ethical, to work hard, and to respect their customers – and made their day whenever he left them with the compliment ‘Good lad,’” said Warkentin.
The last 15 years of Thorne’s career has been with what Thorne described to the AMTA as a dream employer, working with Canadian Freightways, because of what he perceives to be top wages, benefits, and vacation time. More than that, according to Thorne, he appreciates how the company treats its employees like partners.
“According to Pat, that’s why the company has so many veteran drivers. As a 15-year employee, there are still 20 drivers above Pat in seniority, many of them with over 30 years of service with the company. Last year for the first time, he was part of the CF team that competed in the Provincial Driving Championships or ‘Roadeo’ as it is commonly called, and placed second in his category. This experience hooked him, and Pat can’t wait for this year’s competition.”
Thorne also credited much of his success with the growth opportunities offered by Canadian Freightways.
“That is how Pat got involved in driver training,” said Warkentin. “He recalls that when CF was putting its driver training program in place about four years ago, management didn’t dictate what it wanted. On the contrary, it sought valuable input from its experienced employees, and the result was a training program that is the envy of the industry. Today, Pat is an integral part of that program, as one of CF’s most respected driver trainers.”
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