The 2011 Canadian Trucker of Year

TORONTO – Humble. Hard-working. Hero.

They are words that easily describe SLH Transport’s Robert Hulme — the 2011 Canadian Trucking Alliance/Volvo Trucks Canada Driver of the Year.

Hulme, who was also named the Ontario Trucking Association (OTA)-Volvo Driver of the Year, was chosen from an exemplary group of provincial winners for the national title. With his wife Christine and children Kevin, Lori and Trevor by his side, Hulme was presented with the award by Brent Weary, regional vice president, sales and marketing of Volvo Trucks Canada at the OTA annual conference in Toronto last Friday.

Hulme, who thought he was invited to accept the OTA award, was surprised when told on stage that he was being named the CTA Driver of the Year as well.

“Canadian highways are safer with professional drivers like Bob Hulme out on the road,” said David Bradley, president of the Canadian Trucking Alliance. “His actions and achievements on and off the highway — on the job and beyond the call of duty — show that he’s more than deserving of this prestigious award.”

Over 37 years, Hulme has racked up over 3 million kilometers of preventable accident-free driving. That’s all the more remarkable considering much of his days are spent manoeuvring in and out of narrow laneways and entrances as he delivers Sears merchandise between Sudbury, Sault Ste. Marie and Manitoulin Island.

But Hulme’s stellar reputation among his peers and co-workers isn’t solely based on his impressive driving record.

Last year, Hulme was travelling on Hwy. 17 near Elliot Lake with a co-driver. That driver had a serious medical incident while the truck was en route and began coughing uncontrollably before passing out behind the wheel. In a split second, Hulme took control of the wheel from the passenger’s side and pulled the “spike” to disengage the cruise control. He steered the truck away from oncoming traffic and coasted it along to a stop on the side of the road. He then promptly drove his partner to Blind River Hospital.

At 60 years-old, Hulme doesn’t shy away from physical work. Every shift it’s up to him to unload product from his truck. Sometimes, luckily, it’s sofa pillows. More often than not, though, it’s things like refrigerators.

“Just like the mailman, Bob is an SLH-man who delivers his merchandise through rain, snow, sleet, and freezing rain,” says Don Gray, SLH’s safety coordinator and driver trainer. “As long as the roads aren’t closed you’ll find Bob making sure customers’ orders are delivered.”

SLH regional manager Sylvain Moffatt added that “Bob is certainly one of the most skilled and safest drivers to drive for SLH — no small feat considering the often harsh driving conditions in Northern Ontario. Bob takes great pride in the work he does and he’s a true ambassador for SLH and the trucking industry.”

These days, Hulme’s hauler is a new 2011 Volvo. Fuel conscious as he and SLH are, the truck is spec’ed with an I-Shift automatic transmission and super single tires.

Aside from his busy workday, Hulme also finds time to be a member of the OPP Auxiliary Unit in Sudbury, where he was most recently nominated Auxiliary Officer of the Year.

When not working or volunteering, Hulme likes to spend time with his grandkids at the family cottage and rebuild antique trucks, including a beautiful 1950 Ford pick-up he restored from scratch.

In the future Hulme says he plans on sharing his skills and knowledge with the drivers of tomorrow as a driver trainer.

Each year, a panel of judges made up of leading industry experts from groups including Transport Canada, Canada Safety Council and Traffic Industry Research Foundation selects a national winner from among recipients of the Driver of the Year award in each province. The national winner is selected for excellence among peers who have maintained a collision-free driving record and otherwise demonstrated exemplary professionalism both on and off the road.

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