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Tributes flow in for Tessier as AMTA presents top safety award posthumously

BANFF, Alta. -- It was with a heavy heart that the Alberta Motor Transport Association (AMTA), paid tribute to John...

Marie Hibbard (left) presents the AMTA's safety award posthumously to John Tessier via his wife Chris and son Tyler at the AMTA convention in Banff.
Marie Hibbard (left) presents the AMTA's safety award posthumously to John Tessier via his wife Chris and son Tyler at the AMTA convention in Banff.

BANFF, Alta. — It was with a heavy heart that the Alberta Motor Transport Association (AMTA), paid tribute to John Tessier at its annual convention.


The prominent AMTA member, transportation safety advocate, and multi-award winner for safety initiatives passed away on March 25.


“John was a teacher, a writer, curriculum developer, consultant and a mentor of many industry leaders, and John was synonymous with trucking safety in Alberta,” said Marie Hibbard, vice-president of Bow Valley Insurance Services, who posthumously presented the AMTA’s Safety Person of the Year award to Tessier, via his son Tyler and his wife, Chris Tessier.


Hibbard noted that Tessier started in the industry as a driver, and early on made his mark as a devotee of transportation safety, earning a million mile safety award in 1978. “So, John did more than talk the talk,” she said. “He also walked the walk.”


It was as a driver with Laidlaw and Canada Post, where Tessier developed a love for trucking and a passion for safety. “His philosophy was that drivers and trucking companies alike should conduct themselves as professionals, so that everyone could be safe on our roads and, most importantly, get home safely at the end of the day,” said Hibbard, borrowing on Tessier’s safety mantra.


Tessier helped built the AMTA into what the organization that it is today, added Hibbard. He was with Alberta Trucking Industry Safety Association’s (ATISA) beginning in 1995, and was involved with the merger of ATISA and the Alberta Trucking Association in 2000, when the AMTA was formed.


He coordinated the safety policy for the new association, establishing and overseeing the Injury Reduction and Training Committee. Tessier was also instrumental in developing the association’s monthly regional meetings, held throughout the province. He spearheaded the Provincial Truck Driving Championships – more commonly known as ‘Roadeos,’ and was also heavily involved in the Canadian Trucking Driving Championships, added Hibbard.


“He was considered an important cog in the development of the nationally recognized Earning Your Wheels program and the Transportation Safety Director program. He co-authored the Transportation Safety Basics for small and large employers, and the External Auditors’ training that creates the process enabling companies to qualify for the Partners in Injury Reduction and Certificate of Recognitions programs. John wrote parts of, or all of the materials for the Wheel and Brake program for carriers and wheel installers, Safe Operation of Dumping Equipment course, Hazard Awareness Training (HAT), Collision Investigation for Safety Professionals and Collision Preventability training, for reviewing collisions under the National Safety Code monitoring system in Alberta.”


Tessier has earned numerous honours for safety development in his career. He received the Innovation Award from Alberta Infrastructure and Transportation for the HAT and Collision Preventability Review programs. In 2004, he received an Outstanding Service Award from the National Association of Safety Professionals, and its parent organization, the International Association of Safety Professionals, through UNESCO.


“John was given a lifetime membership in these two organizations, for his continuous efforts towards improving workplace health and safety – the only Canadian resident to receive this prestigious recognition,” said Hibbard.


As impressive as these awards may be, Hibbard noted that it is the words of his “industry brethren” that reveal how influential Tessier was to the trucking industry in Alberta.


AMTA executive director Mayne Root, who considered Tessier a mentor and close friend, had this to say: “While his passion towards safety would, by his own admission, occasionally rub a few people the wrong way, his positive and cheerful attitude influenced everyone he encountered.”


Outgoing AMTA president Gene Orlick of Orlick Transport, called Tessier a good mentor who encouraged the past-president to serve on the AMTA executive committee. “He also encouraged me to build a safe trucking company, and made me understand that safety actually saves you money, rather than costs you money.”


John Sengl, service centre manager for Canadian Freightways in Lethbridge, served on many AMTA committees with Tessier, and praised his ‘safety before anything else’ principles. “He was a giant in the area of safety, and at the same time a gentle family man who put his wife Christine and their nine children first at every opportunity.”


Dean Paisley, president of Lethbridge Truck Terminals and an AMTA director, noted that Tessier made transportation safety interesting, and spoke with equal candor to executives and drivers alike. “He was instrumental in bringing the national Roadeo to Lethbridge in 2004, the first time it was ever held outside of a major city. Drivers still talk about what a great time they had at that event.”


Tessier retired from
the association in June 2007, with ambitions to further his career promoting transportation safety.


“His passion for safety then encouraged him to try a different path and he moved into consulting and auditing where, as usual, he did an outstanding job,” said Hibbard. “Unfortunately this part of his career was cut short by his illness. John, I know you’re listening. I speak for the entire industry – for everyone present and for those from our industry who cannot be here today. We thank you for your devotion to safety. We thank you for showing us the way. You are missed, but you and your safety lessons will be remembered. Always.”


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