TORONTO, Ont. — George Sutherland has a new award to add to his growing list of accolades. He has been named the 2014 Truck News Owner/Operator of the Year.
Sutherland has been an owner/operator for 15 years and currently runs locally within the Greater Toronto Area for Bison Transport. He’s also a current Ontario Trucking Association (OTA) Road Knight and as such, goes out into the community to promote the trucking industry. Sutherland has received many safety awards from Bison and has piled on more than 800,000 accident-free miles for them.
Truck News publisher and editorial director Lou Smyrlis (left) presents George Sutherland with his 2014 Owner/Operator of the Year award.
He recently gave up long-haul to focus on city deliveries. Sutherland told Truck News he enjoys the more consistent schedule, greater interaction with customers and the ability to get out of the truck throughout the day. He uses the time spent waiting to unload to run his business and even to maintain his truck.
“I do a lot of my business planning when I’m sitting at a customer’s dock,” Sutherland said. “You might as well use valuable time. I’ve been known to throw on the coveralls and go underneath and do a grease job at a dock. Some shippers and receivers are slow so you might as well do something.”
Sutherland says switching to local work is easier on the truck and he gets paid hourly for all his work.
When he was doing linehaul work, Sutherland lived up to his reputation as a Road Knight by stopping to help an injured motorist who’d crashed outside Nipigon on a cold winter night. Sutherland and his wife Cindy allowed the half-frozen driver into their truck to warm up and stayed with him until police arrived on the scene.
Sutherland is a proud ambassador for the industry and he is equally passionate about driver health and wellness. He took part in the first TCA Weight Loss Showdown and dropped 170 lbs by exercising and eating healthier. He was able to discontinue three blood pressure medications he was taking. Now, Sutherland participates in the NAL Insurance Healthy Trucker program through Bison. The trend towards wellness is one Sutherland wants to see continue.
Sponsors Ryan Weary, Castrol (L-R), Danijela Franco, Mack Trucks and Brad Houle, Goodyear, congratulate Sutherland.
“These companies are starting to care,” he said. “They’re starting to figure out that drivers are not just numbers – they’re actually human beings – and they’re worried about our health and our welfare.”
In addition to preparing healthy meals in the truck, Sutherland got into better shape by doing laps around his tractor-trailer – about 11-15 laps every time he’d do a circle check.
Sutherland’s associates at Bison Transport rave about his reliability and commitment to the job. When the award was presented in Toronto, Sutherland’s son Matt gave a heartfelt speech thanking George for his dedication to the family through the years. The younger Sutherland said his dad inspires him and has instilled in him a strong work ethic and values.
Sutherland is a savvy businessman, who began his trucking career as a company driver but always with an eye towards one day owning his own truck. He drove the company truck as though it were his own, and carefully tracked his miles and numbers to determine whether or not it was a viable career. That initial experience as a company driver is vital for any aspiring O/O, Sutherland advises.
“I actually ran the truck as if it was my own truck, keeping the numbers and everything and seeing if it was profitable or viable,” he said. “To try and jump in with no knowledge of what you’re doing, I don’t think you can make it. The problem with a lot of guys is that they see that first big paycheque and they end up buying fancy cars, motorbikes, holidays. That money has got to be saved for the truck. The truck comes first. You’ve got to be able to maintain it.”
Sutherland received his award at a special dinner for him and his family in Toronto last week. He received $6,000, a diamond ring, a plaque and several other prizes from the award’s sponsors, Castrol, Goodyear and Mack Trucks. Look for an in-depth profile on Sutherland, including business insights, in the December issues of Truck News and Truck West.
James Menzies is editor of Truck News magazine. He has been covering the Canadian trucking industry for more than 15 years and holds a CDL. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @JamesMenzies. All posts by James Menzies