Payne Transportation L.P. Celebrates 15 Years of Trucking

It was the spring of 2000 and there was a lot of uncertainty in the future of Tom Payne Sr. with his employer, Tri-Line Freight Systems, based in Calgary, Alberta. The company was just purchased by TCT and after nearly 30 years of employment and close to 10 as President & CEO, Tom found himself in a precarious spot. His son, Tom Jr. was also employed with Tri- Line in Winnipeg and like his father, was not at ease with the recent announcement of purchase. Tom Jr. was looking at opportunities when Sr. called and said he’s too young to retire and wanted to work together. Tom and his wife Gail quickly moved home to Winnipeg and they started Payne Transportation.

To say Tom Payne Sr.’s reputation precedes him in Canadian Trucking circles would be an understatement yet, even he was surprised and somewhat taken back by the level of support the new company received by former coworkers at Tri-line.

The initial response was great. So great that Tom called his friend and competitor, Murray Mullen, CEO of Mullen Group Ltd. to see if Murray still had an interest in working together and investing in the newly formed company, Payne Transportation. Together with Murray, Tom now had the IT and financial support necessary to get started.

Payne hired 30 owner operators in the first 30 days and 20 more each of the next 4 months. They opened branch offices in Edmonton and Montreal within those months and needed the financial support from their new investor to take advantage of growth opportunities. All of this occurred in the first 6 months of business and in a market that was very difficult for trucking companies to grow due to the shortage of drivers and owner operators. Tom remembers the bank asking, “How are you going to get started and grow when no one else can at this time?” Tom knew and their partner knew.

It was now time to take a deep breath and work on creating sustainability. The team spent the next year improving efficiencies, lowering cost and building a strong company for the future. Tom Sr. was a finalist for the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award in recognition of vision, leadership and achievement in building a growing and dynamic business.

In 2005, Payne Transportation purchased 17 acres in the new Brookside Industrial Park and designed and built their nearly 50,000 square foot facility. This project was Tom Sr.’s pride and joy and he took great pleasure in overseeing the project. It is one of the city’s finest transportation facilities. This happened during the same year Tom Sr. agreed to sell the remaining, majority shares to the Mullen Group. Tom Sr. retired in 2008 and Tom Jr. was appointed the company’s new President.

Payne Transportation continues building the company based on their mission, vision and values. It grew with acquisitions of smaller companies and they continued to hire owner operators due to their continued strong reputation.

Their value statement is a replica of every lesson Tom Jr. learned from his dad… integrity, honesty and excellence in everything they do. Tom says that they begin every staff meeting by reviewing all three statements.

Tom Payne Jr. and Tom Payne Sr.

Tom Payne Jr. and Tom Payne Sr.

We asked Tom Jr. what it is like interacting with the Mullen Group. He replied, “They give great value, experience and advice. They also provide valuable benchmarking on items like safety and financial results. In 2012 we won the Mullen Group’s Grand Prize Safety Award, affectionately called ‘The Bear’ which was a great honor”. Tom feels it’s important to give back to the industry and was an active member of the Manitoba Trucking Association (Past President) and currently he is on the executive Board of the Canadian Trucking Alliance.

Currently Payne operates 200 power units (60 dry van, 60 specialized, 10 LTL & 70 in the open deck operation). They have no plans to grow the fleet this year as they recognize that the oil & gas industry is slowing and much of what they do ends in Alberta. They are planning on a slow, oil & gas recovery.

July 3rd, 2015 celebrates the 15th anniversary of their first load as Payne Transportation. They are planning a private lunch for the staff and maybe a gala in the fall. They gave watches to the staff at year 5 and gold rings at year 10 and are considering what to do this year to recognize year 15.

Tom Jr. wanted to comment on the Executive team that has been together and helped build one of Canada’s leading, transportation solution providers. Here is what he told us about them:

“Pauline Wiebe Peters, CPA – Vice President, Finance & Administration – Pauline has spent 15 years not only perfecting her skill set as an accountant but also learning the business. This is critical for understanding processes, reducing costs and being an integral part of our overall success. (Never having to replace your controller, is why I can come to work smiling every day says Tom).

Joe Storozuk – Vice President, Business Development & Customer Service – Joe also began with us on day 1 and brought years of sales experience to our team. Our customers haven’t seen any turnover at Payne, especially from the executive level. Joe has been the face of Payne to most of those clients. (Tom says he has worked with Joe for over 20 years and considers him his friend).

Jason McNicholl – Vice President, Operations & Logistics – Tom first met Jason when he was still working for a competitor. He was young and aggressive and very bright about our business. He quickly impressed me enough that I thought we had to find a spot for him on our team. Jason began over 14 years ago as our Operations Manager for the Winnipeg branch and quickly proved his value. He has worked hard and earned the respect of not only his co-workers but of our largest customers. (Tom also considers Jason to be one of his closest friends).

Robin Veldkamp – Director, Administration – Robin is my sister and has also been with us since day 1. She started where we all did, with our foot in the door, so to speak and she earned her way to a leadership role with hard work and the respect of everyone around her including all of our Owner Operators who she works closely with. She is easily Pauline’s right hand person. (And Tom counts on her too).

Thanks to the team listed above the company has been very successful and has grown so that we could find room for Thomas McKee – Vice President, Driver Services and Innovations. Thomas is another example of finding a spot for someone you just sense will add value to the team. We added Thomas in recruiting and he ascended to his current role by becoming someone that we (the team) didn’t want to lose. His value extends well beyond driver services and into being an important cog in the wheel”.

Tom’s final thought was of his father. “He is still a most respected man for all of our Owner Operators and after 35 years of guidance from him, I truly believe that I am a reflection of my dad”.