I am happy to say that this is the 30th anniversary edition of Over the Road magazine. My team and I are incredibly proud of this accomplishment, and we want to thank all our readers and our advertisers for their incredible support over the past 30 years; we couldn’t have done it without you.
People often ask me how I got into the trucking magazine business. I covered some of this in the editorial that I wrote for our 25th Anniversary, but as we celebrate this special milestone, I thought I would take a minute to reflect again on how it all started.
In 1993, Canada was just coming out of a major recession, and I was looking for something different. My area of expertise was real estate and construction, and I was working as a construction project manager, overseeing the construction of several townhouse projects in Ottawa. Sharing temporary office space with some start-up companies, I met a man from Atlanta, Georgia who owned two trucking magazines in the USA and was considering expansion into Canada. We got to know each other quite well and he invited me to join him at a truck show in Toronto. That was my first experience with trucking and my first truck show. I quickly became intrigued by the trucking industry.
My friend from Atlanta knew one person in Canada; Brian Harris, who worked for Frederick Transport in Dundas, Ontario (which eventually became FTI). Brian and I met at the truck show and Brian befriended me. He showed me around the show, and he became the person I reached out to when I needed advice. My new friend from Atlanta ultimately decided not to open a magazine in Canada but after some consideration, I took over his early research work and proceeded to publish my first magazine. As I started to write this editorial, I called Brian to say hi, he is now retired and is doing well.
The first issue of Over the Road had one paid advertiser, which was Frederick (FTI) and I printed 50,000 magazines which we distributed to all ten Provinces. On the cover, we featured a man named Gary McSweeney, an Owner Operator with Frederick Transport. I also called Gary when I started working on this editorial, to check in with him too. He is now 80, he still has his ‘A’ licence and does occasional driving – which includes a tractor in a Santa Clause parade.
Gary is still smoking and as full of fun and laughter as the first time we met him 30 years ago.
So, what has changed in 30 years? In 1994 we bulk mailed all 50,000 magazines using Canada Post. Today, we have 5 people who hand deliver our magazines each month directly into truck stops coast to coast. By using a system that hand delivers the magazines directly into the truck stops, we can monitor each truck stop and deliver exactly what is required to each location, adjusting as needed from month to month. This minimizes the magazines that need to be recycled at the end of the month and allows us to ensure that the busiest truck stops get as many magazines as required. It also ensures that the magazines are always placed in the highest volume areas of the truck stops.
As the Canadian partner for USA based Randall Reilly’s Truck Stops Express, our delivery team also does on-site audits and merchandising for trucking service providers and other publications. They also oversee our truck stop poster program.
Let me tell you about some of our team. In western Canada, Kelly Jerome has been with us since 2007 and manages the distribution for us in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta. In British Columbia, Supply Post (Jeff Watson and his team) help us with magazine distribution and our poster and CAT Scale responsibilities. Doug Douthwright started with us in 2012 and handles Southwestern Ontario and part of the GTA and Earle Madden & Ken Miller, both of whom started with us in 2014 cover the rest of Ontario and Quebec. As you can see, there is very little turnover with the people who do this critical work for the magazine. They each drive many, many kilometers every month and they do an amazing job delivering the magazines and servicing the truck stops. For this, I sincerely thank them.
While on the topic of truck stops, we would like to thank the approximately 300 truck stops across Canada that have worked with us for the past 30 years. A special thank you to the Pilot/Flying J Truck Stops for their exclusive distribution of our magazine, products, and services.
Most of the people working internally for Over the Road have been here a very long time as well. In 30 years, I have had only 4 graphic artists. Our third Designer, David Bean died tragically while on vacation in 2015 which was very hard on all of us. David worked with us for eight years and we miss him very much. As we worked to deal with the loss of David, we were very fortunate to be introduced to our present-day Designer Lenny Kuiper of LKDesign. Lenny knew we were grieving David but needed to keep the business moving forward and she very gracefully jumped in to help us. Lenny quickly proved to be an amazing fit with the OTR team, and she is an incredibly talented Designer. We are very lucky to have her as part of our team.
In August 2004, we decided to go into the Recruiting and Retention Conference business with Kelly Anderson (which we did for a dozen years) and my daughter Cathryn, an experienced event planner with a strong business background, joined me to organize and run these events. Nineteen years later, Cathryn is Director of Operations and Editor-in-Chief. Luke Zentil joined us in July 2009 and with his energy and humour was an instant fit with our team. Luke does an incredible job focusing on advertising and business development. I have only had two accountants in 25 years, Bob Liberty for many years and then since 2006, Estela Navarrete who has brought so much to the company and does a wonderful job as the company Controller. In 2017 Patrick Mena joined our team to help us on the technical side of things and took on the important role of managing our social media accounts. I am very grateful for the team that we have in place, and I thank each of you for all that you do.
While speaking of our team, I cannot overlook the contribution of our three regular writers: Robert Scheper of Making Your Miles Count who has been writing exclusively for us since 2010, Chris Harris who has been writing for
us since 2005 and Ellen Voie who has been writing for us since she began
the Woman in Trucking Association. All three contribute interesting, thought-provoking articles and we are very grateful to have them as part of our team.
While the few years through the pandemic were challenging for sure, I am proud to say that our team worked hard to keep things up and running. Even with all the uncertainty and challenges during that time, we have never missed a single edition of the magazine. We are a stable company with a happy team who work well together, and we very much enjoy servicing our customers, Drivers, and Owner Operators.
As the company celebrates its 30 years of publishing, my wife Mary and I will be celebrating our 55th wedding anniversary. Mary has worked with me on the magazine every day of its existence and the magazine probably would not exist without her help, support and care for all our employees. We are blessed to have three kids, their spouses and three beautiful grandchildren, all of whom add to the fullness of our life.
Mary and I want to take this opportunity to sincerely thank all our readers,
our advertisers and everyone on the Over the Road team for an incredible
30 years. We look forward to all that the future has to offer and we wish everyone a happy 2024 and a very, Merry Christmas.
Publisher, Over the Road Magazine