See Ya Down the Road

Well folks, my writing column days have come to an end. I have enjoyed sharing my thoughts with ‘you all’ over the past seventeen years but it’s time for me to open a new trucking chapter in my life. Some fifty-plus years ago, when my dad brought home a truck and parked it in the driveway, I was star-struck! I thought it was such a beautiful sight. As a little kid, I can remember asking if I could wash the truck and being thrilled to be able to do so.

Fast forward a couple of years… I’m in the jump seat next to my dad. It’s summer break from high school and I am getting paid ten bucks a day to help him peddle freight all around Detroit. Three hundred to a thousand boxes, all floor loaded. Five to six drops minimum for National Freightways, Central Transport, Old Dominion, just to name a few. They were long days, hard work and a blast.

I loved every minute of it! Less than ten years later, I found myself trucking to San Clemente, California. I still vividly remember heading across Nevada one early morning. The temperature was perfect, the sun was just coming up and I had my arm out the window. The engine sounded pristine and was complimented by good radio tunes. I could see for miles across the desert.

That, of course, is not my only memory of the ten years I put behind the wheel, but it is one of my favorites. I wish everyone could experience one of those moments and the drivers out there will know what I mean.

I experienced a ‘sink or swim’ incident early in my driving career when both my folks passed away at very young ages. Three trucks were left to me, along with the payments but also with one excellent, loyal customer who decided to give a twenty-three-year-old the chance to keep servicing their business. A few years earlier, I had met my wife at that same business. She ran a tow motor on the loading dock. Without her support and the odd kick in the pants, I would not be writing this article today.

Fast forward again and now the company is forty-plus trucks, mostly Owner-Operators.Unfortunately, I had what business people call a near-death experience. I almost went bankrupt! It was of my own making, and I was fully responsible. I probably disappointed a few folks but eventually, everyone got paid and, in time, I got everything cleaned up, thanks to some family members helping me out. A couple of employees even jumped ship and planned a minor coup. Those were dark days. However, Wendy, a key employee, stayed, and today she is still my hero. The loyal customer I mentioned also hung in and the two of them were vital to my eventual success.

After a couple of years up and running again, I was approached by a local accounting firm asking if I would be interested in a partnership arrangement with a company in Guelph. With this new arrangement, I paid off all my debt and, even though the arrangement cost me half of my company’s shares, it turned out to be a great relief. Without that partner; Southwestern Express, I would be painting a much different picture today.

Some scars and scares remain and, unfortunately, they get opened in my mind from time to time. From there, it is kind of a blur; McKinnon Transport with 60 flatbeds and Southwestern with 35 vans and reefers. Fast forward eight years and we were 200 power units between the two companies. Then we amalgamated Southwestern Express into McKinnon Transport and grew to 275 power units, all the while expanding into logistics and warehousing.

When I first went down to Guelph, I told my partner that I was working to be out of the business by the time I was fifty. Call it a hunch, call it whatever but, with both parents gone at that age, I thought this premature mortality thing might have something to it. Fate has a way of intervening when you least expect it, so I sold my share of the business to my partner’s family. I was 50 at the time. The hardest thing to swallow was that there were no more trucks in the Haight family. Ever since I was a kid, there were always trucks around the Haight house. Now, no more!

Some months later, I approached a good friend of mine, Mr. Peter Charboneau. who owned a successful recruiting magazine called OVER THE ROAD. I told him I had some observations on the industry that I wanted to share. Well, here we are, many years later and I have provided a thousand words a month since then. Thanks, Pete. You are a class act and always have been.

I sat around for a couple of years, enjoyed my family, kept writing for OTR along with some other magazines, and spent too much time on the 19th hole. I got bored and went looking for a new gig. I partnered with a few folks over the next fifteen years, you may know some of them. Namely, Mr. Kevin Rutherford of Let’s Truck fame; Mr. Todd Amen of ATBS; Mr. Kim Richardson of KRTS and Transrep and Mr. Chris Henry, the architect of the benchmarking tool for TCA called InGauge. I learned something from each experience with these folks.

Most recently, I left the post of TCA Retention Coach where I was lucky enough to work alongside many companies to help them solidify their workforces.

As my dear old friend and sales manager, Mr. Donny Urquhart use to say; “I am on the back nine and can see the clubhouse from here.” However, I am very fortunate that recently I have been asked to help a relatively young company find its footing. They have been around for about five years. Each week, I talk to their senior managers via ZOOM and I try to coach them to stay focused. I offer different alternatives on their trucking issues and, for the most part, they respond positively.

I also talk regularly to the CEO. This is a dynamic company and is skyrocketing in sales and margins. They have also reduced their driver turnover from over 150% TO UNDER 25% in the past two years. It’s a great ride and I quite enjoy being part of it. Who would have ever thought I would wind up EPIC (Executive Performance Impact Coach) at JLE Industries?

There are too many people to thank so I will just say, ‘thanks to everyone. It has been a blast and I’ll catch you down the road.’

Safe trucking,

Ray J. Haight
Deeds Not Words

About Ray J. Haight

Areas of Focus: Operations, Recruiting & Retention, Human Resources With a career spanning four decades, Ray has been involved in all facets of the North American Trucking Industry.