Owner Operators are a key segment of the Canadian trucking community. Owning their own trucks and assets, they work independently, or partner with existing trucking companies. They are small business owners. Across J.D. Irving, Limited, we work with hundreds of Owner Operators and value their contributions and expertise enormously.
We sat down with the business owner and professional driver, Donald (Donnie) Richards to hear his take on the trucking industry, his relationships with RST Sunbury and Universal Truck and Trailer, and why the world needs more drivers. Keep scrolling to enjoy this Small Business Week feature!
Tell us about your business. How long have you been driving?
Well, I've been incorporated as D&P Richards Enterprises Inc. since 2015, but I have been an Owner Operator for RST and Sunbury for 25 years. I spent 14 first with Sunbury, and have been with RST since then.
Typically I move black product for RST. That includes oil, asphalt and chemical byproducts.
What do you enjoy most about being a business owner?
I enjoy just about all of it, being on the road and travelling. [Laughs] I just can't seem to get away from it!
What challenges do you encounter as a business owner?
The biggest challenge is the hours we have to work, especially with asphalt. Moving asphalt typically means tight timelines and, over the last year in particular, it's very demanding. As I'm getting older, I do less with asphalt. RST has been very good there - they've let me slow down and adjust. They respect what I do.
We hear you've purchased vehicles through Universal Truck and Trailer. What do you drive?
I drive a 2021 Freightliner Cascadia [pictured], from Universal. It has been great. It's my last truck and it's had almost no downtime since I've had it. It's impressive, especially since I've had trucks before that were nightmares. Over the years, I've driven both Western Stars and Freightliners.
What do you wish more people know about your work?
I wish people knew more about what we [truckers] do to keep things going, to keep the world going. Sometimes, as a driver, you don't get that respect or recognition...I don't see a lot of parents encouraging their kids to become drivers, even though you can make a good living. We still have a lot of work to do there. And years ago, when I started, it was different.
On that note, what would you tell a young person interested in becoming a professional driver?
Don't be afraid to try! You can make a good living doing it. As an Owner Operator, you can make a very good living.
Who do you work with?
It's just my wife and I. She looks after the paperwork, and I drive. I will say that to be successful as a married Owner Operator, it takes two. You need to have a supportive partner. I was away a lot, and we knew that was going to be the case early on. It takes a team to make it work.
Professional Drivers faced unprecedented challenges throughout the pandemic and were continually recognized as front-line and essential workers. Their efforts kept our supply chains open and shelves stocked, ensuring key services remained available, even in lockdown. There are approximately 300,000 truck drivers working in Canada and the industry generates approximately $39 Billion in revenue annually.