- Honor the personal worth of all people by recognizing and respecting their space, opinions and contributions.
- Educate continually as it is essential to progress.
- Act efficiently, expediently and profitably without compromise to the highest standards of moral and ethical behavior.
- Risk-take intelligently.
- Team build through creative thinking, expressions of opinion, and cooperative working relationships.
In 1998 Portage Transport Service, owned and operated by the late Robert Gallagher of Oakville and Ron Johnson of Winnipeg, had a terminal in Winnipeg and in Portage la Prairie. Its main purpose was to be a freight courier service linking Winnipeg to Portage la Prairie, Brandon, Dauphin and all points between. Freight came into Winnipeg from all over the world via many large carriers and many modes of transportation. Freight was gathered by the Winnipeg terminal and shipped to the Portage terminal twice each day. It was then distributed between Portage and *West* trucks and brought to the customer, often the same day.
During this time and for 10 years prior, Bernie Driedger of Portage la Prairie was busy adding miles to the odometer of his truck through flat deck service for various Canadian-based companies, all the while thinking he would like to manage a fleet of his own some day. He always paid careful attention not only to the freight he was carrying, but to how the companies he was working for were managed. By spring of 1998, his health was no longer such that he could drive the miles needed to the do the job. Plus he had made a promise to his young daughter that by the time she was a certain age, he would have a job that enabled him to be home each night for supper. That deadline was looming.
Bernie was at this time renting space in PTS’ shop to park his truck when he was at home. Through conversations with PTS staff and owners, he became aware that the company was for sale. On August 31, 1998, Portage Transport Service became Portage Transport (1998), owned and operated by Bernie and Liz Driedger.
The company continued the courier service for a number of years but also added a short-haul truck load division immediately to meet the needs of several local manufacturing companies. However, it soon became apparent that Bernie’s heart and expertise lay in moving freight over longer distances. A long haul reefer division was born in 2002 and the courier division was sold to Gardewine North.
Portage Transport operates today as a vibrant, growing company in which beats a heart for customer and driver satisfaction. Today, the company has a fleet of 91 trucks pulling reefers and vans. Slow, steady growth has provided a firm foundation for future opportunities.
Bernie’s developer and entrepreneurial talents are an asset to meeting the ever-changing challenges facing the transportation industry. His philosophy is literally based on when one door closes, another one opens. A new and fresh vision for the company’s direction provides a continual atmosphere of excitement and anticipation.
National Trucking Week Magazine has done an Executive Biography on Bernie
Manitoba Trucking Association 2nd Vice-President Bernie Driedger is President and CEO of Portage Transport Inc., a US and Canadian bonded carrier, specializing in LTL/FTL, temperature controlled and hazardous shipments. WCHN asked Bernie to share his thoughts on his career, his company and his industry.
Bernie said he fell in love with big trucks around the age of 12. His father owned a feedlot, which was visited regularly by all makes and models of semi-trucks. Young Bernie couldn’t get enough of these behemoths and that fascination never left him. When he turned 18, he obtained his Class license and began driving part-time for a local farmer. As a young adult, Bernie would farm in the summer months and drive truck in. The winter. At 28, he bought his first truck and became an owner-operator for the next 10 years. In 1998, Bernie felt it was time to honor a commitment he had made to his young daughter. That commitment was to leave ‘the road’ and live a more ‘normal’ life where he would be home for supper on a regular basis. While looking for opportunities that would keep him off the road, Bernie discovered that the trucking company that rented him space to park his truck was up for sale. The rest, as they say, is history!
PORTAGE TRANSPORT (1998) INC.
In 1998, Portage Transport Service, owned and operated by the late Robert Gallagher of Oakville and Ron Johnson of Winnipeg, had terminals in Winnipeg and Portage la Prairie (85 km west of Manitoba’s capital city). Its main job was providing freight courier service linking Winnipeg to Portage, Brandon, Dauphin, and all points between. At that time, the carrier boasted three trucks and 15 trailers. In his 10 years as an owner-operator, Bernie always paid special attention to how the carriers he drove for were managed, and developed a set of managerial tactics he would employ if he ever ran his own outfit – and conversely a set of tactics he would avoid like the plague. Armed with this set of business maxims, his experience behind the wheel and his truck, Bernie and his wife Liz purchased Portage Transport Service, renamed it Portage Transport (1998) Inc., and embarked on a journey of an entirely different nature from anything in their experience.
One of Bernie’s first moves was adding a short-haul truck load division to meet the needs of a growing number of manufacturing companies in the Portage area. In 2002, Bernie established a long-haul reefer division, while selling the courier division of the company to Gardewine North.
While an experienced owner-operator, Bernie had no trucking management experience other than his previously mentioned observations. Yet, he and Liz slowly grew the company a little each year. Bernie discovered that he did. indeed, have the entrepreneurial spirit within him, which continually sparked new ideas and an atmosphere of excitement. The Driedgers treated employees and customers alike – by following the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” This generated a fierce loyalty from employees.
The company’s core values include:
- Honor the personal worth of all people by recognizing and respecting their space, opinions and contribution
- Educate continually as it is essential to
- Act efficiently, expediently and profitably without compromise to the highest standards of moral and ethical
- Risk-take intelligently.
- Team build through creative thinking, expressions of opinion, and cooperative working relationships
Today, Portage Transport is headquartered in Portage la Prairie, Manitoba. It provides short-haul and long-haul carrier/freight services to companies throughout south-central Manitoba. Serving customers in Canada and the US, Portage Transport has 110 trucks and 140 reefers/trailers. There are 15 employees in the office and 10 in the shop. Behind the wheel are 35 owner-operators and another 80 company drivers. Bernie says, “Our overriding goal is always customer satisfaction. A big part of this is a commitment to on-time delivery. We constantly upgrade our equipment, focus on driver training so they’re always aware of the demands of specific loads, and keep in constant contact with customers – updating them on their loads so that we can meet that small window of opportunity that is in each delivery.”
INVOLVEMENT IN THE MTA
Prior to 2010, Bernie occasionally used the MTA’s myriad of resources. but wasn’t a Carrier Member. Around that time, he found his company relying on the MTA more and more, and decided to become a member. After a year, Bernie decided to increase his involvement and joined the MTA’s Board of Directors in 2011. His reasons were twofold: “I wanted to give back to the industry – that’s in my nature; but I also saw it as a good opportunity to become more involved in the direction of the trucking industry in Manitoba.”
In 2012, Bernie moved up to the MTA Executive Committee. His ‘pet issue’ has been working to simplify trucking regulations in the province. “I’m looking forward to headway on this issue as the new provincial government seems more amenable to this direction.”
Bernie is a big believer in deregulation and cites this as the biggest change he has witnessed in the industry since he became involved. The biggest challenge he says remains finding the right individuals to fill the role of driver for Portage Transport. Bernie states, “We don’t simply want truck drivers, we want outstanding truck drivers, who pride themselves on doing their jobs professionally and to the best of their ability”
Bernie also sat on the Building Committee that oversaw the recent expansion of the MTA headquarters. “That experience went really well,” he says and the proof is in the finished product. It’s an outstanding office space, ideal for meeting and training events – and something of which the entire industry in Manitoba should be proud.”
A GOOD CORPORATE CITIZEN
Portage Transport’s mission statement reads: “Portage Transport Inc. will strive to provide excellent service to its customers, create a balanced working environment for its employees, make a social difference locally and globally and be financially successful.” These aren’t just empty words. Portage Transport was there in the aftermath of the forest fires that decimated Fort McMurray last year. The company along with a number of corporate partners ‘(generous businesses/organizations from Winnipeg, Portage and surrounding areas) filled a trailer with 48 pallets (50,000 lb.) of goods, which driver Mel Martin then delivered to an Edmonton warehouse for Fort Mac evacuees.
A few years ago, driver Myrna Chartrand approached Bernie with the idea of out fitting her truck in pink to promote the ongoing fight against breast cancer. Bernie had seen a similar truck at a Peterbilt show years before and was on board with the idea. Bernie and Myrna tossed ideas back-and-forth and produced Myrna’s first pink truck. Recently, the second version made its appearance. The truck and Myrna are invited to several breast cancer fundraisers and promotional events every year and are a huge hit wherever they go. It’s a ‘win-win’ situation wherein Portage Transport gets exposure, creates awareness for the battle against breast cancer, and employs a proud company driver who is doing something admirable with her favorite color – pink!
Portage Transport is involved in many other community initiatives, many of which originate in Bernie’s church- the Prairie Alliance Church. He says, “Our church is very active in the community, so we don’t have to look far afield for worthy causes.”
AWAY FROM WORK AND THE BOARDROOM
Asked how he likes to spend his leisure time, Bernie replies, “Liz and I have two fantastic granddaughters, aged 6 and 4. They’re the apples of their grandfather’s eyes – and they know it. We love spending time with them. Liz and I also enjoy traveling. In the last year, Liz has stepped back from full-time work at the office, so we try to get away a bit more these days.”
As long as he doesn’t go too far – for the good of Portage Transport, the Manitoba Trucking Association, and the trucking industry in the province!