A Growing Freight Company Giving Priority to Driver Needs

Ayr Motor Express
Written by Jessica Ferlaino

Ayr Motor Express is a Canadian long-haul carrier company providing high quality, cross border shipping services from terminals in New Brunswick, Ontario, Manitoba and drop yards throughout Canada and the United States. Using the most up to date technology and equipment, Ayr’s expert team of specialists provides transportation, logistics, warehousing, distribution, and expedited services throughout its operating territory.

First founded in May of 1990, the company was established in the small community of Ayr in the municipality of Waterloo, Ontario. Starting small, as a three-truck transportation service, by 1993 the team had begun to see success. That year, the company moved its headquarters to Woodstock, New Brunswick, close to the hometown where Joe Keenan, Founder and President, was born.

Today, the company has dedicated terminals in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Brampton, Ontario, and at its headquarters location in Woodstock, New Brunswick. Across these locations they employ long-haul truck drivers, city, and day-cab drivers, operations and administrative staff, finance and sales teams. Ayr employs just over 500 people in total and is the parent company to Keenan Truck Repair in Woodstock – the maintenance facility for all company equipment.

Ayr Motor has had a presence in western Canada for 28 years. As the company has grown, so have the needs of both its clients and employees. Having reached the limits of what can be done with leased property, Ayr has decided to build its own facility with a full warehouse, cross docking capabilities, and a wide range of employee amenities. It will be larger, modernized, and much more efficient in its operations.

The location of the new facility was strategically chosen, positioned right in the center of the trucking hub of western Canada. A key focus of the building’s design is to accommodate the needs of the company’s workers. It will include lounge areas, a lunchroom, locker rooms, and showers. Designing the new facility with these conveniences is Ayr’s way of giving back to the drivers and staff.

With the understanding that its employees are the backbone of the company, Ayr Motor has many other initiatives to show its appreciation, recognizing drivers with safety and performance bonuses quarterly and million-mile awards that include a bonus, leather jacket, watch and certificate. Office and terminal staff are recognized based on years of service milestones with person gift selections and certificates and celebrations on Employee Appreciation Day. To encourage drivers and staff to be not just great employees, but also great citizens, Ayr also recognizes them through its On the Spot Recognition Program.

One aspect that makes Ayr’s team unique is the dedication they have toward supporting the work-life balance of drivers and ensuring they have the opportunity to schedule their own work hours. “Our driver planners are dedicated to giving our drivers the opportunity to schedule when they’re out and when they’re home,” says Melinda Thornton, Director of Human Resources at Ayr Motor. “We have a whole department based specifically on that for our drivers. That way people have more flexibility; they are at home when they need to be home and out when they need to be working.”

As a family-oriented business, the owners of Ayr Motor are sure to be present and make themselves available to the team every day. Highly community-minded, the company supports local families and businesses through various programs, as well as charities and the local civic center. To express gratitude for the sponsorship, the civic center was renamed to the Ayr Motor Center in 2015. The company is also involved in a number of school programs locally including breakfast programs, and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Canada.

In order to remain successful in the trucking industry, companies must be flexible to the concerns of its drivers – as Ayr Motor has been. “I think as the future goes on, the industry needs to adapt to the driver’s needs,” says Seth Keenan, Director of Operations at Ayr Motor. “What I have seen over the last five years is that drivers want to be home more regularly. We have younger drivers that are coming into the industry and they have families themselves, so we need to be a bit more adaptive to that.”

Exemplifying this employee-first approach, Ayr Motor is proud to have been named “Employer of Choice” by THRSC Atlantic, particularly because it is a designation based directly on the employees’ experience. The Trucking Human Resources Sector Council (THRSC) Atlantic offers employers the opportunity to receive anonymous insight and useful feedback from employees in order to improve the overall workplace environment. Based on completed surveys, the program recognizes companies that score well with their employees and rewards them with the title Employer of Choice. Ayr Motor has now received this recognition in 2019 and 2020.

In a video posted to its website, Ayr Motor drivers praise the company for its commitment to work-life balance. Ayr Motor has built its entire transportation system around maximizing the miles and minimizing turnaround times at customer sites to ensure that drivers can spend as much of their downtime at home with their families as possible. “I can honestly say, in twenty years, that I’ve only slept overnight seven times,” says a driver from the video.

Transporting Purolator freight since 2006, Ayr Motor was named Long-Haul Carrier of the Year by Purolator in 2012, 2014, and 2015. In 2019, the company was named a top carrier with the Purolator Eastern Service Award, and it was also awarded the Purolator Western Safety Award. That same year, Ayr Motor was awarded with Large Asset Carrier of the Year from Crown Metal Packaging Canada, one of the largest manufacturers of beverage packaging in the world. Recently, Ayr Motor was granted a five-year contract with Purolator, one of Canada’s leading package and logistics solutions providers, and for 2020 has been recognized as Purolator’s Eastern Carrier of the Year.

Indeed, the main focus for Ayr Motor is providing efficient and cost-effective solutions to its customers. “We strive to give the best service possible, and many of our customers always tell us that we pay very close attention to detail. [The competition] may do some of the same things, but by us paying attention to detail and ensuring the best service possible, that’s what helps make us successful,” says Keenan.

Another adjustment as trucking advances forward is that the carrier’s performance can be measured by customers much more easily. Customers are able to track and follow a shipment’s progress, and technology in this area will only continue to improve. “I think the industry is held to a higher standard in general now,” explains Joe Keenan, President of the company. “With safety and regulations, we’re held to a higher standard by our customers because there are more tools available to customers to measure your service, so you have to be constantly improving.”

Since Ayr Motor opened its doors in 1990, it has seen consistent success. The company has continued to grow steadily year over year, sometimes in the face of substantial economic challenges. In 2020, as the pandemic caused significant downturns in every industry, Ayr Motor was able to maintain its upward trajectory. In many sectors, as the supply chain broke down, transportation companies faltered as well. With the right business plan and dedicated drivers and staff, as many industries struggled, Ayr Motor continued to grow the size of its fleet. “In my career I have never met such hard-working dedicated employees; they amaze me every day and they are key to our success,” says Thornton.

Last year, as the company celebrated 30 years in business, the team had the opportunity to reflect on how much had changed over three decades and also on how much had stayed the same. Operating in such a competitive industry demands that a company be nimble enough to shift with the changing tides and embrace new tools and technologies. Throughout its tenure, Ayr Motor has always kept pace with industry advancements, but maybe even more important is its commitment to the things that it knows will never change: the virtues of hard work and taking care of the people who do it for you.

Now, as Ayr Motor looks ahead, the company is excited about the opening of its new terminal in Winnipeg and the anticipated overall growth that it hopes will turn into further expansion. After a long year of slow progress, the world is beginning to return to normal. Ayr Motor is ready to continue its climb toward even greater success.



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