Still in the game

April 5, 2021
Trimac Transportation driver Ed Stasyshyn, 78, refuses to retreat; instead sets sights on NTTC’s top tank truck driver award

Life, and the coronavirus, conspired to knock him down. 

Trimac Transportation’s Edward Stasyshyn was forced to part with his beloved 1985 Mack Truck in November, and he’d already been sidelined for nearly four months as he waited for his turn to receive the COVID-19 vaccine in February—and the ability to safely return to work in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.

But neither a global pandemic, nor the inexorable advance of time—which finally overtook his truck, making it difficult for him to handle the maintenance on his own—could force the 78-year-old driver to consider checking out.

Retirement simply isn’t in the cards he’s holding.

“I just like what I’m doing,” he said. “And all my friends have retired and they’re not having much fun. So why should I quit? As long as I can do the job, and I’m not stealing trips from people who need them more than me—and that’s not the case here, because we have a driver shortage—I’m going to keep doing it. I enjoy it too much.”

The trucking industry still needs him, too.

Stasyshyn has more than 50 years of experience at the wheel, and he’s always willing to share his time and wisdom, especially in educating youth on opportunities in trucking. He has served on numerous committees during his 30-plus years with Trimac, encouraged women to enter the industry through Women Building Futures, and spent two years as a Road Knight with the Alberta Motor Transport Association.

“What really stands out is how serious he takes being an ambassador for trucking, and how he responds to any kind of inquiries about the trucking industry, how it works, and what you need to do to be successful,” said Travis Fast, Trimac’s operations manager.

That dedication to trucking and, above all, safety, made Stasyshyn the clear choice for the company’s first entry in National Tank Truck Carriers’ Professional Tank Truck Driver of the Year contest, and he was one of eight 2019-20 finalists revealed in January 2020. NTTC intended to name a winner last May at its 75th annual conference, but that was cancelled due to the virus, leading the association to suspend the program and crown one of the current candidates at its 2021 Annual Conference, slated for June 13-15 in Indianapolis, Indiana.

“He’s someone you want to have on your side,” Fast said.

Winding road

Stasyshyn was raised on a farm just north of Edmonton. As soon as he could carry a pail, he had a job, so he was driving tractors by 11, and piloting old pickups on dirt roads long before he got his Class 1 driver’s license.

He moved to the “big city” at 15—but didn’t go directly into trucking.

Instead, after graduating high school, he detoured into a career as a journeyman electrician. He continued on that path into his late 20s, and might still be an electrician had he crossed the picket line. While working on a new hospital, his union went on strike, and since he didn’t want to cross the line, but still needed a job, he harkened to his days on the farm, and leaned on his driving experience. “I thought to myself, ‘Well, what the heck? I need an income and I’m on strike now, I better do something,” he recalled.

“So I got a job at a company called Boychuk Transport, doing pickups and deliveries around town in a straight truck … and that’s how I got started.”

First, he returned to his old job after a two-month strike ended, and the pay was better, but the atmosphere was toxic, and he could get more hours doing the “p&d” work, so the money evened out. And, as he soon came to realize, he enjoyed driving trucks far more than toiling on industrial construction sites.

After earning his commercial license, Stasyshyn cut his teeth with tractor-trailers while driving double with a lease operator contracted to Atomic Transport. The operator, John Kinackin, needed a partner for longer runs, so he gave the greenhorn trucker a shot during a six-month stint hauling cargoes across Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba in an old 4-by-4, twin-stick cabover Kenworth that wasn’t a cinch to master.

His first experience with tanks was hauling cement and fly ash in dry bulk trailers with Veterans Transport, which today is Cascade Carriers. Then he made stops with Economy Carriers, hauling fuel in northern Alberta, and Caron Transport, hauling chemicals—along with working for two dry van companies—before landing with CP Bulk Systems in 1986. CP Bulk became part of Trimac in 1990.

So, depending on how you look at it, Stasyshyn has been with Trimac for 31, 33—which is his official tally for seniority—or 35 years, going back to the CP days. And of his 50 years in trucking, 45 have been spent pulling tanks. In all that time, he said he’s never worked for a bad company—but Trimac is the best.

“If you’re going to rate trucking companies, Trimac is at the top,” he said. “They listen, they’re approachable, and the managers I’ve worked with, for the most part, have been easy to talk to. And I’ve always made good money because I’ve been able to go from one product to another. If things got a little slow in one area I’d go to the other, so when I was really ambitious and wanted to work a lot, there was always work to do.”

Tankers for life

That diversity kept him in the industry, despite the challenges, and dangers. Tank truck drivers transporting powder cement are working with product under pressure, and chemical haulers must don personal protective equipment (PPE) when offloading. “If you don’t do it right, you can get hurt,” Stasyshyn acknowledged. “If you’re hauling 70% caustic, which is very hot—you’re hauling it at 150 to 180 degrees F—or a corrosive acid, you don’t dare get any on your skin or clothes, so you have to be suited up.”

Stasyshyn spent his first 35 years on the highway. For the last 17, he’s done “city” work, delivering cement to regulars in the Edmonton area in his signature, lightweight Mack Econodyne. Local runs translated to regular hours, and more home time, which Lori, his wife of 41 years, appreciates, especially when winter conditions make the Alaska Highway so treacherous. But since he’s no good around the house—“I’m in the way more than anything else,” he jokes—he’s given his time back to the industry he loves.

“I’ve enjoyed it,” Stasyshyn said. “It’s allowed me to get more involved with associations and projects Trimac has going on. When you’re out on the highway you don’t have as much time to be involved with extracurricular stuff. But in the city, we usually work 10-11 hours a day, five days a week, so you have weekends off.”

Only now he has more free time than he can stomach.

With his Mack needing extensive maintenance he wasn’t prepared to deal with, in his eighth decade of life, Stasyshyn instead sold the truck to Northwest Truck Sales & Service, whose owner vowed to restore and display the classic truck. “I was attached to it, so I’d hate to see it torn up and sold for parts,” he lamented.

At the same time, his longtime respirologist, Dr. Dominic Carney, advised against his returning to work until he is vaccinated against COVID-19, because of his pre-existing lung condition. Stasyshyn has visited Carney regularly for tests and checkups for 50 years after inhaling asbestos while working as an electrician.  

“I miss contact with people, but I still hang around the terminal, and talk to people every now and then, just to keep in touch,” he said. “So it hasn’t been too bad. I’ve stayed fairly busy. But we’re kind of in a bubble here, and we have a situation where health officials have advised us to stay in that bubble as much as we can.”

New tricks

Still, Stasyshyn’s eager to get back on city roads.

He already has an arrangement with Trimac in which he’ll return as a lease-operator in a new truck, likely a Freightliner he said, after owning and operating vintage Macks most of his life. “It’s going to be a learning experience,” he said. “There’s probably a lot of stuff in there I’ve never had before, but I’m sure I’ll figure it all out when the time comes.”

He always has—and doesn’t plan to stop any time soon.

And if he secures NTTC’s William A. Usher Professional Tank Truck Driver of the Year Award, he plans to leverage its prestige in pursuit of his greatest passion—serving as an ambassador to the trucking industry.

“If you’ve got a title, like North American Grand Champion, that’s an attention getter,” he said.

“It would be a pretty good tool to have in my toolbox.”

About the Author

Jason McDaniel

Jason McDaniel, based in the Houston TX area, has more than 20 years of experience as an award-winning journalist. He spent 15 writing and editing for daily newspapers, including the Houston Chronicle, and began covering the commercial vehicle industry in 2018. He was named editor of Bulk Transporter and Refrigerated Transporter magazines in July 2020.