Two female drivers were recognized for their professional achievements at the Ontario Trucking Association’s (OTA) 97th annual executive conference last night.
The 2023 Bridgestone-OTA Truck Hero Award went to Erb Transport’s Dawna Jacobsen, and Treana Moniz, who drives for Bison Transport, was awarded the Volvo Trucks Canada-OTA Ontario Truck Driver of the Year Award.
Moniz says she was born to drive trucks, as her father and uncles drove transport trucks too, while her mother was a server at a local truck stop.
“[It’s] in my blood,” said Moniz as she was receiving the award.
She, too, was working at a truck stop in Pennsylvania when she met a trucker from Canada. They had two kids and Moniz decided to go back to work and got her commercial driver’s licence after her two children grew up.
However, the aspiration to be behind the wheel was formed decades prior when watching her family and their friends contribute to their communities.
“It’s always been in me from a young girl,” Moniz says. “What I love most about the industry is the independence. I see a lot of different places. The sites and scenes I have seen have been amazing.”
Commitment to safety
With more than 1.25 million miles without a collision, Moniz is among the safest drivers at Bison and on top of her impeccable safety record, she also mentors new drivers and routinely contributes to her fleet.
“Many things that we have in existence today have her fingerprints all over them,” says Dave Martin, Bison’s vice-president of eastern operations, referring to the company’s programs.
Her commitment to safety is imprinted into her character. At the age of 12, Moniz lost an uncle, an aunt and a young cousin, both pregnant, in a collision that involved two transport trucks.
“I have been affected from an early age by the importance of safety in the trucking industry,” she says. “Yes, I have seen the worst. But I have also seen the best. And I’m proud to have worked with some of the best.”
While Moniz is on Bison’s Driver Advisory Board and served as an OTA Road Knight, she is also an image team member in the Women in Trucking organization and has led convoys for Breast Cancer Awareness and the Special Olympics, among other volunteerism.
“She is some kind of superpower; she really is,” says her safety supervisor, George Sutherland. “She always goes way beyond whatever she has to do.”
Sutherland adds Moniz spent her own time and expense making lunch kits for drivers who had trouble accessing restaurants during Covid-19. He says on her time off during that uncertain winter of 2021, Moniz and another driver bought groceries at the supermarket and drove them to various food banks across the GTA.
“She is always the first one to step up,” says Sutherland. “She just gives and gives and gives. She’s an amazing lady.”
That’s because earlier in her life Moniz also needed help and relied on the generosity of others.
“In my life, I have been homeless,” she says. “I have been without work. I have seen that side of the coin and today I thank God that this profession was put in front of me and that I was given the ability to do it…I am [grateful] that I have been able to achieve in this great industry because now I can help too.”
Truck Hero Award
Kindness, compassion and desire to help drive Dawna Jacobsen’s actions too — both, on and off the road. This is how she became a community hero by saving a young boy’s life.
It was “divine intervention,” she says, that kept disrupting her schedule and put her on a path to help save a life. The Erb driver encountered “one delay after another,” as she was preparing for her afternoon trip – from a setback at the yard, to a fuel card glitch, and an hour wait for her shower at a Flying J.
Jacobsen was finally on a road driving at snowed-in Hwy 11 in Kapuskasing, Ont., when she saw a snowmobile sliding down the road towards her truck. She steered her truck away from the snowmobile, avoiding contact with it, and brought her truck to a full stop. Jacobsen used it to block incoming traffic from driving through the area, assuming there could be an accident victim on the road.
There was, indeed, a boy who was severely injured. Jacobsen called 911, as two men also stopped and began to attend to him.
Because of their and Jacobsen’s actions, the boy survived after getting hit by a car as he tried to cross the dark highway on his snowmobile.
“I was terrified for that poor child. I didn’t want to look, but I had to,” she recalls.
“I honestly believe that everything that occurred to me that day leading up to this happened for a reason. I think it’s something like divine intervention. Luck isn’t involved. It’s God’s grace; His mercy; His love; His protection.”
Erb Transport president Wendell Erb says Jacobsen’s actions and quick thinking reflect the values, integrity, and all the aspects that they strive to have in a driver.
“I’m sure Dawna does not think she’s a hero,” he says. “She thinks she was just doing her job. But I would say she’s definitely a hero and is very deserving of this [Ontario Truck Driver of the Year] award.”
Jacobsen helped her siblings raise several nieces and nephews and worked with marginalized aboriginal children before becoming a truck driver, and she says that kindness and selflessness are enduring virtues she holds dear both on and off the road.
“We, as drivers, all of us – professional and personal – need to really hold back and understand that each life is precious, and each vehicle holds at least one soul and one life, and we need to be courteous,” she says.
“We need to share the road. We need to be kind.”
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