There’s a special ingredient that keeps a family-owned trucking company rolling for 110 years. “The secret sauce is the day is not over until the client is happy,” says James Steed, president of Steed Standard Transport (SST).
The Stratford, Ont., company has been in business since 1913, when entrepreneur James “Scotty” Hamilton transported coal, wood, and passengers with a horse and wagon.
SST presently has a lot more horsepower under its hood, using its 42 power units to haul more than 100 trailers in Canada and the U.S. A couple of straight trucks are also in the mix. The carrier services a small client base with a dedicated fleet hauling truckload and less than truckload freight.
“We like to forge relationships with clients who are not shopping for the lowest price. We focus on the quality of service,” Steed says.
Looking back at the company’s history, Steed said his great-grandfather Hamilton, who was a WWI veteran, renamed the company Standard Transport in 1927.
In 1939, Hamilton invited his eldest daughter, Helene, and her husband, Gordon E. Steed, to help work for the business. Hamilton died in 1945, and the couple became the second-generation owners of the company.
Their son Gordon J. Steed joined the company as a truck driver in 1956. In 1966, he and his wife Elaine bought the company from his parents and renamed it Steed Standard Transport.
Their son James, the present president, grew up around trucks. “I would go out with the drivers in their trucks when I was five or six years old,” Steed recalls.
He learned the business from the bottom up. After studying physical distribution management at Sheridan College, Steed worked at Challenger Motor Freight for a while. “I wanted to get outside experience before working for the family business,” he says.
After getting his Class 1 licence, Steed joined the company in 1990 as a truck driver. “When I started, we had six drivers,” he said. He then got involved in sales, hiring staff and dispatching.
“I hired our first full-time dispatcher when I got married because I needed time off work,” he says with a grin.
Steed purchased the company from his parents in 2000.
Some employees have worked at the company for decades. Gary Lebold started at age 18 and stayed on for more than 50 years. Steed says his grandmother hired Lebold in 1964 and he retired in 2018.
“I would do Lebold’s runs when he was on holiday,” Steed recalls. “He provided so much culture to this company.”
After Lebold passed away in 2021, SST partnered with the Ontario Trucking Association (OTA) Education Foundation to establish a scholarship that honors his life and legacy.
Peter Opie has been SST’s financial controller for almost 25 years. He says people are treated with respect and personal circumstances are considered, providing a good work-life balance.
Local driver A.J., has been hauling SST loads since 2019 and said the company is very accommodating when he needs time off. “The equipment’s good and they never put pressure on me to do something I don’t want to do,” he says. “If you do a little extra it gets noticed.”
Steed, keen to move the needle on road safety, was elected chairman of the OTA last year. “I want to give back to the industry. There are people who care about it.”
The company also gives back to the local community by helping the Stratford Festival and Optimism Place – a women’s shelter. It is also part of the Trucks for Change Network, delivering food to the needy.
As the company drives into its 12th decade, Steed plans to build a new facility with a warehouse to accommodate growth.
He aims to preserve a slice of history as well at the new terminal. There will be room for equipment that he drove. “Two power units per decade from the 1990s. I drove a lot of ‘80s equipment too, so I may buy something from that time frame too,” he added.
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