Category Archives: Company News

Challenge accepted! Getting our industry in shape

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The management of Polaris Transportation is excited about participating in the industry wide Healthy Fleet Challenge. It runs for 2 months starting May 1, 2017. The challenge is powered by Healthy Trucker, a corporate health and wellness program designed for the trucking industry. A nutritionist and certified health coach are available through a mobile APP to get staff on the right road to a healthier lifestyle with ongoing education, support and motivation. We are 100% behind the Healthy Fleet Challenge and encourage all Polaris staff to be part of it!

The results of the last Healthy Fleet Challenge saw over 90% of participants eating better, exercising more and being happy they participated. Over 70% reported feeling better and sleeping better as well.

Each member of our team is encouraged to participate from accounting to dispatch, from dock worker to driver…owner operators too! We can all benefit from living a healthier lifestyle.

The challenge also offers up incentives, Member Rewards and prizes to further encourage participants to give it their all.

As a ramp up to the challenge, Polaris management has led head office staff in 15- minute healthy break walks. Recent potluck lunches have also been based on healthier eating choices.

Our President, Larry Cox, is one of the biggest supporters of the Healthy Fleet Challenge and has appointed champions within the company to lead the charge. Charlene Davidson, Director of Training and Development and Kevin Wartman, Director of Risk Management are heading up the challenge at Polaris.

Making healthier lifestyle choices today is a step in the right direction for healthier lifestyle choices tomorrow. There is a friendly competition between fleets involved and Polaris definitely wants to make a good showing in overall results. Go Team Polaris!

Employee diversity shapes our world and expands our perspective

By Rebecca Muyano, Polaris Transportation Human Resources Manager

photoPolaris Transportation, like our city, is comprised of many cultures; Canadian, European, Spanish, French, Indian and Filipino…to name a few. Because the Polaris team is receptive to new ideas and traditions, we celebrate many different holidays and share in the foods specific to the diverse groups within our organization.

Polaris has over 300 employees, so every culture tends to be well represented. The celebrations are not organized in a formal fashion and tend to be initiated by our employees. Our team members do gather and share their traditions throughout the year.

One such celebration is Diwali, which stands for the Festival of Lights and is observed every autumn by members of our team from East Indian and Sikh backgrounds. It is an ancient tradition and signifies the victory of light over darkness. Samosa, sweets and sometimes roti and curry are brought in and shared with our staff.Picture 061[2][2]

We have a Filipino group who tend to celebrate with rice cakes, pansit and egg rolls, while others go for pizza or good old fashioned donuts and coffee. President of Polaris Transportation, Larry Cox states, “In the early years we gave back to the community by doing fundraisers for Sick Kids Hospital and CHUM Christmas Wish. We continue to support these charities. Now, with our diverse culture, we are proud to honour and support their traditions too. At Polaris, every position is important and every person plays a key role in our journey for excellence.”

Keeping it in the family

Tom Przybyla started his career in transportation as a direct result of his father and Dave Cox. Tom explains “My Dad drove for Polaris and one day Dave, pleased with my Dad’s performance asked if he had any sons. The next day I interviewed and started what is now a 15 year career with the big yellow star.

Both Tom and his Dad (Dariusz), who is still driving, enjoy working with Polaris. Tom says “The people here are great and it’s a terrific pleasure to work here”. Tom heads up the Customs Department at Polaris…a critical component for a Cross Border carrier. He has 15 people who report to him now and his primary role is solving the problems others can’t. Tom adds, “My team is great. I tend to deal with the exceptions that fall outside the norm of our everyday operations. I’m the ‘big’ problem solver and I enjoy the challenge.”

Tom is single and lives in Woodbridge, Ontario. He is crazy about soccer, mostly watching, but occasionally playing a casual pick-up game with his buddies. He is an avid movie buff and would like to carve out time to volunteer with underprivileged kids again, sometime in the near future.

Tom was half way through a degree in History at York University when he joined Polaris. Tom says, “I was thinking of being a teacher back then. Today, I like to consider myself a self-taught Professor of Customs Procedures. When the opportunity came to join Polaris and work with my Dad, I jumped at it and have never looked back.”

When Polaris Says “Take me out to the ball game, we don’t kid around”

A record turnout of Polaris employees and their families attended the afternoon Jays game against the St. Louis Cardinals on Saturday June 7th. Our company was well represented at the game with over 225 attending. Although the Jays got smoked by the Cardinals with 4 runs in the eighth inning, that didn’t stop our crew from having a super time.

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Alex Kudinov and his family

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John Giunta, Chris Bante and his son

It’s a great event for the kids especially. There are many activities for them to enjoy like meeting the mascots Ace and Junior, face painting and even running the bases at the end of the game. There’s nothing like a ball game, the fresh outdoors, great friends and family sharing the day together. President Larry Cox states, “We encourage these kind of activities. It’s great to get to know each other outside of work and learn more about each other. Sharing an afternoon together creates memories that last a lifetime.”

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Ted Jeszka

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Turpin Cagan and his family

Along with running the bases, kids under the age of 14 also get a chance to dress up in their Blue Jays gear for a chance to win prizes and be seen on the large video board. When it comes to the Polaris team spending a day with the Jays… everyone is a winner!

Our people move freight. These are their stories: Rami Ablacksingh

Rami Ablacksingh has worked numerous jobs since moving to Canada from Trinidad, but it was not until joining the Polaris team that he found his passion.

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As the Lead Loading Supervisor, Rami co-ordinates, assigns, and reviews the activities of the cross dock operation. “We are responsible for getting the right freight on the right trailers to locations all over North America,” Rami says. The loading crew works on a tight deadline as it all has to happen between 1pm and 9pm to meet the delivery schedules.

“It’s a very important job,” Rami says. “I love what I’m doing- The environment and the people are wonderful and it’s very rewarding to see everything take shape on a daily basis. The loading team has a genuine camaraderie, it makes working here fun and we always help and encourage each other to do our best.”

The team also partakes in a few activities outside of work. Getting together for a pizza and a few laughs is a common occurrence and a Blue Jays game is in the works in the near future.

Rami has one son, one daughter, and five grandchildren. He likes to keep active and plays in the Overseas Cricket Club in Toronto. Rami also notes, “My family members are all Leafs fans and enjoy watching the games together. I love the game even though I’ve never played.”

“I wake up every day and I thank the Lord that I found a career where I can be proud of what I do, can help grow our company and do my part to keep our customers happy.”

Our people move freight. These are their stories: Charlene Davidson

Charlene Davidson, Training and Development Manager

Charlene Davidson has been working at Polaris for 10 years, in several capacities. She’s recently moved into the role of Training Coordinator; that means, she works to educate Polaris staff – newcomers, veterans and everyone in between – about policies, practices and procedures so operations run as smoothly as possible.

But, Charlene has another, unofficial role at Polaris. For the past seven years, she’s taken on the task of organizing a Christmas toy drive for staff, vendors and customers! “The first year we did it was such a success; we’ve continued the tradition each year since. Every year gets better and better.”

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Charlene organizes a company-wide contribution to the annual CP24 CHUM Christmas Wish campaign. The program was established in 1966 with the specific goal of helping children in need. Over the years, the program evolved into the Christmas Wish to “continue the longstanding tradition of giving a kid a Christmas.” The program has grown to become one of the most expansive toy distributors to children in the GTA. In addition to giving thousands of kids something to look forward to on Christmas morning, CHUM helps support hundreds of like-minded agencies.

“It’s a fantastic way to give back during the holiday season and it really helps us get into the spirit of Christmas,” explains Charlene.

Each year, Charlene works to coordinate the design and distribution of promotional posters about a month leading up to the toy drive. They’re posted around the Polaris head office and sent to vendors and customers who are interested in contributing. In order to collect the toys, a Polaris truck makes the rounds and collects all the donations.

“Sometimes, when it comes to initiatives like this one, a lot of people want to participate but it’s difficult to plan the logistics of it. The holidays are a busy time for everyone. Offering to pick up everyone’s donations at their office is a way to make it a little easier for people to contribute,” says Charlene.

Participating in activities like the CHUM Christmas wish is a great way to build community spirit in an office. “We don’t always get time for a Christmas party, perse,” says Charlene. “But, when people start comparing notes about the toys they bought for the drive and coming to work with ideas and stories about their hunt for the perfect toy donation…you can really feel the Christmas spirit around here! Lots of people get their families involved. It’s a great activity to do with your kids. Finding the perfect toy is fun and it can really hit home that the holidays are a time for giving back.”

This year, there’s an extra incentive to give back. During the huge flood this past July, a great deal of the toys in the CHUM warehouse were destroyed. Now, more than ever, the program could use an extra boost to help give thousands of families in the GTA a Christmas. The deadline to get your toy donations in is December 20th! “Santa Cliff” will be making his rounds and arranging for delivery of the donations to the warehouse.

“We really hope this year is our best yet!” says Charlene.

Our people move freight. These are their stories: Gerald Sandham

Gerald Sandham, Highway Dispatch

After a long and outstanding career in the transportation industry, Gerald Sandham retired this year. He’s been in transportation since the mid-1970s and a highway dispatcher for Polaris Transport since 2005. “I’ve been in highway dispatch since 1991,” says Gerald. “A big part of my job used to be taking care of communicating with drivers, dispatching them to deliveries…with Polaris, I’ve dealt more with terminals—committing to loads and ensuring they’re delivered. It’s a high-responsibility job, but I’ve really enjoyed it.”

Although Gerald’s spent many years in the business, trucking wasn’t his first love. Before he found his place in the transportation industry, Gerald studied horticulture for 2 years—that is, the science, technology, and business involved in cultivating plants for human use. “I was born and raised on a farm and I loved the outdoors,” Gerald explains. After spending a couple of years learning more about his passion and becoming educated in horticulture, Gerald started a landscaping company.

“The work was great; I loved being outdoors and working with plant life, but it was just so seasonal,” says Gerald. So, over 40 years ago, finding himself in need of work during the winter, Gerald joined his brothers’ trucking company as a driver.

This led to a change in direction for Gerald and his family—especially when he and his brothers sold their interests to a company in Toronto. “This is when I really got involved in the transportation industry,” said Gerald. “I was asked to go help integrate the existing customers for the new company in Toronto.” The biggest change, according to Gerald, was moving his family to a big city from a small town. It was a little bit of a culture shock, he admits, but they found ways to adjust.

After spending years as a truck driver, Gerald made the switch to dispatcher in ’91. But, he says, he’ll never forget where he got his start. “I’ve had a lot of great experiences in this industry.”

One of the most important values as a member of the transportation industry, according to Gerald, is responsibility to the client and commitment to delivering the load. It was the eve of a Sharon, Lois and Bram concert – the popular children’s entertainment group from the 1980s – and a delivery of their CDs was set to go from Toronto to Cleveland for the show. When Gerald arrived at work in Toronto the morning of the show, he found the shipment of CD’s sitting in the loading dock—they hadn’t been placed on a truck! Thinking quickly, Gerald grabbed the shipment, loaded it on a pickup truck and made the delivery to Cleveland himself.

“No matter what your role, when you take on the responsibility of delivering a load, he most important thing is following through on that commitment,” said Gerald.

Although he’s worked his last official day at Polaris, Gerald will continue to be on-call for duty for the next little while. “I think the best thing I’ve taken away from my time at Polaris and in the transportation industry is the friendships. I’ve worked with some great people and it’s really stuck with me,” said Gerald.

Gerald’s plans for his retirement are family-centric, focusing on re-discovering his love of horticulture and working on his beautiful vintage car—a 1951 Admiral blue Lincoln.

Our people move freight. These are their stories: Pablita Ravelo

Pablita Ravelo, Polaris Customs Supervisor

Few experiences can be as alienating, confusing—and, frankly, terrifying—as relocating to a new country. Without knowledge of the language, currency and politics of an area, adjusting to the way things are can be an emotional experience. For Pablita Ravelo, it started about seven years ago.

Cebu is one of the largest provinces in the Philippines and is home to a number of educational institutions. The University of Cebu is one of them…a world-class university established in 1964. Pablita, born and raised in the Philippines, was just beginning a promising career at the University as the youngest administrator and Principal.  But, as it turned out, the Canadian Visa Pablita and her husband applied for months before was approved just as Pablita was starting her new career. She was understandably reticent to move her life and job to a new country, but she and her husband decided it was the best move for their daughters’ education and up bringing.

“I was at the height of my career when the Visa arrived,” said Pablita. “I was happy and fulfilled with my work, but we decided to come to Canada for the sake of our daughters. We wanted to give them the best education and my husband and I believed Canada was the best.”

Adjusting to life in Canada wasn’t easy. The language, the currency and transferring education were all obstacles. According to Pablita, the first two years in Canada were really difficult. “The first month, especially, was really tough. When we came here, it was like going back to zero. We knew nobody. Every day was a struggle, everything was uncertain.”

Pablita searched for work in her then-chosen profession: teaching. She had a wealth of experience from her life in the Philippines, but it wasn’t that simple. Teaching is a regulated profession in Canada—it would take a year or even two to become certified.

“I started thinking about all my transferrable skills from my time in academia,” said Pablita. “I knew I had skills and experience that would work in an office, as well. But, one thing would be a hindrance—my typing.” Because she had administrative assistants in the Philippines, Pablita’s keyboarding skills needed some brushing up before she could be considered for an office job. So, that’s exactly what she did. Pablita enrolled in a six-month course; at the three-month mark, she was  asked to act as an assistant/shadow teacher for the learning centre.

When Pablita’s program was about to end, someone pointed her toward the Customs position at Polaris. She was hired almost right away. Although it was a little outside her wheelhouse, Pablita drew on the skills and experience she’d acquired during her time in higher education and her administrative assistant course to learn on-the-job. It took time to get used to the transportation office environment and, at first, it was difficult. “I told myself that I needed time to adjust and learn the job. I told myself not to quit,” says Pablita. “After a few months, I mastered my job.”

Now, Pablita can confidently say she has accomplished what she came to Canada to do. Both her daughters have had great success in education—the eldest graduating from McMaster Summa Cum Laude and the youngest about to enter the University of Guelph.

Pablita says that working at Polaris was the break she needed after two years in Canada. She finds herself positively challenged each day, and the team at Polaris has worked to provide opportunities for her daughters, as well.  “It’s been like a family here.”

Reflecting on her time in Canada, Pablita says despite the challenges she faced during the first two years and the obstacles she had to overcome, seeing her daughters’ success is incredible. “Its one of the best things I could feel—this is what we wanted. Looking back, seeing what my daughters have achieved, we can say that we made it!”

Our people move freight. These are their stories: Rick Weisler

Rick Weisler, President, Waterloo Regional REACT

Rick Weisler has worked at Polaris Transport for five years. He’s the Terminal Manager, overseeing dispatch. This isn’t Rick’s only full-time commitment. For the past 15 years, he’s been involved with REACT—Radio Emergency Associated Communication Teams. He’s the president of the Waterloo Regional chapter of REACT.

REACT is a global organization, founded in 1962. Teams tune in to channel 9 on CB radio, ready to respond to a multitude of emergency situations…from medical emergencies like heart attacks to traffic collisions. REACT team members often get there before paramedics can, keeping people on the scene comfortable and stable until medical professionals arrive.

Rick’s REACT team is specialized—the Waterloo division is tuned into the same radio frequency as the regional police and emergency services. “We have the capability to talk to fire departments and police departments and assist them…whether we’re doing traffic direction or point duties at special events like parades,” said Rick. The Waterloo REACT team is also equipped to help out in missing-persons situations and traffic investigations.

Rick got involved with REACT about 15 years ago. “It was actually a very sad scene—a young boy got caught in a dam and passed while he was trapped down there. Then, one of the officers on the diver team passed while trying to recover the body.” Rick was managing a courier service that delivered food, at the time. He got a call from the Red Cross to help get some meals to the recovery team. While he was on the scene, ensuring everyone got fed, Rick met the president of a REACT team; it was then he decided to get involved.

“The time commitment is 24/7,” he says. “There have been many days when I’ve come to work from a traffic investigation in my REACT uniform, changed here at the office and worked a full day.” Many REACT members are First Aid-certified, although it isn’t a requirement. The organization is 100% volunteer-based, with Rick’s chapter clocking in at 3000 hours last year alone.

Being part of REACT makes Rick more aware of the importance of good safely procedures everywhere—at his workplace, especially. “Safety at Polaris is good. I’ve been working to ensure employees are safe at all times. We just purchased an AED [a portable electronic device that automatically diagnoses the potentially life threatening cardiac arrhythmias] and I oversaw the First Aid training of twelve Polaris employees two months ago.”

Rick says one of the most rewarding experiences since becoming involved with REACT happened at this year’s Maple Syrup Festival. He ran into a father and son he had helped last year at the Cambridge Santa Claus Parade. The son had fallen off a float, breaking his arm. Rick was there to keep the boy calm and comfortable until paramedics arrived. “He asked if I remembered him and then thanked me for fixing his arm,” said Rick.

Without his experience with REACT, Rick says he wouldn’t have known how to respond in that situation. Now, he helps provide valuable response services at countless emergencies each year.

For more information about the Waterloo Regional REACT, visit www.wrreact.com