Kathy Beck is the Manager of Risk and Compliance and 24/7 emergency line for the team at Big Freight Systems Inc.
– a Canadian asset-based flatbed and specialized trucking and freight management company, based in Steinbach and Winnipeg, MB. If someone is in an accident, has a safety concern or needs help, Kathy is their key contact to safely navigate them through the issue and provide a solution.
Kathy describes her role to be ‘colourful’ – every day is different, and you never know what’s going to come your way – and her team knows that she takes every call/enquiry seriously and will always provide a solution to the problem.
Big Freight System’s Risk and Compliance team consists of two people – Kathy and a Safety Compliance administrator, who both work with the drivers. Kathy explains that safety is an integral part of each department within the company; therefore, she has the chance to work with everybody in some capacity – and she loves it. “I have the lucky position of getting to know everybody in the company in some way shape or form because I communicate with all the different departments,” says Kathy. “The people here are amazing. This industry can be really stressful so being able to go into a room and everyone’s found a reason to laugh, despite the stresses that comes our way, is really nice.”
In 2018, Kathy initially joined the team by working in Big Freight System’s maintenance shop. Her introduction to the industry from a maintenance perspective gave her the opportunity to learn about safety from the ‘inside-out,’ which led her to taking on more responsibilities to prepare Big Freight Systems for SAFE Work Certification with RPM Trucking Industry Safety. “Taking on more responsibility and learning about the safety side made the transition into the risk and compliance manager role a natural one. The opportunity became available, and I stepped into that position in 2019,” says Kathy.
When the COVID-19 pandemic started, Big Freight Systems acted quicky to ensure all members of their team – and the family members, partners, friends, customers, and individuals who are connected to them – were as safe as possible. “We are aware of the health risks we face – we have drivers that travel to the States – so we made sure that when they come back, they’re not posing any extra risk to anybody,” says Kathy. “We made a commitment to follow the Government and Health Authority guidelines from day one. We instituted a number of mandatory safety policies, we make sure that everybody understands social distancing and wears a mask, and that our drivers are complying with the different rules they encounter on the road.”
The pandemic brought forward a unique set of challenges to the company – such as husband and wife owner-operator teams, who were unable to work together because one of them doesn’t drive a truck; therefore isn’t deemed an ‘essential worker.’ But on a positive note, Kathy says that many of the drivers took advantage of the North Dakota cross-border vaccine initiative that was offered, which is assurance that we’re all moving forward.
Throughout the course of the pandemic, Big Freight Systems has remained operational and increased their capacity to ensure that customers are being served. “We initially slowed down in March, like everyone else, but then the industries we serve saw a robust demand and unprecedented freight volumes in this past year,” says Kathy. “We primarily haul construction materials and specialized sports equipment, like ATVs and side-by-sides. People are home and they’re looking for things to do, so the sales of those things have gone up. We’ve remained flexible and kept in contact with our clients to make sure their needs and capacity requirements are being met.”
Kathy explains that different provinces were shut down at different times, so Big Freight Systems adjusted their delivery schedules accordingly and adhered to their commitment to move volume in a way that’s hassle-free in every delivery they made.
Kathy’s evolving career path with Big Freight Systems has been interconnected with the Manitoba Trucking Association and RPM Trucking Industry Safety. “I started working with the MTA and RPM staff when we were getting our safety certification. I attended a number of courses and got to know many of the staff there,” says Kathy. “Now in my role, I reach out to the MTA and Aaron Dolyniuk and Terry Shaw are great sources of information and advocates for us. They really do a great job at representing the industry in Manitoba and making sure that our voices are being heard as well.”
Kathy recently joined the RPM Safety Council, where they discuss industry-specific issues and share ideas for the industry, and is honoured to have a seat at the table. She explains, “You can’t measure how important that kind of support is because as soon as we start working together, everyone is going to benefit from that. The more that we work together and support each other, as trucking companies in Manitoba, all the drivers are safer for it, all the people around the drivers are safer for it... it’s a win-win situation.”
aron Dolyniuk, Business Operations Manager of the Manitoba Trucking Association and RPM Trucking Industry Safety, is grateful to have Kathy on the RPM Safety Council and for her positive influence and impact at Big Freight Systems. He says, “Kathy has been an integral part of developing and maintaining the safety culture at Big Freight Systems. She is a strong supporter of the RPM program and is a member of the RPM Safety Council. To put it simply, Kathy is a leader in the industry when it comes to risk and compliance management.”
Kathy’s passion for safety and drive for change stems from losing her father to cancer, caused by breathing asbestos while working as an electrician. “When I took on the health and safety responsibilities, to prepare Big Freight for RPM’s SAFE Work Certification, the importance of what I was doing really hit home for me,” says Kathy. “When I was initially working in the shop, speaking with the mechanics and discussing the importance of wearing a mask during certain times, I would use [my father’s story] as an example, saying “You might not know this now but 20 years from now, you may realize that you made a mistake. It may take a long time to find out, then by the time you do it’s too late.” Taking these steps now is huge – and making sure you’re following those safe procedures is huge – because no job is worth losing your life over. I really genuinely want everyone to go home safely at the end of the day – whether it’s the mechanics, drivers, office staff, yard staff – so I keep my focus, make sure that I get my message through, and that the intention is genuine. We want safety to be at the heart for doing it.”
To learn more about Big Freight Systems and their service offerings, visit www.bigfreight.com.