To his many friends in the trucking industry, Scott Smith, president and CEO of JD Smith, will always be affectionately known as “Mr. Chairman.”
Born and raised in a proud trucking family, Scott understood from a very early age that a strong Ontario Trucking Association is essential for the future of the industry. Throughout his career, Scott’s passion and tireless support for the OTA and unrelenting advocacy of vital industry issues – always conducted in a thoughtful and friendly manner — have inspired friends, colleagues and competitors alike.
Last night at the annual OTA Convention & Executive Conference in Toronto, that dedication was rewarded when Scott became the 2014 recipient of the prestigious Shaw Tracking-OTA Service to Industry Award.
In presenting Scott with the award, Kate Rahn, national director, Sales & Marketing, of award sponsor Shaw Tracking, said: “Scott exemplifies the important history of this prestigious award and the traits of the best industry leaders – commitment, responsibility and compassion. It is inspiring to know that this award is just a milestone in Scott’s career and that we can look forward to many more years of contribution from Scott to the Ontario trucking industry.”
Scott has always been on the frontlines in elevating the industry’s image as well as promoting landmark safety initiatives and responsible trucking. During his tenure as chairman (from 2004-2006), Scott spearheaded the association’s campaign to introduce speed limiter legislation in the province and introduced a statement of guiding principles for OTA members. Scott remains active in the association. He is the current chair and dedicated advocate of the OTA Education Foundation, and a board member on the charitable Trucks for Change Network. He also served on the Canadian Trucking Alliance board of directors for many years and is currently CTA’s second vice chair.
The Smith’s family business traditions were forged in 1919 when in the shadow of the Great War, Scott’s great grandfather, John D. Smith, and his uncle started a freight cartage business with two trucks. In the 1950’s Scott’s father, Doug Smith, took over the company and over the next 40 years established himself as a heavily respected voice at the OTA – becoming chairman in 1985 and later honoured with the Service to Industry award.
He could not know at the time that his son would follow his footsteps toward both of the same achievements. Scott’s path into the family business wasn’t predestined. As a teenager he was a budding tennis player and moved to Florida to train. Then came university. But there was something always drawing him to JD Smith & Sons. In the summers, Scott and his friends would drive truck locally for his father. Eventually, Scott accepted his calling and along with his brother Brian and sister Sue, ensured the next generation would continue the legacy of the family fleet.
Despite the strong family roots, Scott is very much his own man, with his own style and vision. He took over the reins of the company in 1993, the same year he met his wife, Kathy. (They now have three sons). As an up-and-coming executive, he also emerged as young leader at OTA and was instrumental in bridging the generational gap of the aging association. While his surname carried weight, it was his confidence, his actions, and his ability to motivate other newcomers that spoke volumes.
“I remember meeting Scott when we were both very young and starting out in the business – he with JD Smith and me with OTA,” says association president David Bradley. “Not only was Scott clearly a principled and intelligent person, it was evident from the outset how much Scott cared about the industry and for OTA.
“A lot of young industry executives are initially intimidated when they first take a seat on the board and I’m sure Scott had some of those feelings too,” Bradley says. “But it didn’t stop him; he got involved from the start and ended up chairing some of the trickiest committees OTA has. It was no surprise when in 2004 Scott became what was at the time OTA’s youngest chairman ever. He was the quintessential face of the new generation of industry leaders and his influence is still being felt today.”
Added OTA board member and close friend Mark Seymour, president of the Kriska Group: “What amazed me about Scott is how someone so young has been able to accomplish so much. He has a tremendous amount of respect for the people who came before him, but at the same time possess a clear vision for the future of the industry.”