A champion. Dependable. Loyal. A fantastic company man, husband, and father. Incredible work ethic. Huggable.
That’s just a small sample of the many choice adjectives that friends, co-workers and family promptly evoke to describe Diego Castaneda, the Thomson Terminals truck driver who was named the 2021 Ontario Trucking Association-Volvo Trucks Canada Truck Driver of the Year.
Castaneda, a 35-year veteran with over 3 million preventable, collision-free miles in his rear-view mirror, was presented with the award last night at the OTA’s 95th annual conference in Toronto.
“Diego personifies the Canadian dream, says Peter Currie, regional manager, Volvo Trucks Canada. “His co-workers and the customers he delivers to simply love him and look forward to seeing his smiling face every day. He is so much more than an amazing truck driver. He is also an exceptional human being.”
When he was a young teen, Castaneda emigrated from his native Columbia to Canada with his hard-working mother, a single parent, and his siblings. He went to school, graduated and after a few years, opened a family restaurant. The business eventually ran into economic challenges, and while he says the hard work and long hours taught him “a lot about business and himself” he moved on and found his way into transportation as an office clerk and manager. But while wearing a jacket and tie was nice, the big tractor trailers outside in the yard kept catching his eye.
He dabbled with some driving and parcel delivery, switching back and forth between office work for a while; but eventually the desire to drive a highway tractor was too overwhelming and he decided to “go with his passion” full time.
“He loves trucking. He really does,” says Diego’s wife, Viviana. “His work, besides his family, is everything. He loves his work.”
Jim Thomson, president of Thomson Terminals, says Diego was instrumental in servicing and maintaining crucial cross-border accounts during the height of the COVID crisis in 2020.
“He never refused. He was out front when people were masked up; when people didn’t want to interact. And that spirit will carry forward with him. It’s magnificent,” says Thomson. “Diego is a pinnacle player. He comes to work every day to play and he is a shining example and the difference maker.”
While road safety and professionalism are instrumental to Diego, his passion and dedication extends beyond the highway. He is the “first to raise his hand” to take part in Thomson Terminals’ many charitable initiatives, volunteering for the Santa Claus Parade, Walk For MS while delivering donated goods for Metro Toronto Police charities, Canada Food Banks, and Toys for the North, among other events.
While trucking and family take up much of his time, he always finds some spare for his community. Whether its coaching soccer and hockey for underprivileged kids and teen or shoveling the walkways of the elderly in his townhouse complex during the winter, Diego always stops to help others and lend a hand.
“The kids he coaches … he was like a father figure for some of them. Many are grown men now. They still love him,” says Viviana. “He is always there for everybody. He is the neighbourhood caretaker. He is friend.”