Growing up on the family farm in Leamington, Ont., Steve Ondejko knows all about hard work and entrepreneurship – and the lessons he learned then have held him in good stead in the rough and tumble world of trucking.
Ondejko, president of Onfreight Logistics of Tecumseh, Ont., which he founded in 1998, was named Chairman of the Ontario Trucking Association for the 2016-18 term today at the OTA’s 90th annual general meeting.
Ondejko was 21 years-old when he made his entrée into the trucking industry, working in marketing for a produce hauler in Leamington. His commitment and dedication to service were forged in those early years.
“I learned a lot from my previous employers and owners,” he says today.
After rapidly developing the company’s Canadian business, Steve seized the opportunity to branch out on his own. “I had no money, no operating authorities and no insurance,” he recalls.
But, within two weeks he was able to get financing for six trucks and became operational. “I got to know guys like Dan Einwechter of Challenger who became a positive influence on me in my early days of trucking and said to myself, ‘I can do that too.’”
Today, Onfreight Logistics along with Onfreight Logistics USA has grown to 85 trucks and about 225 trailers. The fleet is comprised of modern tractors and trailers equipped with fuel saving technology, ELDs, integrated dash cams and the latest work flow systems technology.
Equally impressive are his other businesses – including warehousing, automotive sub-assembly, packaging, quality sorting and repair – which have spun out of the trucking business. “Assisting customers with more than just trucking service has been a key to our success,” he says. “But trucking is and always will be the foundation of that success.”
Ondejko says he is “extremely honoured” to be assuming the position of OTA chairman.
“We have a great association, with a great history of representing the industry and so many great leaders. I have learned a lot over the years.”
He says he doesn’t expect any hard turns during his tenure in terms of OTA’s mandate and vision for the industry. His top priority will be overseeing the transition to a new association president and CEO for the first time in 25 years.
“OTA’s outgoing chairman, Scott Tilley, deserves a lot of credit for making sure we have the right strategy and the right people in place,” he says. “But people will be watching to see how things go and I want to help make sure it is seamless and the association remains as effective as ever.”
Given his company’s location close to the busiest land border crossing in North America at Windsor-Detroit, Ondejko will undoubtedly bring a unique perspective on cross-border issues.
On the home front, Onfreight is very much a family business. Steve’s wife Kellie is deeply involved in the company. “She really is the key to supporting me so that I can follow through on our growth and success plans.”
Son, Steve Jr., is currently working in the shop while daughter, Brooke, currently living and working in Monterrey, California, figures into future expansion plans in the United States. “The family atmosphere extends to our staff,” says Steve. Onfreight enjoys one the industry’s highest employee retention rates.
“Steve and Kellie epitomize the best of the family trucking firms that have built this industry,” says OTA chief executive officer, David Bradley. “They are hard-working, quality citizens. Steve will be a great chairman.”
In addition to his OTA duties, Steve also serves on the board of the Canadian Trucking Alliance and is a member of the CTA Blue Ribbon Task Force on the Driver Shortage. He is a member of the Windsor-Essex Chamber of Commerce, Board Member of Trucks for Change Network and is the Chairman of the Polaris Insurance Captive, which Onfreight belongs to. Steve is also a member and past-President of the Windsor Transportation Club.