Jo-Anne Phillips is a busy woman. Chief operating officer of a trucking company is only one of the positions she holds. She is also co-owner of a construction and building production facility, a popular chrome and detailing shop, a nutritional consulting and lifestyle coaching business and more. She is also the Women in Trucking (WIT) June 2019 Member of the Month.
“I’ve been a member for several years,” Phillips told The Trucker. “The award means quite a bit. In my years at WIT, I’ve seen many powerful leaders from all over. I’m super happy to be in the group with those females.”
She may be the boss at Irishtown, New Brunswick-based Jeramand Trucking Ltd., but Phillips learned the trucking business like many do, at the wheel. While working toward one of her university degrees and participating in athletics, she needed a way to provide income. “I helped some friends by driving a truck to summer fairs,” she said. Later, she opened a gym in Calgary and was involved in cycling, rowing, skiing and Canada’s national bobsleigh team. When a friend explained the income opportunities of trucking in Alberta’s oil fields, she signed on as a driver, instructor, safety officer and medic for six years.
Athletics and physical fitness are a huge part of who Phillips is. She holds degrees in kinesiology and exercise physiology and in dietetics and nutrition, sharing her knowledge with sports teams, youth groups and a number of charity groups.
“There’s an obesity epidemic in North America,” she said, and she’s working to change things. “For most people, education about their health begins when the doctor tells them they have a serious problem and need to change their lifestyle.” Phillips thinks that education should begin much earlier.
“Wouldn’t it be great if that education process began much earlier and was supported by employers?”
The trucking industry can do more, she said. “Food options at truck stops are not good,” she said. “We encourage and support nonhealthy options. It’s about promotion and marketing rather than health.”
While changes to truck stop offerings could help, Phillips doesn’t stop there. “Corporations and even trucking companies can help,” she said. “If you offer chocolate bars in a vending machine, shouldn’t you also offer a healthy option?”
Diet and nutrition aren’t the only health issues Phillips is working to improve. She sits on the Advisory board of Prostate Cancer Canada’s Atlantic Division. She’s also a leader and organizer for the Convoy of Hope – Atlantic, an organization that raises funding and awareness for the four most diagnosed and terminal cancers: breast, colon, lung and prostate. She’s passionate about the cause, in part due to her husband Dan’s successful 2014 battle against prostate cancer. The group has raised over $300,000 for cancer prevention, detection and treatment, and she’s excited about this year’s convoy in Salisbury, New Brunswick, on August 21. It will be the organization’s 10th annual event.
“We love to get on the streets, up close and personal with the public,” she said. “We’re proud that all of our staffing is volunteer. Less than 10% of funds we raise go to any kind of administrative costs, mostly advertising and the website.” The website can be found at convoyforhope-atlantic.com.
Phillips credits her late father with instilling in her the need to help others. “My father was my hero,” she said. “He had a saying: ‘He who serves most wins.’ I try to live up to his example.” To do that, she says, “I strive to be somebody worth following.”
In the trucking world, a part of that means making every effort to be environmentally responsible. “We should all do what we can to protect Mother Earth,” she said. “I’m happy to know that the trucks we drive at Jeramand actually clean the air.” The company fleet is made up of green International Pro-Star tractors. “We recycle all of our waste oil for heat, and we use a cleaner for the smoke from that,” she said.
Phillips takes pride in the fact that she, as a Canadian, won the Member of the Month award. “Treana won it last month, so that’s two Canadians in a row,” she said, referring to Treana Moniz of Bison Transport. “We’re tiny but mighty up here in the North!”
Representing women in the industry is a source of pride for Phillips as well. About WIT she says, “I love the support and focus on promoting female participation in the trucking industry. Females contribute a balance. It’s a happier and healthier industry with female involvement.”
And, if her leadership skills were applied to the trucking industry? “One of the biggest concerns for me is the overpopulated road systems,” she said. “It would be nice to see assigned lanes for trucks only.” She thinks designated truck lanes in urban areas would create more safety and efficiency than the HOV lanes employed by many cities. “I’d also like to see more education for the general public on creating more space around trucks,” she said.
Whether she’s competing in international athletics, pursuing a university degree, providing leadership to corporations and charitable organizations or piloting a tractor trailer across North America, Jo-Anne Phillips is driven by a simple thought, “How can I make the world today better than it used to be?” She’s leaving her mark on that world and on the trucking industry she loves.
Cliff Abbott is an experienced commercial vehicle driver and owner-operator who still holds a CDL in his home state of Alabama. In nearly 40 years in trucking, he’s been an instructor and trainer and has managed safety and recruiting operations for several carriers. Having never lost his love of the road, Cliff has written a book and hundreds of songs and has been writing for The Trucker for more than a decade.