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Bison Transport

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History of Bison Transport

More Than Just Humble Beginnings

Like its namesake, Bison Transport is best characterized as the strong steady type. Modest - but not to a fault - and incredibly capable. Strong and steady: it's as much a personal philosophy as it is a business model, and it has worked since 1969.

Duncan M. Jessiman, Founder, Bison Transport

Duncan M. Jessiman, founder of Bison Transport Inc., looks back fondly on his commitment to the transportation industry. "Trucking isn't an easy business but it's a wonderful way to make a living. It gets in your blood," he says. "Trucking is both a labour-intensive and capital-intensive business - a real business where we do real things. If I wasn't doing this, I wouldn't know what I would do instead."

His quiet passion for the industry, and for respecting his employees, suppliers and customers, has stood Bison Transport in extremely good stead over four decades in business.

New world, new life, new business

The family and the family businesses began with a shipboard romance. The Scottish immigrant parents of Duncan met on board a ship on the way to Canada. Shortly after that, they began a new life in the new world, settling in Winnipeg where they raised a family of 6.

His father (Peter) ran a local cartage and warehouse operation in Winnipeg that became Jessiman Brothers Cartage Limited. It truly was a family operation and Duncan quickly became familiar with the industry. After graduating from the University of Manitoba, Duncan followed his own entrepreneurial spirit by starting a transport company of his own in 1969 initially focusing on the hauling of construction related products.

If the name fits...

When it came time to choose a name for the company, Duncan's brother Bill suggested Bison. Symbolizing pioneering spirit, the bison is also a very social animal, is extremely resourceful and is determined in pursuit of its goals. The hardy bison which was also symbolic to Manitoba's heritage seemed the perfect fit.

Through the '70s - keep on truckin' indeed!

In 1970, Bison made a major strategic move into the general freight business by purchasing R.C. Owen Transport, the largest hauler of paper for newsprint. This opened the door to a contract with Abitibi Consolidated paper mill in Pine Falls, Manitoba.

During the same period Bison inked a deal with Eaton's and got into transporting merchandise from their catalogue orders. By the time Eaton's shut down their catalogue operations 1976, Bison had become an expert in this area and took up the gauntlet when Sears came calling.

Bison Courier Service

Also, it was during this period that Bison expanded into the courier market by opening a subsidiary named Letter Lassie. Duncan's sister-in-law Audrey Fogg, ran the company that was recognized for its innovation. The timing was perfect and appealed to women who were now entering the business world in earnest. Letter Lassie's all-female team of drivers delivered courier packages throughout Winnipeg. Letter Lassie later began operating under the name Bison Courier.

Overhauling the industry in the '80s & 90's

Big changes hit the trucking industry in the late 1980s with deregulation of the Canadian trucking industry. "Deregulation meant that everyone had to compete with everybody else," said Duncan. Deregulation also opened the door to market access on both sides of the U.S.-Canada border.

The unfettered market caused great turmoil among many Canadian fleets, but Duncan viewed deregulation as an exceptional opportunity for growth.

In 1990, Duncan's son Peter joined Bison. His flair for business development served the company well. Duncan credits Peter and his team with being instrumental in the company's growth. According to Duncan, "Peter got us into the post-consumer scrap paper market, which proved to be an exceptional opportunity for Bison at that time."

Bison began servicing paper mills across most of Canada, from Vancouver Island through Quebec and worked hard to service the growth of an upstart retail juggernaut known as Wal-Mart.

As the company moved into the next decade, they expanded to offer full-service logistics, dedicated fleet operations, yard management and a warehouse and distribution network.

The small company with heart was poised to embrace change. In 1991, the 18-truck fleet with 32 employees launched an aggressive growth strategy to establish a foundation that would transform Bison Transport into one of the largest truckload carriers in the country.

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History Timeline

For a full list of our Awards and Recognitions throughout the years click here.

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