If you’ve worked at The Erb Group of Companies, you may be familiar with the name Radford Radke. This week, Radford will be retiring after spending 47 years in the industry, 38 of which were held at The Erb Group. He moved through various positions, starting as a US long-haul driver for the first 10 years. The opportunity arose to become an in-cab trainer, and since then, his role evolved to become Corporate Driver Trainer/Auditor.
Radford was responsible for supporting the Entry-Level Driver Training Program, general driver training, orientation, in-cab assessments, and auditing. We see many multi-generational trucking families work with us, and the Radke’s are one of them. Radford’s late-father worked in transportation, and his brother works in the industry. We’ve also been fortunate to have Marilyn, Radford’s wife working in our Credit Department at Head Office the last 22 years whose father was also involved in trucking.
Radford explains, “My brother originally worked for Erb for a few years, and his experience sounded great. I was driving for another company but decided to stop and take a break. One day, Vernon Erb approached my brother and asked why I stopped driving and if I’d be interested in coming to work for him as a dispatcher instead. I came in and spoke with him but decided not to move forward with dispatch and join the driving workforce again with him. It was the conversation with Vernon and the rapport my brother had with Wendell Erb that made me come here.”
The value of being a specialized carrier in refrigerated goods means there is job security for our employees. Our mission is to always bring food to your family’s table and that will never change. Radford says, “It was the company’s commitment to a stable work environment that also made the switch more admirable.”
Radford’s father was in trucking and finally found a company that he was happy with. Unfortunately, his father passed away early on in his new job. Radford described what retirement means, “My father never got to see retirement himself. I turned 65 and am really looking forward to this next chapter. But I’m also glad I was able to carry out my time at Erb for so long and found my place from an early on-set.”
Reflecting, Radford shared, “Back in my early days here, I remember getting to the New Hamburg yard on Christmas Eve. I walked into the driver services room and saw three other drivers decompressing from the day before heading home. It was about 10:30 PM, and Vernon walked in. He came into the office to check if everyone got home okay that night. I really appreciated that he cared so much about his drivers.”
It was also very rewarding being a Driver Trainer. “I enjoyed training because it was enriching to see someone grow. My most recent graduate from the Entry-Level Driver Training Program, Jamie Brown is a prime example. He was easy to work with, and it was so great to see someone who started as a dispatcher with us and move into a truck driving role.”
The next generation
After spending so many years in the industry, Radford can offer some helpful advice to the next generation of drivers. “If you get into this industry, there must be a desire. It’s tough sometimes, so you need to like a challenge. No job is perfect, but it’s also important not to burn bridges in our industry. It’s so common for a driver to leave and try a new company out. But after a month or so in their new job, they come back to us. Sometimes you need to remember it’s more than just money. It’s about respect, loyalty, and good work ethic. And then you will put in a rewarding 38-year career.”
Next chapter: retirement
Radford plans to keep a low profile in his next chapter by enjoying his time up north. Hopefully buying a boat for his fishing trips with the family in Bancroft. It will also be a time for him and his wife to organize the house a little bit more. He hopes to make some trips to Western Canada as well.
*Feature picture includes Jamie Brown (left) and Radford Radke (right).