Charlie Charalambous has many years of experience in risk management, education and working with transportation fleets across Canada. Charlie is the Coordinator, Research and Stakeholder & Public Relations (Transportation) at the Infrastructure Health and Safety Association (IHSA). An industry advocate, Charlie dedicates a lot of his time with different associations. He is the Director of Communications and Public Relations for the Truck Training School Association of Ontario (TTSAO), Conference Chairperson for the Fleet Safety Council (FSC) Annual Educational Conference and Chairperson of the National Recruiting and Retention Symposium (NRRS). Charlie can be reached at (647) 241-1036.

Introduction to the council:

Over a decade ago while I was working at Markel Insurance (now Northbridge) and working with the Safety and Training Services team (now Risk Services) I was invited to attended a meeting of the Toronto Chapter of the Fleet Safety Council (FSC).  This monthly meeting took place in Mississauga and the same offices as the Infrastructure Health and Safety Association (IHSA) who are heavily involved with the FSC. In retrospect, this was really my introduction to two organizations that would significantly impact my career and growth in the years to come.

The guest speaker was talking about Sleep Apnea and its impacts on the commercial transportation industry. At that time I was already using my CPAP machine for about 3 or 4 years and this was a topic that was near and dear to my heart.

When I arrived at the meeting the room was filled with about 40 different representatives from transportation companies of all sizes and they were all willing to share what they were doing. After the presentation the group continued by discussing various health and safety topics and once again they all shared their best practices and it was obvious to me that they were there to make the industry better for everyone involved. That was it, I was hooked and I needed to get involved.

Getting involved:

We were a corporate member of the chapter so when I told my manager that I wanted to attend the monthly meetings he was very supportive. Over the years I wanted to get more involved with the chapter and eventually was nominated to join the Toronto Chapter executive as part of the speakers committee. A few years later I moved into the role of vice-chair and then chairperson. I still attend the Toronto Chapter meetings and I’m currently assisting in the role of past-chairperson.

Through my involvement with the Toronto Executive I also had the opportunity to get involved with the Joint Executive Committee, representing all chapters across the Province, the planning of the annual educational conference and I’ve spoken on various topics at all of the chapters across Ontario. Through all of these groups and events I’ve had the privilege to meet some incredible individuals and make some very good friends. It is not uncommon for someone from a chapter to send an email, ask a question and then have multiple answers sent their way. When someone is a member of the FSC competition is out the door and it’s all about the industry and supporting each other.

Membership for the FSC, which is a not for profit organization, is relatively inexpensive. With membership ranging from $50 for an individual or $100 for a corporate membership you can’t go wrong.  For most chapters this includes 10 meetings a year and most meetings include a guest speaker from the industry sharing some of the latest and relevant updates. Over the years I have seen speakers from all different areas including the Ministry of Transportation (MTO), The OPP, The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), The Infrastructure Health and Safety Association (IHSA), Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC), Law Firms, Industry Experts and more.

The conference:

Our annual conference, which I now have the privilege of being the chairperson of, is open to all chapter members (and non-members looking to learn more about the FSC), is full of educational sessions, provides access to our sponsors who are showcased at the conference and of course an opportunity to network with other industry professionals from across the Province. This educational event has been a sell-out for the last few years. We actually had to change venues last because we had outgrown our facility. Our goal with the conference is always the same, bring together the members to network and provide them with new and relevant information. After the conference they should be able to go back to work and implement something new that will assist their organizations. We have sponsors that fill a trade show room ready to highlight their company’s products or services. As a matter of fact we had so many sponsors last year that we actually had to turn some companies away because we had no room left on the trade show floor. I am very proud of this conference committee, which is comprised of volunteers from across the chapters, they are an incredible group of dedicated individuals work very hard every year to exceed what we did before.

A new approach to the conference for 2020:

As a result of the COVID-19 global pandemic our committee, like many others, found ourselves in uncharted territory. Do we move forward with the conference this year which was already booked for October 2nd, 2020? As we started planning we realized that there were too many unanswered questions such as:

  • Should we have a conference this year?
  • What will the capacity be for gatherings in October?
  • Do our members want us to move forward with the conference?

After some discussion we decided to move forward with the event but with a catch. This year we are going virtual! Rather than our annual in-person event we decided to take it online and provide our members and prospective members with a half-day of educational content. The event will start with our Annual General Meeting and then be followed by four great speakers with breaks in-between so that attendees are not stuck at the computer for extended periods of time. We also decided that this year the virtual conference will be offered at no-charge to anyone looking to attend. This was our way of saying thank you to the industry that has done so much to keep freight moving and our economy strong during these challenging times. Lastly, rather than soliciting sponsorship, this years conference is being brought to you by last years sponsors, which we felt was another way to say thank you to them for their support.

For more details on the conference and to register please visit the newly re-designed fleetsafetycouncil.com. You can find information of the different chapters, see pictures from past conferences and register for this year’s virtual event.

In closing:

I know that I have said a lot about the FSC on this blog but as you can see I am very passionate about this group. Over the years I have learned a lot from our speakers and members, grown as an individual both personally and professionally and I look forward to continuing to grow and help the FSC as much as possible. As a result I have also been able to get involved with other great associations and events such as the Truck Training Schools Association of Ontario, The Private Motor Truck Council of Canada, The Women’s Trucking Federation of Canada, The National Recruiting & Retention Symposium and Trucking Human Resources Sector Council Atlantic just to name a few. It was also through the FSC that I became more familiar with the Infrastructure Health and Safety Association (IHSA) where I am now proud to be employed.

If you are not a member of the FSC then I really encourage you to check out our website and learn more. Talk to someone that is a member or register for the no-charge virtual conference in October. Trust me, you won’t regret it. I know that attending that meeting on Sleep Apnea all those years ago has had a huge and profound impact on my career and I can’t imagine not being involved in the FSC.

Charlie Charalambous has many years of experience in risk management, education and working with transportation fleets across Canada. Charlie is the Coordinator, Research and Stakeholder & Public Relations (Transportation) at the Infrastructure Health and Safety Association (IHSA). An industry advocate, Charlie dedicates a lot of his time with different associations. He is the Director of Communications and Public Relations for the Truck Training School Association of Ontario (TTSAO), Conference Chairperson for the Fleet Safety Council (FSC) Annual Educational Conference and Chairperson of the National Recruiting and Retention Symposium (NRRS). Charlie can be reached at (647) 241-1036.