John Cecconi admits that retired life feels different.
He spent a half century in equipment sales, holding senior Canadian roles for several OEMs. It wasn’t uncommon to be on the road 230 nights a year. When his wife, Penny, once called out to their son Brent to say hello to dad, he ran directly to the phone.
“No,” she said, “dad is home.”
Settling into home life after several months of retirement (he turned in the office keys last August), he’s had a chance to breathe and reflect on the many changes he experienced during his career.
The work in trucking began in 1970 when he graduated with a business and marketing degree from the University of Dayton, Ohio. An initial role at Dayton Walther led to work at its Canadian division in Guelph, Ont.
In just a few years his career was on the move. He held roles including director of Canadian operations for Peterbilt, vice-president of sales and marketing for Volvo Canada, vice-president and general manager of Freightliner. Even when stepping away from Toronto-area commutes, he served as vice-president of sales and marketing at Wabash Trailers, and helped start a Peterbilt truck dealership in Stoney Creek, Ont., took a role as general manager at Vision Trucks, and finally a sales role at Expressway Trucks.
Plenty has changed in the trucking industry since he was selling five- and six-spoke wheels, and the trailer loads of brake drums to OEM aftermarket divisions. He was at Paccar when Kenworth introduced the ground-breaking aerodynamics of the T600, and at Volvo when that OEM unveiled the VN and a focus on proprietary engines. When at Freightliner, the OEM was pushing dealers toward innovative changes such as 24/7 service.
“There was so much happening with the conversion from mechanical engines, to electronics and aerodynamics,” he says.
They don’t make them like they used to. Then again, Cecconi stresses that can be a good thing. Look no further than the longevity of the trucks, he says as an example. “I can remember the days you would do an in-frame at 250,000 miles.” On-highway tractors have seen fuel economy more than double.
Looking to the future, he sees the expanding roles for battery-electric and fuel-cell-electric vehicles, too.
Dealership operations have become increasingly sophisticated in their own right. Some franchises were built around independent repair shops, gradually expanding and adopting the systems and processes of significant businesses. “A lot has changed there.”
But he does miss some aspects of the days gone by. “They were simpler times,” he says, referring to the smaller fleets. It was easier to establish relationships with the fleet owners who had started with just one or two trucks themselves, and might still be found in a fleet yard changing the oil on a weekend.
His jobs afforded him the chance to connect during golf outings, ski trips, and snowmobiling. He and his son Brent are heading out on a fishing trip to the Queen Charlotte Islands this summer. But he’s been there before. With customers.
“There were still characters that were around,” Cecconi says.
He’s thrilled that he had a chance to work with them all.