In 1946 and 1947 Roger Forsyth, Walt Parent and Wilson Freightways amalgamated for a short time. This is when the name was changed from “Roger A. Forsyth Trucking” to “Northern Freightways”. Mr. Parent had a license to haul freight between Edmonton and Dawson Creek. This is when they began hauling freight of all kinds from Edmonton to Alaska. Mr. Garlinski showed me pictures of one of the biggest loads he ever hauled. As he said, “that load was one big boat weighing 56 tons, and I hauled it on a single axle tandem trailer. Another truck followed with the boathouse. This was a long trip to Fort Nelson, where the boat was to be put in service on the Nelson River. It took us three days, but we never had any real problems.” This boat was taken up in 1946 and a short time later they took another boat also to Fort Nelson to operate on the Muskwa River. Mr. Garlinski then remembered one other big load prior to the boat — this one in 1945 when he hauled a ditching machine weighing 12 tons to Fairbanks, Alaska. He said, “Roger was always ready to haul anything large or small.”
When the Northern Freightways Company was operating in 1946 and 1947 they had a fleet of approximately nine trucks, some new and some second hand. The drivers at that time, as far as Mr. Garlinski can remember were Stu Forsyth, George Stady, Archie Dunsmore, Al Brown, Jack Price, himself and others. All of these drivers drove for Northern Freightways and also for Canadian Freightways for many years. They were kept busy hauling gravel for the construction of the Hart Highway in those two years. After this big haul ended, the company decided to part, and sold the trucks to the drivers. Roger kept one for himself, while his father Alex and brother Stu bought one each. This all took place in the early part of 1948. In the fall of 1948 Roger, along with Lou Altlinger, landed a large contract from the Army hauling building materials to Watson Lake, Fort Nelson, and Whitehorse. When Roger landed this contract, he talked it over with his father and brother and it was then decided to form the company of Northern Freightways again, with Roger as president and Alex and Stu as partners.
With each year he kept adding bigger and better trucks to the fleet. In the year 1951 the major operation was the building of the pipeline from Taylor to Prince George for Westcoast Transmission. It was at this time that Roger purchased fifteen new Mack trucks for his fleet. This gravel haul was the real boost Roger needed for his newly formed Northern Freightways and he just steadily kept growing throughout the next six or seven years.
In 1958 the company was operating 50 semi-tractors, with 73 trailers suited to different types of freight and had a total of 75 company vehicles, operating over 3868 scheduled route miles. At this time they employed 150 persons with a 1957 payroll of $783,000. Altogether 483 people were dependent on this trucking payroll which comprised 5 percent of the economy of Dawson Creek.
In the year 1957-58 the Teamsters Union began trying to organize the truckers in the district. As Roger Forsyth had always paid top wages plus traveling expenses to his drivers, they were not anxious to join the union. The writer of this article remembers those years as working with the happiest thirty people in one office. Roger always treated all his employees fairly and saw to it they had good working conditions. As one employee said, “Roger could give you a blast today, but the next day was a new day,” and he was known for not holding a grudge.
In 1956 when the Westcoast Transmission Refinery at Taylor was started, all contractors were “Unionized”. This eventually led to the coming of the Teamsters Union, as the contractors were refusing to allow non-union drivers through the gate. Due to Northern Freightways hauling pipe and freight for this construction, it led to long and bitter talks between Roger and the Union. Roger was known to have said, “I will sell before I will allow the Union to take over,” and this is when Canadian Freightways came into the picture.
After the purchase of Northern Freightways by Canadian Freightways, arrangements were made to move what was the Northern Freightways Head Office to Calgary with many of the personnel also transferring. There remained only the dispatch office, freight sheds and garage to carry on the business of freighting on the Alaska Highway and other points. As there were terminals in Fort St. John, Fort Nelson, Watson Lake, and Whitehorse on the Alaska Highway, this required a fair sized staff to remain in Dawson Creek.
Since the days when Canadian Freightways Limited took over in 1958 to 1973 there have been many changes taking place and it is still growing. In 1970 a brand new terminal was built at a cost of $917,000. From here operate 10 semi-tractors to the north, 10 semi-tractors from Edmonton to Dawson Creek and 4 semi-tractors from Vancouver to Dawson Creek. The trucks coming in from Edmonton and Vancouver in turn take our freight out to these points. There have been new terminals built in Fort Nelson, Fort St. John, and Whitehorse. These are still governed from Dawson Creek, where the trucks and payroll are controlled. They have approximately 70 people employed with a payroll of some $75,000.
This tremendous growth in twenty-five years from a one-truck fleet to the present days represents the magnitude of “Our Peace River Country”.