A Brief History of
Gill Interprovincial Lines Ltd
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Behind every successful business, there is a wealth of history and experience that made the company what it is today The story of Gill Interprovincial Lines Ltd. is no exception and, in these few pages, we would like to give a brief picture of the colorful events and developments that accompanied GILL'S emergence as a leader in the Canadian trucking industry.


In December 1951, Aj Gill, an Indo-Canadian, was granted the authority to haul motor freight from Vancouver to Toronto. Three months later, in March 1952, Gill and his three brothers actually started operations with one trailer, running back and forth across the continent. The total of four employees initially hauled only full loads of frozen fish from B.C. Packers in Vancouver and returned from Toronto with full loads of the then-new product, margarine, from Lever Brothers. (GILL still hauls large amounts of frozen fish from Vancouver and it is a source of pride to us that B.C. Packers, our first customer, is still one of our very best.)

An Early GILL unit - 1958
Through the amalgamations, acquisitions and expansion of GILL, we have retained the original name, as it is an abbreviation of our full title. Gill Interprovincial Lines Limited and, of course, because it related to the people who founded the company and the history of service that is associated with GILL.

In those days, there were many difficulties for truck transportation. But in spite of a shocking mortality rate in the industry, GILL grew steadily if not rapidly. It acquired the use of a terminal in Vancouver and added employees and equipment to its roster. It was in 1953 that the first freight salesman was employed by Gill in Vancouver.

In 1956, A.S. Gill visualized that a continuous steady growth was essential and, in order to strengthen the company financially, he amalgamated Gill with one of its competitors. Southern Freightways. (Some of the present officers of GILL were originally with Southern.) This move brought Gill's fleet to 32 tractors and 40 trailers. The operation was still basically between Vancouver and Toronto although, at this time, additional terminals were opened in London, Windsor and Montreal. Because of operating difficulties in the province of Quebec, mainly very low gross weight allowances, it was decided to close out the terminal operation in Montreal and operate it as an agency. A Montreal terminal was re-opened in 1962.

In 1957 Gill entered into an amalgamation arrangement with Pacific Inland Express (PIX). Joint terminals were operated in Vancouver and Toronto and the two companies were operated by one management, with each company holding its own identity. At this time, the directors of the two companies purchased Brandon Steel Cartage Ltd. operating between Toronto and Brandon Manitoba and the name on this operation only was changed from Brandon Steel Cartage to GILL-PIX Ltd.

For the next two years, the operation became known as GILL-PIX although there was never any merger of the two companies and all records were separate. Although there was one management, there were two separate Boards of Directors for the two companies and one can see the complications this would cause. At this time, a multitude of problems plagued truckers. In the first place, all cross-country shipping was carried on an all U.S. route.

This meant that there were many different regulations and restrictions in each state, high licensing costs, special permit requirements and other legal barriers. Each spring, because of the frost laws, the payload that could be carried was reduced greatly and because of weather conditions, there was a winter and summer route, again adding to the difficulties.

Aj Gill with Jim McDuff, about 1955. Incidently, the driver in this photo is Bill Jackson, who is still working for GILL at our Montreal Branch.

In an attempt to overcome some of this, two tractor fleets were maintained. The light, Toronto-based tractors would carry loads to Luck, Wyoming where they were dropped and picked up by the Vancouver based tractors which were heavier and suited for mountain hauling, but this created delay, certain extra costs and no small amount of confusion.

There were also the problems of going through Canadian and American Customs twice and the endless red tape with the preparation of both Canadian and American Customs manifests on each trip. It was at this time also that labor problems were rampant in the ranks of the Ontario Teamsters and, during a strike at our Toronto Terminal, strikers spilled gasoline and set fire to a number of highway units. In total, there were 14 damaged with some being totally demolished to the tune of approximately $300,000.00. Shortly after this incident, the strike was settled and, naturally, this incident had made headlines in the Toronto papers. This incident created tremendous customer sympathy and we were almost immediately swamped with more freight than we could handle.

Burned-out tractors after fire in 1959.
When all of these problems were added to a situation where two separate companies were being run within one operation, it spelled real trouble for both the Gill and the PIX company. Gill was operating in the red. Morale was at an all-time low. Shippers were becoming dissatisfied and, by late 1959, it became obvious that GILL and PIX must part company. Decisive action had to be taken to pull the Gill operation up by the bootstraps and re-establish the reputation for fast, efficient service Gill had been known for.

The year of 1960 was another troubled year in which Gill was attempting to reorganize after the separation of two companies. During this year, Gill was operated by a Tri-Management group that did not prove to be successful.


In April of 1961, Jim McDuff who had joined GILL in 1954 as Vancouver Terminal Manager, was appointed General Manager of the company and set to work rebuilding the organization. Mr. McDuff once said. "It wasn't very many years ago that the trucking industry wasn't looked at in the same light as other industries. Perhaps it was the incredible mortality rate. But today, those of us who have survived are recognized as a business with a firm base, operating in a businesslike way."

It was just this businesslike manner in which Jim McDuff built up a Management Team for GILL that laid the firm base for GILL. This team quickly went about modernizing procedures and charting a course of expansion that would offer shippers better service than ever before.

By October 1961, GILL was preparing to move into a new terminal in Montreal and start direct service to Montreal. By March 1963, the company was in a position to completely re-equip the Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver terminals with all new pickup and delivery units. During this period, GILL also pioneered the truck hauling of Oriental imports that were pouring Into Canada through the Vancouver docks and made extensive efforts to compete with the railroads for this Import traffic.


Very early, J.S. McDuff undertook a serious study of "doubles" trailer operations. Could twin "pup" trailers make freight handling faster and more efficient? Could they be operated economically? Could we learn from doubles operations in the U.S. and, most importantly, could they work in Canada? The GILL team decided they could and in August, 1964, placed an order for over $1,000,000 worth of highway equipment including 112 - 24' pup trailers. GILL soon had the first fleet of doubles in operation in Canada which resulted in bigger payloads and greatly increased efficiency in handling freight. Other factors that made the use of pups in Canada possible was the establishment of reciprocal licensing arrangements between the provinces and the increasing to 60' overall length by the provinces.

Multi-handling of cargo has been reduced 25 since doubles were introduced. With continually increasing operating costs in every department, the use of doubles has helped considerable to offset this by providing 25 more cubic capacity per trip allowing a higher average weight and revenue per trip. Pups have also affected considerable savings in freight handling costs and Pickup and delivery as well as a number of advantages to our customers.

Thus by 1964, GILL had come a very long way from one tractor and one trailer. Yet the operation was still basically from Vancouver to Toronto and Montreal over a U.S. route. The biggest changes were yet to come.

It was also in the latter part of 1964 that GILL "went public" offering shares for sale on the Vancouver Stock Exchange.

GILL 1964 - This 40 foot unit travelled an all-US route between Vancouver and Ontario-Quebec.

1966 was a year of many changes. First, the new fleet of pups swung into action. Now a Canadian-owned, Public Company, "GILL was able to raise over $400,000 capital for needed expansion. In 1965 too, GILL shifted its cross-country line haul operations to the all-weather Trans-Canada highway route, eliminating completely the difficulties of the U.S. route. To round out a good year, GILL moved into a brand-new, modern Vancouver terminal and Head Office complex in September, and at this point, we also established an operation in Ottawa.

Opening of the Vancouver Terminal-General Office complex, September 2, 1965.

GILL'S steady expansion continued in 1966. In April 1966, GILL made an outright purchase of Pacific Inland Express increasing greatly its revenues, equipment and operating authority. This was no repetition of the unfortunate "GILL-PIX" arrangement. The PIX operations were completely integrated into GILL, thereby offering increased service and facilities to all shippers. The PIX name disappeared and all became known as GILL. GILL now had the authority to ship from Vancouver to Calgary, Edmonton. Regina, Winnipeg and return; and terminals and agencies were established in those cities. As an indication of GILL'S growth, an order was placed in September, 1966 for 40 brand-new Kenworth line haul tractors at a cost of approximately $1,000,000, the largest order Kenworth had received in its history. In addition, the terminal space in Vancouver had to be doubled only a year after construction of the new facilities.

In 1967, GILL purchased the operating authorities of Bestway Express Lines Ltd., a Winnipeg-based carrier operating to Eastern Canada. Like PIX, this company came almost immediately under the GILL name and colors.

The filling of this missing link then enabled the company to haul not only between Winnipeg and Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa, but also traffic from these eastern head haul points into Alberta as well. Both GILL and its acquisitions, Pacific Inland Express and Bestway Express Lines Ltd. had very extensive authorities and with all these now merged into the one GILL authority, this gives GILL very comprehensive authorities for servicing actually every major point between B.C. and Quebec. This is essential to properly service the modern shipping patterns of Canadian industry.

In September 1967, GILL moved into a brand-new modern terminal in Toronto. Early in 1968, GILL re-opened terminal facilities in Edmonton and in the summer of this year, we moved into a newly-constructed terminal of our own in Ottawa.

1968 has been mainly a year of consolidation for us of completing the acquisition of Bestway.

The expansion program is continuing in an effort to provide the finest facilities and to give the finest services.

In 1969, we are looking forward to moving into a new terminal in Montreal. Also, we will be taking delivery of 70 new pup trailers in February. These will be to look after our further increase in sales. They will be 26 feet long and 8' 6" wide. This new increased width is due to recent new government regulations by the provinces and will mean a new development in payload capacity.

GILL today - A Canadian-owned public company, GILL's modern doubles equipment provides fast, efficient service between all major points across Canada.
GILL is proud of its history, even with all its up and downs, triumphs and dissappointments because our experience has made us what we are today. GILL's history of growth and expansion is one that has few parallels in Canadian industry and we are confident that the same sense of adventure and teamwork among GILL personnel combined with its sound business practices will make the future of GILL even more distinctive and valuable to the Canadian shipping public.

E-Mail any comments to Hank Suderman         E-Mail any comments to Aj Gill
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