Article by Jeffrey Reed
In today’s world of instant social media popularity, celebrating a diamond anniversary is a significant occasion. In the case of Hammond Transportation Ltd, headquartered in Bracebridge, ON its 75th anniversary calls for much celebration of strength and success through family ties and a passion for serving clients since 1944.
In 1944, the world was at war and the battle of Normandy resulted in the allied liberation of Western Europe from Nazi Germany’s control. It was a time for change, both home and abroad. The Ontario motor coach association (OMCA), celebrating its 90th year in 2019, continued to strengthen its growing role as the voice of its industry in Ontario. And 14-year-old Orvil Hammond would plant roots for the establishment of Hammond Transportation.
Seventy-five years later, Hammond Transportation is a key motor coach industry leader in Ontario, with a dedicated staff of 215 employees, a fleet of 208 vehicles and a clear vision of where the company is heading in the future. Hammond Transportation is a leading Ontario family-owned school bus, charter bus and motor coach operator, specializing in serving the unique transportation needs of Muskoka, parry sound, Simcoe, Haliburton and Algonquin. Its bus division operates from across Canada and throughout much of the United States, while its Muskoka travel service division operates tours throughout North America and as far afield as Europe and Australia.
“We’ve now visited every continent,” said Greg Hammond, a member of the OMCA board of directors and company CEO overseeing the family business that his father launched.
“We are a true family business at Hammond Transportation, and that’s something we’re very proud of as we celebrate our 75th anniversary.”
Orvil died in 2017 at age 88. Paying tribute to the founder of Hammond Transportation, the Hammond family offered a touching tribute with his celebration of life, calling their patriarch “a shrewd businessman, an indefatigable worker, a sharp dealer, a good boss and quite often the easiest touch in town. He seldom gave a handout, but was known to create unnecessary jobs, provide vehicles or turn a blind eye for people he considered worth the effort.”
In fact, the story of the Hammond family’s love affair with transit started in 1923 when Orvil’s father, Harold Hammond, obtained his professional driver’s license, and began driving in Ontario for Huxtable bus lines on a route between Barrie and Allendale.
In 1944, the principal of Bracebridge high school advised Orvil to quit school and enter the working world. Heeding the schoolmasters’ advice, Orvil co-founded park taxi along with the late George Parlett. Within one year of his new career, Orvil purchased a 1938 ford sedan as the single vehicle for the new taxi business, which soon included Harold, and changed its name to Hammond’s taxi.
“Our family grew up in the business,” Greg Hammond explained. “We’ve always been around vehicles, ever since we were toddlers. My dad had trucks, taxis and ambulances.”
With Orvil’s son Greg at the wheel, the Hammond clan continues to keep the family business rolling. Greg’s brothers, Jim and brad, have played key company roles, while his cousin Scott Hammond is director of operations, his cousin Derek Hammond is maintenance director and nephew Kent Hammond operates Muskoka Travel Service.
Brad Hammond acquired Muskoka Travel Service in 1979. In the early 1970s, the business started offering simple day trips to the Canadian national exhibition and the royal agricultural winter fair. Today, it offers a wide range of options for travellers of all ages to destinations across Canada and around the world including Europe and Australia, and including recent destinations Hawaii, Iceland, Africa and the Galápagos Islands.
Hammond’s transportation understands how to move people on highways, too. Its’ fleet includes highway coaches, activity buses, school buses, executive vans, luxury sedan and chauffeur services, limousines and classic vehicles, limo bus service and an accessibility fleet. Paying tribute to its past, Hammond Transportation has rolled out a special bus with a 75th anniversary wrap, mimicking a vintage bus and honouring its founder and its roots.
Wrapped in the red and yellow livery displayed by Hammond buses of the 1950s and 60s, with faux silver sides mimicking the antique 1949 flexible bus (Orvil Hammond first bus), the 75th anniversary bus includes a collage of over 100 historic photos of the Hammond family history in the bus, taxi, trucking, delivery, ambulance and transit services, as well as four generations of Hammond’s.
Over the years, Hammond Transportation has logged a myriad of milestones. By 1980, the company had become the model of the current business. As the company grew, its geographic scope was expanded to include all of Muskoka, Parry Sound, Algonquin Park and the Orillia area. And in 1981, Hammond purchased its first brand-new motor coach.
During the 1990s, management was gradually turned over to the boys and the fourth generation was brought on board, as first Jim’s and then Greg’s sons began helping out with the business. After Jim’s retirement, the management of the company was turned over to Greg in 2006.
In 2013, Hammond expanded when it took over the coach and limo business of Sinton Transportation of Barrie. Ninety years prior, Harold had received his professional driver’s licence. “With the purchase of charter and limousine businesses from Sinton, we’ve gone back to our roots,” said Greg.
Hammond purchased bus operations of Getaway Coach Lines in 2014. This expansion saw the purchase of six vehicles and the addition of two new routes operating Barrie-Orillia-Casino Rama, and Penetang/Midland-Barrie. Also that year, Hammond forged a partnership with Campbell Bus Lines. By 2016, that new venture oversaw 130 school routes for the Trillium Lakelands District School Board.
That year, Hammond began operating a small transit service for the Town of Bracebridge. The following year, in 2017, the town added a mobility service
also operated by Hammond.
Another significant event in 2015 saw Hammond add 20 new school buses fuelled by clean-burning, affordable propane autogas to operate on Parry Sound-area school bus routes. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions, providing a cleaner riding environment for students and reducing maintenance costs for each unit were all reasons cited by Hammond for the switch. Hammond recently added more propane-powered buses to its fleet serving Muskoka, for a total of 52 propane autogas vehicles.
Safety and training are two critical elements to the success of Hammond Transportation, according to Greg. He said since Hammond became an OMCA member in 1980, the association has provided invaluable assistance in the company’s dayto-day operations.
“With big support from the OMCA, we are able to keep on top of emerging issues. The emphasis on safety is so much greater today than it was 40 years ago when I got involved in the business. Vehicles are safer,
and we work so much harder on driver safety and training. It’s a completely different environment today,” he said.
“But most importantly, we are able to establish relationships with other operators. The bus industry is unlike any other industry. We have competitors, but when we’re busy or having mechanical issues on the road, you can call a competitor for help. And they can call us for help. So we’re working together to satisfy customer demands and to solve each other’s problems, and the OMCA helps us build those relationships.”
From Orvil Hammond’s 1938 Ford Sedan to modern motor coaches and worldwide destinations, Hammond Transportation has cemented a solid reputation for providing impeccable customer service. It’s something to celebrate during the company’s 75th anniversary.