Inside Track: Heinowski keeps rolling with leadership post
Meijer’s logistics manager brings years of experience in trucking industry to National Private Truck Council as board chair.
Carol Heinowski’s name will forever be cemented in history.
In April, Meijer Inc.’s logistics manager claimed a title no woman had before.
Heinowski became the first woman board chair of the National Private Truck Council in its 79-year history. The association represents the interest of the private corporate trucking fleet industry, such as manufacturers, distributors, retailers and public services organizations that range from small businesses to international businesses.
“I am very proud to represent Meijer as the NPTC board chair,” Heinowski said. “Women represent a very small minority in the trucking industry. So, I hope my appointment as board chair inspires other women to either enter or continue in this field. I’ve been in the industry for almost 30 years, and I’m beginning to see more women in leadership positions. While I’m the first woman to be chosen as board chair at NPTC, I hope it’s the start of a new trend.”
Heinowski will head the NPTC board of directors for two years. The board represents businesses such as Frito-Lay, Walmart, Alliance HealthCare Solutions, Orscheln Farm & Home, and VF Jeanswear, to name a few.
Her role includes setting the agenda and running each board meeting. Additionally, she wants to promote membership of the association because it offers a variety of educational workshops around driver safety and compliance.
“I will be running their board meetings, which occur three times a year, and hope to do so graciously,” Heinowski said. “I will keep my position with Meijer. The board meetings with NPTC occur only three times a year. The remainder of the work can be done via conference call and email.”
She became actively involved in the NPTC’s policy forums in 2009. Three years later, Heinowski said she was asked to join the board of directors. She was elected to serve as vice chair in 2016 before becoming board chair.
“(I) was very honored (to join the board of directors), especially after having been involved with the organization for only three years,” Heinowski said.
“Carol was encouraged to become the chair of NPTC’s board of directors because she exemplifies the very best professional and personal qualities the private fleet management industry has to offer. She just stands out in all ways that matter,” said Gary Petty, NPTC president and CEO. “Carol distinguishes herself as a representative of Meijer Inc. by making significant contributions to the professional advancement of the private fleet community. We could not be more proud and honored that Carol is our chosen board chair leader.”
A year before she became a member of NPTC, Heinowski joined Meijer. The Grand Rapids-based retailer has more than 235 supercenters and grocery stores throughout Michigan, Ohio, Illinois, Kentucky and Wisconsin.
She spent the first five years as the company’s private fleet manager, responsible for the day-to-day operations. In January 2014, Heinowski was named the logistics manager and is responsible for the safety and compliance of the Meijer private fleet. She is in charge of ensuring all of the company’s 325 drivers are in compliance with the safety regulations set forth by the company, state and federal government.
“Every day is different, which is what I love,” she said. “I monitor safety and DOT compliance of our Meijer private fleet and am also responsible for hiring and new hire orientation.”
Heinowski’s understanding of the trucking industry stemmed from her days growing up in Ann Arbor. Her mother was a stay-at-home mom, while her dad worked as an engineer at Ford Motor Company during a time when the auto company was the main driver of the Michigan economy. It was the main hub for employment during a time when American cars were in demand.
The flourishing auto industry not only helped to support her household, but it may have influenced Heinowski’s future.
“My mom said that when I was 5 years old, I would tell people that I wanted to be a truck driver when I grew up,” Heinowski said. “So, I guess it was in my blood to be in this industry.”
The Ann Arbor native attended Michigan State University, where she studied general business administration with an emphasis on law and economics. Heinowski said she knew that a well-rounded business degree would open many doors after college.
But for Heinowski, her opportunity to enter the industry that her mother long predicted she would work in came while she was at MSU. She started working at the United States Department of Transportation, which was created in 1966.
Heinowski said after she graduated from MSU, the USDOT was hiring investigators. She got the opportunity to ride along with some of the senior investigators to see if she would like the job.
While she never got that job as a truck driver, Heinowski took the position as a safety investigator. It was a position in the trucking industry that was dominated by men.
“There weren’t very many women in the industry, and I found that I got tested a lot to prove my knowledge,” she said. “I learned to take the tests as a challenge to show that I was and am very competent to serve in an industry like this.”
She spent much of her 20 years at the USDOT conducting accident investigations and roadside inspections on drivers.
Heinowski said the trucking industry has changed a bit since she started in 1989, including more women in the industry.
“I am definitely seeing a lot more women in the industry today,” she said. “And while still a minority, it’s becoming more of a norm. I think that we, as women, have been able to show that we know and understand just as much, if not more so, than the men do, and that is becoming an accepted norm.”
David Hoover, Meijer’s director of outbound logistics, said Heinowski’s experience will have a lasting impact on the trucking industry.
“We could not be prouder of Carol’s accomplishments with the NPTC and appreciate the impact of her tenure here at Meijer,” he said. “Carol has driven our fleet to have the best safety performance in the industry year over year. As the new chair of the NPTC board of directors, we believe Carol’s experience and guidance will help to improve the industry overall.”