Private Fleet Editor,
Fleet Owner Magazine
President & CEO, NPTC
A Pioneering Leader
Meijer’s Heinowski marks successful three-decade career.
Last April Carol Heinowski, logistics manager of Outbound Logistics for Meijer Inc., was officially installed as the chair of the NPTC Board of Directors at its annual conference. In assuming this position as a volunteer leader active in the Council since 2009, Carol became the first woman in the history of NPTC to chair the board since its founding in 1939.
Carol got actively involved in NPTC 10 years ago as a participant in safety forums. She then joined the Council’s safety committee and currently serves as its chair in addition to being the board chair. Her leadership in helping shape the association’s policy positions on safety and other regulatory issues like CSA led to her being asked to serve as a member of the board and a few years later as the board vice chair/chair-elect.
Carol’s uniquely successful career in trucking is a blend of service in both the public and private sectors. During her junior and senior years in college, she worked part-time and summers as a “student aide” at what was then known as the Office of Motor Carrier Safety within the U.S. Dept. of Transportation.
After graduation, she took a full-time position with the agency and spent 20 years as a safety investigator conducting accident investigations and roadside inspections on drivers for the renamed Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).
As she was considering a career change after two decades of service as a federal employee, Carol got a “call out of the blue” from the retiring private fleet manager at Meijer, a Grand Rapids-based retailer with 235 supercenters and grocery stores in Michigan, Ohio, Illinois, Kentucky, and Wisconsin. He knew Carol when he worked as an officer for the Michigan State Police and highly respected her in her role at FMCSA. He urged her to apply for the job as his replacement at the company. The timing and the position could not have been better and Carol happily accepted the offer.
After spending five years as Meijer’s private fleet manager in charge of overall operations, Carol was promoted to logistics manager responsible for safety and compliance of the Meijer private fleet. In this position, she assumed responsibility for ensuring that 325 company drivers meet or exceed compliance with company safety standards as well as state and federal safety regulations.
Carol was raised in Ann Arbor, MI, where her father was a Ford Motor Co. engineer and her mother a homemaker. At the young age of five years old, Carol Heinowski was already telling people that she wanted to be a truck driver when she grew up. Although this goal was never achieved, she thinks this childhood vision of herself meant she was destined for a career in trucking.
Carol’s father advised her that an academic business degree of well-rounded subjects would lead to versatile career options after graduation. Upon finishing high school, she enrolled at Michigan State University where she studied general business administration with an emphasis on law and economics.
At the same time as she was finishing up her degree from Michigan State, the Office of Motor Carrier Safety launched an extensive recruitment drive to hire 1,000 new safety investigators nationwide. With her background as a student assistant in the agency and also having had the opportunity to ride along with some of the senior investigators to see if she would like the job, with their encouragement Carol accepted employment with the agency. And in doing so, she became one of the first women to hold such a position in an industry that was predominated by men.
In an article published last year in the Grand Rapids Business Journal, Carol is quoted saying, “There were not many women in the industry, and I found that I got tested a lot to prove my knowledge. 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.
“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. I am very proud to represent Meijer as the NPTC board chair. While I am the first woman chosen in this position at the Council, I hope it’s the start of a new trend.”