Jay Harlow had to get to his next appointment, but his Ford Ranger wasn’t going anywhere. With a spare vehicle 25 minutes away in Mill Woods, the inspector with Payless Pest and Sanitation Control called for backup. He called for a taxi.
Balwinder “Bill” Dhanoa was dispatched. “He was talkative, he was polite, he wasn’t rushing,” says Harlow of the cabbie. “He was a nice gentleman.” So impressed was Harlow that he nominated Dhanoa for Edmonton’s Vehicle for Hire Driver Appreciation Awards. The nomination form read: “Customer satisfaction was underpromised, overdelivered.”
Bill Dhanoa’s name has become synonymous with the nine-year-old awards recognizing the best in the city’s taxi, limousine and shuttle industry. In 2008, he was awarded the “Best Taxi Driver Customer Service Award.” Three consecutive wins later, the Vehicle For Hire Commission bestowed upon him the ultimate honour: It named an award after him.
And the first recipient of the “Bill Dhanoa Award?” Bill Dhanoa, of course.
His recognition goes outside the city limits. In 2009, the International Association of Transportation Regulators gave him a Role Model Award in New York.
Born in India in 1941, he developed an early affinity with engines and the places they could take him. He attended aviation training in France during the mid-’60s and then worked across the Middle East during the ’70s as a quality-control engineer with the Indian Air Force. In 1979, he moved to Canada to overhaul airplane instruments for the Canadian Forces at Edmonton’s City Centre Airport.
A year-and-a-half later, the new recruit was one of the first to be discharged when a shortage of work led to layoff s. So he pursued a close-second love, teaching. He gained the necessary certification to teach and examine every kind of driving. “Bike, car, bus, anything, big — semis,” he says. A few years later, he worked part-time as a taxi driver and, in 2005, took to chauffeuring full-time with Co-op Taxi.
Recognizing Dhanoa’s experience, passion and his superior customer service, Co-op asked him to instruct new taxi drivers over a four-day classroom course. He tells the cabbies, “If you keep a clean car, clean appearance, good customer service and good driving, you can win the award.”
With that mantra, the 71-year-old was able to turn Harlow’s misfortune around. But for Dhanoa, it’s the passengers’ positive feedback that keep him going.
“They make me so young.”