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Overdrive February 2019

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42 | Overdrive | February 2019 OVERSIZE HAULS SET HIS SAFETY STANDARD Kevin Kocmich, based in Litchfield, Minnesota, figures his niche applica- tion – hauling oversize/over- weight equip- ment to the East Coast – works to his advantage. The extra precautions required for the hauls automatically help him maintain his spotless safety record. "I'm always hugging shoulders with 12- or 13-foot-wide loads and leaving room for others to pass," he says. "I'm constantly watching to avoid the mistakes other people make so I don't get tangled up." He adds that he always thinks a few steps ahead in his navigation by planning a way out of any potential traffic problem if one were to arise. The three-time Owner-Operator of the Year finalist also has taken anoth- er step toward safety and accident accountability by adding cameras to his 2015 Peterbilt 579. Kocmich, 57, began his career on a South Dakota farm. After graduating high school in 1979, he had a harvest truck run between Oklahoma and the Canadian border before getting into regional trucking. For a short time, he hauled steel out of Chicago and Detroit to Nebraska, then began moving into long-haul. He bought his first truck in 2000 and has been leased to Racine, Wisconsin-based Diamond Transportation System since 2014. Kocmich is not only accident-free but also violation-free. He says that stems from trying to represent him- self and his company well and keep- ing his equipment in top shape. "I just replaced most of my chains and binders last summer — inspec- tors notice that," he says. "If you're doubting yourself, always use extra securement. I always change my tires a couple months before I need to, as well, to try to stay ahead of the game." Kocmich and his wife, Joy, who rides with him most of the time, spend about two to three months at a time on the road. In 2018, they totaled 315 days on the road and racked up about 110,000 miles. "Rates were a little higher last year, so we were able to take a couple more days off," he says. "We coordinate most of our off-time around fishing and hunting trips." Kocmich says his work schedule limits his time considerably, but he does participate in Trucker Buddy. The program pairs him with an elementary school classroom to send postcards and other correspondence to help teach children about trucking and geography. FARM WORK LED TO A HIGHWAY CAREER Robert Roth, 56, of Coldwater, Ontario, Canada, says he grew up on a farm driv- ing "anything I could reach the pedals on." While his family's farm didn't have the biggest equipment, his neighbors did, and he drove for them after school and dur- ing summers. The experience made it an easy transition when he decided to get into trucking after working construc- tion for a few years. Roth started as a company driver with New Hamburg, Ontario-based Erb International in 1984 before becoming an owner- operator with the company in 1989. He's been team driving with his wife, Tracy, since 1994, and each of them has racked up more than 3 mil- lion safe driving miles. Robert says the original plan was to team for about five years to get ahead finan- cially. "We've got too many toys at home, and we got the hang of running together and really liked it," Robert says. "Communication will get you through life. And the way we have to run as a team, we hardly see each other. One of us is usually in the bunk when the other is driving." The couple has hauled reefer freight in and out of Canada and all across the United States. Lately they've been running two loads a week out of Toronto to Greenville, Mississippi, and back. Robert credits a lot of his suc- cess to owner-operator mentors he rode with when he was getting started. He's been able to stay ahead financially by keeping two savings accounts — one for retirement, the other for emergencies. "When things happen, they hap- pen all at once, and there's nothing worse than not having the capital to continue what you're doing," he says. "If multiple things fall apart on a truck within a short amount of time, you need a nest egg for that." Robert says keeping his equipment clean and maintained has helped him during inspections. "Nine out of 10 times, I've found that if you look good, you are good with the DOT," he says. "I haven't been inspected in California in forever, and I find that surprising." The Roths drive a 2017 Kenworth W900, which Robert says he loves because of the classic look. The cou- ple runs about 225,000 miles a year, taking time off to snowmobile in the winter and camp in the summer. Robert Roth Kevin Kocmich

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