September 2019 – Jerrid Koch

Our September Rig of the Month driver is Jerrid Koch from Lethbridge, Alberta. Jerrid’s older brother, Jason, who was Pro-Trucker’s Rig of the Month for October 2018, nominated him for Rig of the Month. This is Jerrid’s story:

 

My name is Jerrid Koch and I was born in Edmonton, Alberta, on April 28, 1982. We lived in Edmonton until I was in grade 7 and then we moved to Spruce Grove where I finished my schooling, graduating from Stoney Plain High School in 2000.

As soon as I was old enough I got my first job which was at McDonalds. Over the next couple of years I was able to work myself up to a manager’s position. Many people snicker at this but it was a great learning experience. It is great training for a young person because you learn to hustle, multitask and deal with people, all things that I have found to be invaluable in my trucking career.
Unfortunately, that was not the long-term career I wanted so after getting out of school I bounced around from job to job for the next couple years. One of the places I worked was for Martin Equipment, as a delivery driver. Martin Equipment is a John Deere Dealership that sells both new and used farm equipment. They have everything from ride-on mowers to small loaders and large farm equipment. I mostly delivered smaller stuff like garden tractors and snow blowers while driving a little Hino cab over with a 20-foot flat deck. They weren’t going to hire me at first but I kept going back every other day, pestering them for a job until they finally relented. They asked why I kept coming back and I said it was because I wanted the job. They said if I wanted it that bad I could have it. It turns out I was the youngest guy with no experience to ever get a job with them. They said later they were just pleased with my eagerness of getting the job. I think it was so that they could get some rest from my bugging them all the time.
During this time I met Jennifer, my wife of 16 years and counting. Oddly enough we were introduced by our grandmothers. We were married in October of 2003 after which Jennifer went back to school and took up hairdressing.

While Jennifer went to school I got a job at a paper warehouse where Jennifer’s Uncle was the manager. I did everything there. I picked orders, was the delivery driver and I did the receiving.  The driving part of the job consisted mainly of delivering bulk paper to the big printers who printed newspapers and magazines. I also delivered to the smaller custom printing houses in the area. I worked there until Jennifer finsished her hairdressing course. After she finished she went to work in a hairdressing studio where she stayed until our 2nd daughter was born. Since then she has done a little daycare as well as hairdressing out of the house.
We have two daughters, Autumn, who is 13 and Hayley, who will turn 11 about the time you are reading this…

After the paper warehouse, I worked road construction on a base crew. We would literally take a dirt field and turn it into a parking lot as well as do the approach off the roadway. My Dad was the main guy on the fuel truck for that company so to earn extra money I would ride with him as a swamper. I would help him with the loading and unloading as well as doing the greasing and maintenance. It was a great paying job but unfortunately, it was only seasonal.

Feeling unsettled and confused in life, some may say a family mini intervention happened.
“Until you figure your life out, you are going to sit in the truck with Jason and learn.” These were the words of my Dad and they rocked me straight to my core. I guess you could say that was the day that my real trucking career began.

I joined the family business and for the next couple of years, I ran with Jason watching and learning on the wide-open interstates. He is a professional driver and a great teacher so it was a great experience. I was underage for driving in the States at the time so I would only drive down there when there were no scales around. We delivered peat moss big bales to the nurseries where they would use it to start their seedlings. I was surprised to learn that the farms don’t start their own plants from seeds in the ground. There are nurseries who specialize in growing all kinds of seedlings from vegetables to flowers. Once they start them they are delivered to the farms where they are planted. It extends the season by saving valuable growing time and it also ensures that the farms only get sound sprouted plants. Some of the places we delivered to were pretty interesting. Like up into the mountains of California and into other places where you went over roads that didn’t look like ones a truck should be on.
One trip when running with Jason – I don’t know what I was thinking – but I slammed on the brakes when I came to a set of railway tracks. It launched Jason out of the bunk and he hit the back of my seat. He got up, smacked me in the back of the head and asked me what the frig was I doing? Then he crawled back in the bunk and went back to sleep.
Later my dad asked me if I wanted a new challenge. It was the opportunity to drive solo in a 1997, 379 Peterbilt, with a 36” Flattop, gravel truck that had a 14’ aluminum box and a triaxle wagon. It was originally Jason’s truck that he had sold back to my dad. This enabled Jason to buy a new truck and go back to hauling produce for Ralcan holdings.

After a few months, we took the box off and replaced it with a triaxle end dump. I then started hauling for the new Burnco Precast location in Acheson, just west of Edmonton. We needed the end dump so that we could back up to the bin and deliver the load. We worked there for quite a while until the owners of the local gravel pit, who also owned a trucking company, told Burnco that they had to use their trucks for delivery or they would no longer sell the product to them. Burnco had no choice but to cut us loose which I thought was a pretty shady deal but I guess that is business.

After that happened our family decided to return to our produce roots and returned to Ralcan Holdings out of Calgary. We have always had a family business where Mom did the day to day office stuff and dealing with drivers, Dad drove and took care of the business end of it while Jason and I drove.

My dad, brother and I worked out of Calgary for about 10 years hauling peat moss, pallet wood and the odd meat load down south bringing produce back from Arizona, California.

The next change we made was to move our fleet and families to Lethbridge Alberta to work for H&R Transport. That is where we now live. We hauled various products there like frozen beef and pork, alcohol, bananas, lumber and frozen French fries. I was fortunate enough to have a dedicated run of French fries/bananas hauling from Purple Springs, Alberta to Fullerton California.
Over the years working at H&R I became an owner-operator. I owned and drove 3 different trucks which included; 2000 International 9900IX, 2012 Peterbilt 386 and a Volvo 670. I bought a truck off my parents and slowly upgraded but due to unfortunate circumstances it did not go well and I returned to being a company driver.

In July of 2014, my brother, Jason, and I joined the Liquids in Motion team based out of Millet, Alberta and we have been there ever since. As interesting as reefer trucking was, the change from reefer to hauling tanker was like night and day. I had not travelled east of Arizona or Winnipeg while box trucking but now I have driven a great portion of North America. I have seen some very interesting and beautiful places and met some great people over the years. It is amazing how polite and respectful the customers are north and south of the border.

Part of the reason I love driving is that no one day is exactly the same as the next. You never know what is around the next corner or over the next hill. I remember one afternoon, back when I was hauling produce, I was headed North of Dillion Montana on Highway 41 in my ’97 Pete, following behind my dad in his Volvo. We were cruising along, chatting on the radio when suddenly, this crazy dog with a death wish, bolted out across the road right in front of my dad. Luckily he just missed it and it looked to me like the dog had taken off into the field. I commented to my dad, “That was close!” Not two seconds later the little bugger ran back across my path and before I could stop, I heard a thump. Looking back in my mirror I could see the dog limping off the road so I called ahead to my dad asking how bad my bumper looked? He replied, “It doesn’t look that bad, let’s keep going!” Now I had just put a brand new 22” chrome bumper on my truck only a couple weeks before so I was pretty concerned. The conversation continued regarding the truck’s condition but he kept saying it was fine. At the first opportunity, I stopped and hopped out to look at my new $1100 bumper. It was folded up under the radiator like a cheap pop can! After a few choice words, I got back in and caught back up to my dad, who must have been laughing his ass off. His first comment when I got back into range was “I told you it wasn’t all that bad!!” The rest of the way home I wondered if it was his way of keeping me calm about the damage or seeing how long he could tease me about it before I would stop.

Then once driving through Louisiana, on a four lane interstate, I saw a turtle on the road. I could only swerve so far because there was another truck right beside me. Unfortunately, I clipped the turtle just enough to send the shell one way and the rest of him the other way. My first mistake was telling Jason about it because he teased me for years about killing a turtle. He would always say, “How can you hit a turtle? I’ve never even seen one. That episode along with the one with the dog all earned me the name of “animal killer.” Just a couple years ago, Jason called and actually apologized for trashing me all those years because he said he had finally seen a turtle on the road.

Working with family has always made the job more enjoyable, especially when the stories start flowing at family get-togethers. (Even when you are the butt of the joke!) I love having the opportunity to work with and for my brother Jason. He has always looked out for me through thick and thin. Now after all these years he has blessed me with this custom painted 2018 Peterbilt 389L, with a Paccar 510HP engine, HP 40s with a 3.36 Ratio and an APU as a reward for hard work. Who says hard work doesn’t pay off?

I enjoy it when the family comes to the shop to help me with oil changes and maintenance or just to help with washing the rig. At times there are a few good-natured complaints along the way, but I feel that they may secretly enjoy washing and getting dirty because with all the whining they still keep coming back for more week after week.

I think it is a great life lesson to learn the value of hard work and see where the dollar is coming from. Where it takes dedication and long hours to achieve your dreams. I enjoy that I get to pass the passion and good work ethic along to my children. I feel that they will grow up being grateful for what they have in their lives and know how to work for what they want to achieve in their future. When Jennifer was pregnant with our girls, she would frequently meet me where I parked the truck which was near home in Spruce Grove. I would pull into the lot and she would usually be there waiting patiently. After I was finished parking and pulled the brakes, she would step out of the vehicle and come see me at my driver’s door. She said that each week as I pulled into the lot and pulled on those brakes, the baby (each pregnancy was the same) would start kicking and moving. She said that she thought they knew Daddy was home. It seems that I may have two female truckers up and coming in the family!

One of the early trips with the family was putting my first daughter in her car carrier in the passenger seat while Jennifer sat in the back between the seats in a lawn chair. Now that my girls are older I really enjoy the summers when they aren’t attending school because they can then take road trips with me.  We are usually away for 7-10 days and it’s not only a great way for them to see different parts of North America but they also get to spend some one on one time with their dad. I know they enjoy it too when I hear the many giggles on the road and see the orders of breakfasts consisting of pizza and chicken fingers. I love to spend this time with them when we are out of the house and I get to see through their eyes the world that I am fortunate enough to see day in and day out. Although I am on the road a lot and miss some of the things that I would like to be home for, if I had chosen a different career and instead had a town job, this travel experience would not be possible.

Everyone has trips that they remember and one that stands out in my mind was when I did a trip hauling and delivering a load of frozen meat to Mexico. It was many years ago now and Jennifer was travelling with me. Once in Mexico, we drove down a two-lane highway that had barbed wire fences atop the concreate high walls the ran along both sides of the highway. I remember when we went through the gate to check-in at the facility, the guard at the shack took both our driver’s licences, as collateral I assume, and we were instructed to back up to the loading dock. The workers took the frozen meat pallets out of our trailer and placed them outside, directly on to the sweltering loading dock. They took their time dealing with us and after we collected the bills, and as we headed back to the United States, I looked in the mirror and the meat was still out there in the sun.

While waiting at the line up at the border on the one road in and one road out, there were dozens of people walking up and down the lines of trucks, selling pop, watermelon and various crafts. I guess that is quite common but I think it was one of the strangest things I have seen in my travels.

On another trip, I was in my International hauling a load of bottled wine. I had just come over Donner Pass when unbeknown to me a little car came out and tried to beat me onto the road. I never even saw him over my hood. Apparently, I hit him once, spun him around and hit him again. I felt the thump but had no idea what it was. At first I thought I had blown a steer tire. I stopped as soon as I could and when I got out I couldn’t believe the damage on my bumper. Then I noticed that there were no cars coming up behind me which I’m sure everyone knows is really strange for a California highway. After a short while, as I was trying to figure out what had happened, a small car, that was all beat up, pulled up and said I hit him.
The highway patrol soon arrived and after looking at the damage to my truck he went to talk to the driver. The passenger had a small cut on his finger and at first the driver seemed okay. While the driver was talking to the cop he got on the phone and as he was talking in Spanish his injuries seemed to get worse and worse. The cop finally grabbed the guys phone and slammed it on the trunk of the car saying, “You’re talking to me now!”
I walked back to my truck to wait and as it turned out they didn’t have registration or insurance for the car and had to hike off down the highway on foot. The cop asked if I needed someone to come fix my bumper that was pushed back against my steer tire. I was so pissed that I walked over to the truck and yanked the bumper away from the tire. The cop just looked at me with bit of an astonished look on his face and then, realizing the conversation was over, just said, “Have a safe trip” and walked away.
I have to say that, for me, trucking has been a very rewarding career. I have had the freedom to travel all over the country while providing a wonderful life for my wife and children. It has given me the ability to purchase a home as well as the opportunity to further my other passion which is building custom cars and hot rods. My current project is a 1930 Ford Model A 2dr sedan.

Put in picture of the truck in progress

 

To be asked to be on the cover and to be featured in this article is a great honour and a great way to be part of the Pro-Trucker family. I must thank all my mentors for everything I have been taught and the family who have stood by my side through the good and bad. To all my fellow drivers, give me a wave if you see me on the highway and keep the shiny side up!