That beautiful truck you see on the cover and in this article belongs to Jason Koch of Diamond City Alberta which is about 10 miles north of Lethbridge. This is his story:
I was born in Edmonton, Alberta and I am a 2nd generation trucker. My Dad and my greatest mentor Ron Koch was an independent owner-operator in the late 70’s and early 80’s. He hauled crude oil around the Alberta area for Gibson’s and Trimac. Along with many other drivers like him, Ron also provided tractor service for many different companies during the slow oil times. Over his career, he hauled every type of freight you could imagine.
As a toddler and child, I spent countless hours in and around the truck with my Dad. I used to stand behind him in the seat while he was driving so that I could see everything that he saw. My Dad realized early that I wanted to be involved in everything concerning the truck. One time when I was very young Dad left me in his brand new Ford LTL 9000 Louisville so that he could
conduct some business. I was so frustrated and upset at being left out of the “trucking business” that I picked up my dads tire hammer and put it through the passenger side of the dash. It was one of those hard plastic vinyl dashes and that little round hole served as a reminder for the 7 odd years that he had it. He didn’t get mad but he never left me out of the action again.
My first vivid memory of trucking and all it entailed was while on a trip I made with my Dad in the fall of the year to a logging site 60 miles back into the bush south of Hinton Alberta. I was 8 years old at the time and we were hauling a CAT bulldozer on a lowboy trailer. The trip began the same as it often did with the packing of the “trucker’s lunch.” This consisted of making sandwiches with a full loaf of bread, a package of processed meat and some Pop Shop Soda. At 8 years old I thought I was in heaven having my very own “trucker’s lunch”.
As we made our way through the bush up and down the logging roads we soon began to see the Alberta snow begin to fall. In preparation for what he knew was to come, Dad chained up both sets of drive axles, the steer axle and put a tag chain on the trailer. I had no idea what was about to take place but Dad seemed calm like this was nothing new to him. Within 30 minutes we were
driving through 6 inches of freshly fallen wet snow. As we went up the hills the old Ford began to shake violently and hop and I was beyond scared at this point so I climbed underneath the bunk and hid. Dad, on the other hand, remained calm and was always in control of the truck. When I asked my Dad why the truck was shaking and hoping so badly he replied that the truck was spinning its wheels even with the chains on.
We finally arrived safely at the camp, unloaded the CAT, then drove back to the highway without incident. It was right about then and there that I decided I wanted to be a truck driver. I knew that with the skills that my Dad would teach me, and others I would pick up along the way, I would be able to face almost anything.
My Dad later stopped hauling crude oil and started Triple J Transport which was a small fleet of 11 trucks with flat decks that he used to haul new RVs from the U.S. into Alberta. Over the next 10 years, I spent every free moment learning everything and anything I could about driving and maintaining the trucks from my Dad and my Uncle Florian, who was also an owner/operator with Gibsons. The drivers didn’t want to do the day to day maintenance they just wanted to be
able to hop in and leave or drop them off and go home after there trips so I made sure
everything was ready for them. I washed trucks, did oil changes, grease jobs, replaced deck boards, made sure all the straps and binders were in good shape. I also helped with repairs and did some fabrication when necessary. While I was in school I took courses that would help me in the business like bookkeeping and mechanics. I actively helped with organizing and maintaining the trucks and drivers until I was old enough to drive myself.
I was impatient when in school and just wanted to get it over with and graduate as quickly as possible so that I could go trucking. In order to do that I jammed as many credits as possible into 2 ½ years. This allowed me to graduate ½ a year early in December. I only had to go back the following June for the graduation ceremony.
When I turned 18 and graduated from high school, I immediately went to work for my Dad running new RV units from Elkhart, Indiana to Edmonton. When I first took my Class 1 exam I failed for, as the instructor said, being overly confident with the truck. I had driven a lot with my dad thru places like Chicago and was not using the clutch to change gears and reached high range while in town which he thought was being too aggressive. I was forced to wait for 2 days to take it again and after making the necessary adjustments he requested during my road test I passed without a problem!
My Dad and Mom lived in Las Vegas NV and Edmonton AB and my parents were snowbirds so each year I spent about 6 months a year in Edmonton and 6 months in Vegas. I went to school in Edmonton but whenever it was closed like Christmas and Spring breaks, or summer holidays we would head to Vegas.
One big plus from going back and forth so often was that it was no big deal for me to cross the border when I started trucking.
Triple J Transport was a family run business. My Mom, Judy Koch, organized and maintained the company books and was also responsible for driver recruitment. My Dad did the dispatching and business management and fabrication of trailers this while still getting behind the wheel himself when needed. We had uncles and nephews who drove and worked with us as well. This is where I realized the importance of having a family who works together to contribute to the success of a trucking business.
While I could drive commercially in Canada, I was not 21 so I was not legal age to drive in the U.S. which was not a problem for the longest time. Then one day just 3 months short of my 21st birthday an older fellow at the scale in Minot, North Dakota pulled me in for a routine inspection. This was something he had done before as I knew him from crossing that scale many
times in the past. I guess he hadn’t paid attention in the past or looked close enough because this time when he looked at my log book and then my driver’s license he suddenly realized I was underage to be interstate trucking. He was a bit embarrassed about missing it so many times before but he had no intention of letting me continue. He pointed at the truck stop across the road and told me I could wait there until someone with a class 1 who was of legal age could come down and pick up my truck and return it to Canada where I could them resume my trip. He
then swept the whole thing under the rug by telling me he would not charge me but I was not to come back until I was 21. It saved me a ticket and him the embarrassment of explaining to his superiors why in the previous inspections he did not catch my age long before that.
I have been involved in two unfortunate accidents over the years. After I turned 21 and started driving in the States again I got hit by a drunk driver on Hwy 52 just south of Bowbells North Dakota. A woman came out of her driveway at the bottom of the valley crossed three lanes of
traffic hitting me head-on in the right shoulder of the northbound lane and took out my front end. My truck rolled over into the ditch and finally came to rest about 10 feet from the river at the bottom of the valley. The cops told me that she was the town drunk and it was inevitable that this was to happen eventually as she survived with minor injuries.
My second accident was just a rooky mistake of my own fault. It was in the fall of 2009
and I had already hit a couple deer that year and after paying for the repairs out of pocket I wasn’t looking to have to do that again so I swerved to miss what would have been my third deer and my tires caught on the right shoulder of the highway, pulled me in, and I flopped
my truck on its side. Since that embarrassment, I have driven 1.5 million miles (2.4 million kilometres) accident-free. I have never been afraid to admit past mistakes as I feel that’s the only way one can move forward, keep learning, and strive to never repeat them.
There was a girl I met in grade 7 that lived close to me and we always walked to and from school together. We were best friends all through junior high and high school and then 3 years after graduating, in February 1999, I married my long-time friend and love of my life, Jackie. After we got married we started our own company, Iceman Refrigeration hauling produce for companies such as Sobeys, Western Grocers, and Sysco. I went back to long-haul trucking and Jackie learned how to do the books and run for parts.
We purchased our first new Peterbilt, a 1998 379 with a 550 CAT engine accompanied by a 1998 Utility 2000R trailer with a Carrier refrigeration unit equipped with printable Temptale and the Datalink communication system. The trailer was decorated with matching airbrushed murals on both sides as well as designs on the Pete including a piece featuring Marvin the Martian shooting Bugs Bunny in the rear with his laser gun. When you added in all of the stainless-steel and chrome pieces inside and out and a one-of-a-kind 24 karat gold plated dash it made this a pretty fancy ride. The result of this, much to Jackie’s dismay, sparked my love of customized
Over the next decade, we had many ups and downs while we learned about owning and growing our company and working with two great outfits, Ralcan Holdings Inc owned by Ralph and Karen Hunter and H&R Transport Ltd. In that time we expanded to 10 trucks, 6 Peterbilts (3 Legacy Editions) and 4 Volvos. We also had 15 Great Dane and Utility reefer trailers with Thermo King Whisper Edition units. This all came about with the help of my Mom, my Dad and my younger brother Jerrid who I mentored and who still works with us to this day. In amongst all of the “chaos,” we had expanded our family with 2 daughters and a puppy named Thor. Our daughters were both born in St. Albert Alberta. The oldest Lorelai was born in September 2002 and the youngest Jaylyn was born in April 2006. We then moved to Lethbridge where we joined H&R in 2008.
After 15 years of owning the company, it came to the point where Jackie and I had to make an important decision. We could either grow larger in order to meet customer demands and comply with Electronic Logging Device requirements, which by the way I personally don’t feel make our industry any safer. In fact, I think it does the opposite by asking people to race an unforgiving clock every day. Or we could downsize and try something new. We chose to downsize to two trucks, one for me and one for my brother Jerrid. This allowed me to spend more time as a family with the girls.
I took our company back to my Dad’s roots as a tanker hauler and was blessed to join the Liquids In Motion team owned by Eldon Frandrick. This revitalized my love for trucking. Liquids In Motion also embraced my obsessive-compulsive nature and love for shiny equipment by providing some of the nicest trailers and equipment and hauling for some of the best chemical companies in the industry.
I have said many times to family and friends that I have purchased my last truck and I know we’ve all heard the “this is my last truck” line before which normally doesn’t turn out to be true but personally, I really can’t see myself buying another one. With the new push for zero-emission trucks and all of the aerodynamics, the unreliability and costly inefficient operating systems of
the new trucks I am pretty sure that it makes it likely this statement will remain true for this family.
My 2010 Pete 389 with ISX565, 18 speed with 3:55 gear ratio and Super 40 rear ends has run 2.4 million kilometres and counting. It is appropriately named Redemption – because of my last accident – and can handle almost anything that has and will be thrown at it work-wise. I strive to keep it in impeccable condition and really appreciate the comments and thumbs up I get for the way it looks.
This combined with being blessed to have a wife who has stood by me through everything and made me a proud father of two beautiful girls is what keeps me driven to keep learning and adapting to this craft. It keeps me striving daily to make safe trips and be a positive representative of the trucking industry to the best of my ability.
It is frustrating when people have a negative view of truckers and our profession, this is not a mindless job. It’s being away from your family and missing special moments in your life that you wish you could be there for while providing goods that’s allow others to remain with their families. The upside is you can go out and earn the income that allows your family to enjoy many of the things they may not have otherwise.
It’s long lonely days and nights, making loading and unloading appointments, driving in adverse conditions being the safest and most professional you can be. It’s pride in your ride and what it means to be able to reflect that for your company who has taken the chance in hiring you to represent them.