Letting It Ride
Rick Gassman’s passion for his trade and cool-headed highway manner have kept him running accident-free for more than 50 years
Born and raised driving a farm tractor and “loving every minute of it,” 52-year driver Rick Gassman says he never wanted to work inside. “None whatsoever,” he says. So, in 1958, when the choice was offered to either drive locally for a cement company or work in a factory, Gassman says it was an easy decision to make. “Even out of high school I knew it’s what I wanted to do. I’d always loved working outside and driving the tractor [on the farm],” he says. “I was excited when the opportunity to drive came along.”
Since, the now 70-year-old has logged more than 4.5 million accident- and violation-free miles during his half-century run. Gassman drives for Greatwide Logistics Services, hauling clothing products from Dubuque, Iowa, to Ontario, Calif.
To maintain a strong safety record, a little patience goes a long way, he says. “You just can’t take chances. People will test you every day. You’ve just got to keep your cool and not get upset, because you know what’ll happen. People are going to cut you off and do things like that, you’ve just got to let it ride.”
Between his start in ’58 and his current job, Gassman hauled butter, general freight and carbon dioxide for different companies. Gassman says to be a successful driver long term, “you’ve got to have a lot of pride in what you do. The truck has to be just right. You have to dress right. You want people to respect you, and that’s the way I look at it. You have to give it 100 percent every day. It’s a good job, but you’ve got a lot of responsibility.”
Gassman says driving has been an up-and-down career, but he’s accomplished a lot — “about all I’m going to accomplish.
“I’ve liked it all the way. It’s been a rough life a lot of times, but I can’t say I never enjoyed it — I’ve always enjoyed it. You just have to learn to take the good with the bad.”
Q & A
Q: What is one thing you always carry with you in your truck while on the road?
A: I’ve always had a medallion of St. Christopher in all of the trucks I’ve ever driven. Somebody gave it to me a long, long time ago. I just feel comfortable with that in the truck — probably would feel uncomfortable without it.
Q: What advice would you give younger drivers?
A: If you like it, stick with it. There’s a lot of ups and downs and good and bad, but overall, it’s not a bad job. You’ve got to be away from home a lot, and you miss a lot of things, but if driving a truck is what you like, stick with it. It’ll pay off in the long run.
Q: What is your most memorable moment in trucking?
A: When I was headed to Vegas with TCA, there was a farmer with a horse trailer on I-80 in Omaha who had four or five cattle that had broken out of the trailer. Me and another driver took our two trucks and made a corral. Another trailer came along and loaded the cattle up. It was nothing terrific, but it was kind of cool. The Omaha mayor sent us a thank-you letter afterward.
Company Driver of the Year
Truckers News will select a 2010 Company Driver of the Year, to be announced in early 2011, from its current Driver of the Month profiles. The winner of the contest will receive prizes from trucking industry vendors.