Home: Patriot, Ohio
Family: Wife Catherine, Three children, three grandchildren
Rig: 1994 Kenworth W900L
Career: 25 years
Accident-free: 2.9 million miles
Income: $32,000 to $35,000
John Gill, Dart Transit’s reigning Contractor of the Year, keeps a simple outlook on business and safety.
“Take it one day at a time,” he recommends. “If you focus on anything else, then you don’t pay attention to what you’re supposed to be doing and something will happen.”
Gill’s focus on business is well-proven, considering his 25 years in the industry and 2.9 million accident-free miles, though he’s got another side. He says he’s the “biggest kid out there,” playing practical jokes and teasing only his favorite people, such as his son’s girlfriends.
“John may be a practical joker, but we’re serious about the trucking part of our lives,” says Gill’s long-time friend Harvey Zander, a former Overdrive Trucker of the Year. “We get in the seat and stay in the seat and get the job done.”
The fruits of taking his job seriously have been plentiful for Gill, 48, a father of three and a grandfather of three from Patriot, Ohio. In addition to being named Dart’s Contractor of the Year, Gill has been inducted into the Dart Hall of Fame, received numerous safe driving awards and placed ninth in the Truckload Carriers Association’s Independent Contractor of the Year contest.
“I never have liked the limelight,” Gill says of his awards. “I’m just a normal guy. Just let me do my job.”
But for Gill, trucking is more than a job; it has been a calling.
“When I was little, about 11 or 12, I rode with a Mercer Boat Transportation truck driver who delivered boat engines. I liked it so much I went on two runs in a row. I was hooked.”
In 1978 Gill began driving for local companies, then became an owner-operator with Dart in 1982. But long before owning his first truck – a yellow, orange and tan 1978 GMC cabover – Gill spent a stint in Scotland with the U.S. Navy.
“I felt like I had been fooled by the Irish Spring commercial,” Gill says of ads for the soap product. “It rained all the time and was chilly and cold.”
But before he left, he found one glimmer of sunshine – his wife, Catherine.
“I remember that he was a man of few words,” Catherine says of their first meeting. “He was kind of quiet with dark hair and dark eyes. He was good looking.”
The couple married and moved to the United States, where Gill began working as a truck mechanic. Inside of six months he was behind the wheel of a dump truck and has been driving since. Now he mostly hauls cans for Siligan Containers Corp.
Even though he’s on the road a lot, Gill is ever mindful of family and friends.
“He’s a good friend and a good listener,” Zander says. “He’ll think before he blurts something out. When family members from other states ask how he’s doing, you know he’s had an impact. He’s become so close to me and my family that my mother always calls him her adopted son.”
In addition to calling Zander’s family on birthdays and anniversaries to check in, he spends a lot of time on the phone with his own family.
“He sends flowers and remembers all the dates,” Catherine says. “I don’t keep track of all that. Plus he’s been home for all the big stuff, and the kids call him if they have problems. The cell phone is a good tool for putting you right in the living room.”
Gill is also attentive to those outside his family. Zander calls him a Johnny-on-the-spot when other drivers need assistance.
“He’s a heck of a mechanic,” Zander says. “I see him on the road where someone’s broken down all the time. He’ll listen over the radio to someone who’s having trouble making it and try to help them and he never asks for anything.”
In Gill’s eyes, carrying extra parts and tools simply makes sense.
“I have a good bit of mechanic experience, and I know some places will try to take advantage of broken-down drivers. I’ll get them running so that they can get repairs somewhere decent.”
For Gill, trucking keeps him “close to being outside” and meeting new people.
“Being an owner-operator and a self-employed businessman for all these years is my greatest accomplishment,” he says. “I’ve supported my family and taken care of everything we need. My father is proud of me, I know.”
Zander says a key part of Gill’s success is his serious attitude about business. “He’s a good money manager, and he does book work really well,” Zander says.
Catherine thinks her husband’s dedication is what’s kept him going all 25 years.
“He sticks with it,” she says. “He doesn’t throw his hands up and walk away when something goes wrong. He’s optimistic.”
Gill’s even optimistic enough to dream of him or someone close to him winning a lottery.
“If that day ever comes, I’ll go back to farming,” he says. “That or go on a dream vacation to Hawaii.”
FAVORITE MOVIE: “Days of Thunder.”
FAVORITE FOOD: Grilled steaks and hamburgers.
LEAST FAVORITE FOOD: Vegetables.
PET PEEVE: Drivers who fly off the handle too quickly instead of thinking stuff through.
KEYS TO A GOOD MARRIAGE: Communication and meeting each other halfway.
FAVORITE MEMORY: The birth of his first of two sons.
WORST STATE TO DRIVE IN: New Jersey.
FAVORITE STATE TO DRIVE IN: Whatever’s got nice scenery.
FAVORITE LOAD: A light palletized load.
LEAST FAVORITE LOAD: Alcohol or computer products.