Kevin Kocmich is one of three finalists for the 2018 Owner-Operator of the Year award, produced by the Truckload Carriers Association and Overdrive. The winner, who will receive a $25,000 cash prize, will be announced in March at TCA’s annual convention in Las Vegas. The sponsors of the Driver of the Year Contests are Love’s Travel Stops and Cummins Inc. The other two finalists are Danny Jewell and Robert Roth.
Kevin Kocmich, based in Litchfield, Minnesota, figures his niche application – hauling oversize/overweight equipment 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 another 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 himself and his company well and keeping his equipment in top shape.
“I just replaced most of my chains and binders last summer — inspectors 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.