Allegheny Township trucker, 70, honored for 53 years of driving
By Rossilynne Skena Culgan
Published: Monday, July 15, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
After 53 years of driving trucks throughout Western Pennsylvania and across the nation and logging 6.6 million accident-free miles behind the wheel, Jim Roach of Allegheny Township has no intention of putting the brakes on his career and sitting on his porch.
Roach was honored Saturday for his five decades behind the wheel when he received the American Truck Historical Society's golden achievement award at an antique truck show sponsored by the society's Steel Valleys Chapter at the New Stanton Mack facility off Interstate 70 in South Huntingdon.
“I have no plans to retire, as long as I keep passing the physical. I just had my physical, and I'm good for two years at least,” the 70-year-old Roach said Saturday at the antique truck show.
“He's still out on the road hauling away. He really loves it,” said his wife of 50 years, Georgetta Roach, 70, who was joined by their daughter Andrea and son Todd and his family.
She joked after the ceremony that, “I'm the reason he comes home.”
Roach exhibited his 1964 Diamond T truck, which hauls a 53-foot trailer that carries another truck. There were about 65 restored antique trucks at the event, some dating back about 90 years.
Roach has been fascinated by trucks since childhood.
“When he was a little boy, his mother said, he drove things that weren't even drivable, like boxes,” Georgetta Roach said.
As a teenager growing up in Lower Burrell, his interest in truck driving was sparked by the man who parked his truck across from the ice cream stand where he worked. Roach already knew he did not want to follow in his father's footsteps into Braeburn Alloy Steel, where the elder Roach toiled for more than 40 years.
“I did not like to be cooped up,” Roach said.
Instead, he opted for the lure of the open road in 1960, buying a 1958 truck when no trucking firm would hire an inexperienced driver.
Starting out as an independent trucker, he would haul steel wire from the former Jones & Laughlin Steel Corp. giant steel mill in Aliquippa to J&L's mill in New Kensington. He hauled mining equipment to copper, silver and gold mines in the West in the 1970s and 1980s.
These days, he drives a dry-bulk tanker truck, hauling powdered cement and particle plastics for Buffalo Township-based Freeport Transport Industries Inc.
His pickup and deliveries have taken him as far as Canada, California and North Dakota, hauling products such as special blue PPG Industries Inc. glass for a Lake Tahoe casino on the California-Nevada border. He will pick up a load of charge carbon in Somerset on one day, drive it to Virginia, then return the following day with a load of cement from Chesapeake, Va., to a plant near Pittsburgh International Airport in Findlay, Roach said.
His schedule has him stopping at home every two or three days, his wife said.
Being home a day or two at a time has its benefits, Roach said.
“You don't fight” with your wife, Roach quipped.
Donald Smetanick, owner of Freeport Transport, praised Roach.
“Not only has he been a good, dedicated employee, he's been a good friend,” Smetanick said.
“He's a model of safety, efficiency.”
Roach has worked at Freeport Transport nearly 17 years, and Smetanick said the company will keep him as long as he wants to stay. Even after many years on the road, “he still has the stamina,” Smetanick said.
“He's passed on his knowledge to a number of people,” Smetanick said. “He's helped a number of other people in the business.”
One person whom he has not helped in the business is his son, Todd, who is an Allegheny Township police officer. Roach said his son realized that he drove a truck all day, then had to do maintenance and repairs on the truck when he got home.
“I know that he is very dedicated to his family and he loves his family very much, and that's why he does what he does,” Smetanick said. “That's the No. 1 reason.”
Joe Napsha contributed to this report. Rossilynne Skena is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-6646 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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