Even though he is the one behind the wheel, Roger Reichenbacker is quick to give credit to others for helping him reach 3 million accident-free miles while driving for Walmart Distribution Center in Seymour.

Minutes after receiving a set of keys for his new blue Peterbilt truck cab, a plaque and an engraved pen, Reichenbacker acknowledged the people who have impacted his 27½-year career with the company.

He started with his family, including his wife of 43½ years, Joyce Reichenbacker, and their three sons and their families.

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“Safety begins at home, and I’ve got a wonderful family that when I leave, I don’t have to worry about them,” he said. “They are all good people and are always behind me all the way. When I come to work, I can drive down the road and don’t have to worry about them … so that helps me get through every day safely.”

The center’s managers also play a big role, Roger said.

“We can travel a lot of miles here, but if we have bad weather, the management, they don’t force us to go out there and drive when it’s not safe to be out there,” he said.

Then there are the people who work in safety and in the dispatch office.

“If I have a problem, I can call them and they take care of the problem,” he said. “All I have to concentrate on is driving this truck down the road.”

The employees in the shop who work on the trucks also helped him achieve the milestone.

“A truck doesn’t leave this shop unless it’s safe to drive,” Roger said. “They don’t put Band-Aids on things and turn them loose here.”

Other truck drivers have made a difference, too, he said.

“We have 200 drivers in Seymour and hundreds of other drivers that pass through our region every day, and they are all professional drivers,” he said. “Walmart doesn’t hire a driver unless they have proved themselves. When you work around professionals, it rubs off on you and makes you want to be a professional.”

For those reasons, Roger was able to have the opportunity to celebrate 3 million safe miles.

“This is a heck of an award to get for just coming to work and doing your job,” he said of the new truck cab.

Roger is the fourth Seymour driver to reach 3 million safe miles. Gordon Simler and Donn Woolard each received new truck cabs in November 2015, and Mike Ison was presented his in August 2016.

General transportation manager Tim Schumpe said the four men were able to hit the milestone because they have been with the distribution center since it opened in 1990.

“They are very conscientious drivers. Every day, every move they make, it’s a safe, conscientious move,” Schumpe said.

He said he knew Roger before he started at Walmart, and he appreciates the dedication he has shown to his job and the company.

“It has been a long road to get to 3 million accident-free miles,” Schumpe said. “We’re very proud of him.”

Roger, who grew up in the Acme area northwest of Seymour, said he was drawn to truck driving at a young age.

“When I was 4 years old, I told my mom I was going to be a truck driver,” he said. “I used to be out in my front yard playing, and every day, a semi would go by going down to a store down at Surprise. When he would go by, his trailer would hit those limbs on a tree on the corner of my property, and that just amazed me so much that a vehicle could be that big.

“Every day, I would just stand out there and watch, and I thought, ‘Someday, I want to drive a truck, and I’m going to hit those limbs,’” he said. “I never changed. All the way through school, 12 years, all I thought about was driving a truck.”

Roger graduated from Seymour High School in 1971 and wanted to be a truck driver by the time he was 21, but that didn’t happen until a little later. He married out of high school, and he and Joyce wound up having three kids.

He worked at Lear Siegler in Seymour for nearly a year before moving on to Cummins Inc. for about seven years.

Then in 1979, a month before he turned 26, he bought his own semi — a brand-new 1979 International — from North American Van Lines. He leased his truck to that company and drove for a little more than 10 years.

Then in August 1989, he was one of the first eight drivers hired by Walmart Distribution Center in Seymour.

Since the center wasn’t open yet, they worked for the one in Mount Pleasant, Iowa.

“I drove my car up there every week and worked during the week and came home on the weekends,” he said.

Roger did that until the Seymour center opened in March 1990.

For the past 19½ years, he has been on a set run, meaning he runs the same route every day. That has allowed him to be home every night and be off work Saturdays and Sundays.

First, he takes a truckload to Columbus. After he returns to Seymour, he takes a load to a store in Marion, and then picks up a load at the grocery warehouse in Gas City and takes it to a couple of stores around Indianapolis. The next stop is Sam’s Club Distribution Center in Greenfield, where he picks up a load and takes it to the Sam’s Club in Bloomington.

He then may head to Dorel Juvenile Group Inc. in Columbus or Home Products International in Seymour to pick up merchandise to bring back to the Seymour distribution center.

Roger said he averages 420 miles per day.

Despite all of the obstacles he faces in parking lots and on roadways, he has been able to remain accident-free. Every Walmart truck has a “G.O.A.L.” sticker in the cab. That stands for “Get out and look.”

“Like if I’m going to switch lanes, look and look and look,” he said. “If I’m sitting there looking too long and a car jumps out there, I just wait until (the lane) opens again. The main thing is you just don’t take chances.”

Roger said he didn’t start thinking about reaching 3 million safe miles until he got to 2½ million.

“Then that last half-million, it was rough. And the last 50,000, that was terrible,” he said, smiling.

“He was a nervous wreck,” Joyce added.

But safety always has been at the forefront for Roger, as he had 1.3 million safe miles as an owner-operator. North American Van Lines rewarded him with a weeklong trip to Hawaii.

“But this is pretty good,” he said as he smiled and looked at his new truck cab.

“I loved Hawaii, but this has kind of got Hawaii beat,” Joyce said.

Roger said he’s fortunate to work for a company like Walmart.

“It’s just the greatest company there is,” he said. “They do everything to help their associates, and if you’re a truck driver, this is No. 1. It doesn’t get any better than this.”

Joyce also is grateful for how Walmart has treated her husband. After she raised their three sons and got them through high school, she decided to enroll in college when she was 39 to become a nurse.

The safety bonuses Walmart gave Roger, plus their income tax return checks, allowed Joyce to earn her registered nurse degree from Indiana University in 1998 with no debt at the end.

“For four years, we had no social life,” Joyce said. “I was in college and I studied, and we took every dime we had and paid for it as we went along. So many people today, they graduate and have so much college debt. We sacrificed a lot, and he sacrificed a lot, and we paid for it along the way, and I came out of college without a single penny owed.”

Joyce worked at Schneck Medical Center in Seymour for 17 years and now works as a PRN at Lutheran Community Home in Seymour. That means she works as needed and makes her own hours.

Now 62, Joyce said she is slowing down with her job.

“Nursing is a wonderful profession, but as time has gone on with laws and everything, it’s a real challenge, and physically, mentally and emotionally, it takes a toll,” she said. “I love what I do, but I’m looking forward to slowing down, and I have slowed down.”

Roger said he and his wife had set a retirement date of Dec. 23, 2020. Joyce said she’s pretty sure she will retire at that time, but Roger said he may go until he’s 70. He’s 63 now.

“What really surprised me but then didn’t surprise me is he said, ‘Babe, you don’t understand how much I love driving. I love going to work every day,’” Joyce said.

“I said, ‘OK, but I’m not working that long,’” she said, laughing.

Roger said he hopes to get at least another half-million accident-free miles before he retires.

“I told her, ‘If I get this (new) truck, I don’t know if I can retire,’” he said. “It will depend a lot on our health and just how everything is. You can’t really say four years from now what you’re going to do.”

For now, he’s ready to hit the road in his new truck cab, continuing to keep safety in mind.

“This truck and today mark the first day of the last chapter of my career here,” he said after receiving his new ride. “It’s going to be wonderful to finish my career in a truck like this. If we all keep working together like we have and respect each other, when I close the cover on this book, when that last chapter is done, we should have a happy ending.”

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Zach Spicer is a reporter for The (Seymour) Tribune. He can be reached at zspicer@tribtown.com or 812-523-7080.