In all honesty, Jimmy Sernach wishes he didn’t have to drive his truck for a living anymore. He’d much rather just work on it for fun and then go “cruising” down the road to show it off. But this is not the way trucking works – you can’t really have one without the other unless you are independently wealthy – which Jimmy admits he is not. Although he is not that fond of the way trucking is nowadays, he is still a certified truck freak and couldn’t imagine doing anything else. Having just freshened-up his older 1994 truck and then hooking it to an equally-amazing customized trailer he recently had built, Jimmy is excited to get back to his roots – pulling a curtain van up and down I-5 in style.
Born and raised in Pleasanton, California, Jimmy Sernach (45) was adopted when he was just a baby. His parents, Joe and Jane Sernach, had just lost one of their young sons and really wanted to have two boys, so Jimmy was welcomed into the family. Jimmy has never had the desire to find or meet his birth parents because Joe and Jane, and his older brother Mike, are the only family he has ever known. Jimmy grew up sort of “unsupervised” because his parents were always busy working – his father put himself through college and then went on to have a very successful career in banking and finance.
While growing up, Jimmy’s family had a cabin in Arnold, California (east of Stockton in the Sierra Nevada Mountains) where the family spent a lot of time together. Jimmy didn’t have a lot in common with his dad but they both loved to snow ski, so Jimmy went with him whenever he could. Back then, Jimmy can remember seeing the loaded log trucks rolling out of the mountains and he loved them. This is probably where his “truck addiction” first began.
After graduating from high school, Jimmy and some of his friends decided to move up to South Lake Tahoe and get jobs at Heavenly Valley Ski Resort. Jimmy was a lift operator in charge of the Sky Chair at the top of the mountain and can still see that amazing view of the lake and the city below like it was yesterday. In the summer, Jimmy and his friends became laborers at the resort and helped them lay 22 miles of pipe for their new snow-making system. The boys knew if they worked at the resort in the summer, they would keep them on come winter, and that is what they really wanted. Nowadays, Jimmy doesn’t have a lot of time to go skiing, but he was really good at it back in those days.
After two years of “playing around” in the mountains, Jimmy’s dad told him that it was time to come home and get a real job. After working a few different construction jobs, Jimmy ended up at UC Moving & Storage, an agent for Global Van Lines, who had yards in Hayward and Concord. While there, Jimmy moved all kinds of stuff locally in bobtail trucks, but the majority of their work involved relocating numerous businesses at night in downtown San Francisco.
Jimmy loved to see the “big strappers” (owner operators running long-haul) pull into the yard with their fancy trucks – he dreamed of one day owning and driving one of his own. Sometimes, these owner operators would even let Jimmy drive their trucks around the yard. One particular owner operator, a Hawaiian guy out of Antioch, CA named Mike Cabini (probably not spelled right), took Jimmy under his wing. Mike’s plan was to eventually own three or four trucks, put good drivers in them, and then get off the road so he could be home with his family. Jimmy ended up going out on the road with Mike as a helper for two years – and he loved it.
Mike had a 1985 International cabover with a 9-foot drom box and a mural of Mt. Shasta painted on the side (which is kinda weird, since that is where we shot Jimmy’s truck). Here was a 21 year-old kid, who had never been east of Nevada, rolling into New York City in a cherry big rig – it was a dream come true for young Jimmy Sernach! Over that two-year period, Mike taught Jimmy how to drive and then helped him get his CDL. But, over time, Jimmy realized that running coast-to-coast wasn’t something he wanted to do, so he quit working for Mike and went back to Pleasanton to find work locally. Jimmy lost touch with Mike after that, but he really wanted to thank him for teaching him how to drive “right” and for being such a great mentor and friend.
Around 1988, Jimmy started driving for Jack Bodine out of Milpitas, California, hauling sand and gravel (Jack was known for having cool 359 Peterbilts with big power). Jimmy could do five loads a day, running between local quarries and batch plants. After awhile, Jimmy got bored running local so he switched over to Jack’s contaminated soil division and began hauling “dirty dirt” in end dumps and transfer units throughout California. Eventually, they started taking the dirty dirt out of state, and Jimmy found himself running out to Idaho and Utah on a fairly regular basis. These were fun times because Jimmy and his friends would run together in large packs on these longer runs, goofing off and screwing around all along the way.
After Peterbilt introduced their iconic 379, Jimmy started bugging Jack to buy new trucks. Jack’s old trucks were cool, but everybody else was buying new equipment and Jimmy wanted to upgrade, too. One day, Jack said to Jimmy, “If you want a new truck so bad, why don’t you go get one yourself.” So he did. In 1991, Jimmy sold everything he could and, with a little help from his father, bought a 1987 Peterbilt 359 out of Texas. This truck was bright red, had a flat top sleeper, was powered by a 3406 air-to-air Cat with 13 gears, and sat higher than a Kenworth. It was a tall ride – literally! Now that Jimmy had his own truck (and authority), Jack was nice enough to park the truck Jimmy was driving and let him pull the same trailer with his new truck.
The following year, in 1992, Todd Acklam lured Jimmy away from Jack Bodine, and he began hauling contaminated soil out of gas stations in Southern California to dumps all over the Nevada and California deserts. Still driving his red 359, Jimmy would pick up a load of coke heading south on Sunday night, then haul dirty dirt all week out of Southern California, and then load broken glass (for recycling) going north on Friday, which got him home for the weekend. In 1993, Jimmy married “the girl next door” (literally) – Lisa was his next-door neighbor when growing up in Pleasanton – and then the two of them moved to Lathrop, California.
Shortly after getting married, Todd talked Jimmy into trying to buy a new truck. Jimmy didn’t think he could do it, but he and Lisa went down to the dealership anyway, and were blown away when they drove out of there in a brand new truck. The rig was a 1994 Peterbilt 379 with a 63-inch standup sleeper, a 265-inch wheelbase, a 435 E-model Cat engine (this was the first year they were offered and everybody wanted one), and all the bells and whistles. The truck was spec’d out exactly like Jimmy wanted except for the color – he wanted black but Lisa wanted blue, so he went with the blue. Now that he had a brand new, smooth-running truck with a big sleeper, Lisa went out on the road with him. She never got her license or drove, but Lisa always helped Jimmy with all of the paperwork and behind-the-scenes crap that comes along with being an owner operator.
Just a few months later, as Jimmy began to get bored (again) and the rates started heading south, he left Todd Acklam and leased on with Timber Products out of Southern Oregon. At first, he was pulling one of their flatbeds, hauling lumber and other building products all over the 11 western states, but after six months he went and bought his own brand new 45-foot Ravens spread-axle flatbed and got on it! Jimmy was loving it – he had a cool new truck and trailer, his wife was with him, he was running all over the west, and he was making good money. Jimmy has always enjoyed the freedom that comes along with being an owner operator.
Eventually, Lisa got bored, and after a few years out on the road, she decided that it was time for her to get out of the truck. Wanting to stay closer to home, Jimmy started running up and down I-5 instead of the 11 western states, but being the low man on the totem pole at Timber Products, he just wasn’t getting the good loads anymore, so he made yet another change. Jimmy sold his flatbed and bought a new 39-foot Ram end dump that was painted to match his blue truck. Hauling contaminated soil out of San Francisco to “Mount Manteca” and other dumps in California, he was able to once again make good money and be home every night.
Hauling the “dirty dirt” was good for a few years, but as the economy changed and the dirt work slowed, he started hauling fertilizer and anything else he could find. In 2002, Jimmy rented out his end dump and started pulling a curtain van, hauling building materials between Oregon and California. About this time, Jimmy and Lisa were tired of renting and decided it was time to buy a home of their own. Jimmy’s brother had moved to Corvalis, Oregon and loved the place, and since Jimmy was hauling out of Oregon (and it was cheaper to buy there) it just made sense for them to buy a place in Oregon. The following year, in 2003, they bought an old house (it was built in 1910) on five acres in Grants Pass, Oregon and left California for good.
After trying to get pregnant for many years, Jimmy and Lisa were finally blessed with a daughter (Breanna) in 2005. Wanting to take a few weeks off to be home with his wife and new baby, Jimmy decided to shut down his truck and freshen it up a bit. Taking it to Bill Abernethy at Commercial Collision & Paint in White City, Oregon, the “little” job quickly grew to become a five-week rebuild of the entire truck.
Wanting a flat top sleeper, Jimmy had Bill switch out the bunk and then paint the entire truck black (he always wanted a black truck), including the grille surround, the grille bars, the double-round headlight buckets and Double JJ brackets, air cleaners, visor, mirror brackets, steps and tanks. He also shaved the roof lights, chopped the screens on the air cleaners, and then added WTI front fenders, cab and sleeper extensions, billet step plates, custom blinker “tubes” behind the front bumper and under the truck, eight-inch pipes, and a boltless 18-inch bumper. He also did some work to the interior (a little later) that included flamed door panels, a new steering wheel, and an extra long shifter with a skull knob, among other things. Jimmy plans on redoing the interior in the near future.
Running up and down the west coast with a curtain van has always been Jimmy’s favorite way to truck, but as business got competitive (a lot of guys started buying curtain vans), it was time for Jimmy to change again – this time, he switched to a reefer. Pulling for a guy out of Washington, Jimmy ran paper south and meat north. After a year or two of that, Jimmy started running a dedicated reefer haul between Oregon and Los Angeles for Oldland Distribution out of Central Point, Oregon. Things were going great until June of 2011 when Jimmy’s dad was diagnosed with terminal cancer. At that point, Jimmy gave up his dedicated haul and started working part-time so he could help care for his father. Sadly, his dad passed away in September of 2011.
After taking a few months off to settle his father’s estate, Jimmy went to Pacific Truck & Trailer and got a 48-foot 2004 Wilson curtain van, looking to get back to what he loves the most. Wanting it to look really good, he had them paint the all-aluminum trailer black with a lime green pinstripe, added lots of extra lights and light bars, and had Logan Designs in Grants Pass, OR cover the entire rear doors with a vinyl graphic of his logo. He also did a little more work to the truck, including stretching the frame out to 295 inches, adding new deck plates, and then repainting everything behind the sleeper. Today, hooked together, this combination is one of the hottest rigs on the west coast – and beyond!
Jimmy wanted to thank many of the people who have helped him over the years, including Bill Abernethy, Brent at Brent’s Custom Trucks, Bob, Todd and Robbie at Pacific Truck & Trailer, Bob Hitchcock at Cherokee Truck Parts, his wife Lisa, and, of course, his mom and dad. Jimmy has been reading 10-4 Magazine forever and is excited to finally be on the cover. Although he doesn’t find much extra time, when he does, he enjoys spending it at home with his wife and daughter. We at 10-4 would like to thank Ron Pettijohn (Trucker Ron) and his wife Pam for all of their help at the photo shoot near Mt. Shasta. It was a great time we won’t soon forget.
Jimmy Sernach doesn’t like the business of trucking much anymore, but he still loves trucks and driving, saying that one compliment about his truck can carry him on cloud nine for 300 miles. Well, Jimmy, we hope that being on the cover all month will carry you even further than that. It was our pleasure hanging out with you and finally getting to know you. You are a certified truck freak and your enthusiasm is contagious! We sincerely hope that one day you will hit the big time and get to retire and then just cruise around in your truck looking cool. In the meantime, get