Trucking has never been an easy job, but when compared to the challenges of law enforcement, it is not so tough. Throughout our history, police officers have been targeted and killed in the line of duty, all while merely trying to do their job – to protect the communities they serve. In addition to the inherent dangers, law enforcement can also be a difficult and sometimes thankless job (nobody likes to see those flashing lights in their rear-view mirror). Jake and Stephanie Robak of St. Cloud, MN, with ties to both trucking and law enforcement, hope to change some of those perceptions and open new lines of dialog with their working show truck “End of Watch” – which is a beautiful rolling tribute to fallen police officers.
Jake and Steph are a dynamic duo, and the epitome of what it means to be hard-working. Jake started his career as a steelworker and then transitioned to being a professional driver. Today, he and Steph run three trucks. Stephanie works two jobs – one as a police officer and the other as a 911 dispatcher. When they acquired another truck, the 2006 Peterbilt 379 with a Cottrell car hauler seen here, they never thought they’d be building a truck that could win at a show on the national level, but that is exactly what they ended up doing.
While on a vacation in Mexico, Jake made the usual call to Kyle at Big Rig Chrome Shop in Oshkosh, WI to order some shiny new chrome for his latest Peterbilt purchase. Steph caught him on the phone and asked who he was talking to. When she found out he was ordering more truck parts (guys, we’ve all been there), you can imagine her reaction. Well, her reaction was far from typical – and far from what you probably thought it was – she told Jake that she wanted to design this rig!
When it came time to choose a theme for the truck, given Stephanie’s law enforcement background, naturally she wanted to honor her fallen brothers and sisters. The idea for the truck was to use a mural of images depicting uniformed officers working at crime scenes and patriotic symbols. Jake and Steph wanted to promote the fact that police officers, as a whole, are here to protect and serve. Calvin Coolidge once said, “Heroism is not only in the man, but in the occasion.” Some of the police officers that spend their careers serving and protecting us are not fortunate to come away from that duty alive. It isn’t broadly known, but K9’s are sworn officers, and, as dog lovers, Jake and Steph wanted to honor fallen K9’s, too.
In addition to the truck’s inspiring and thought-provoking vinyl wrap, the rig’s white deck plate is covered with the names of every police officer that has been killed over the past 20 years – over 3,700 of them. It also lists the names of the fallen K9’s, and there is even a picture of a fallen German Shepherd on the top of the hood. Sadly, according to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund (www.nleomf.org), more than 21,000 officers have lost their lives in the line of duty since 1791, with the single deadliest day being September 11, 2001, when 72 officers were killed as a result of the terror attacks in New York and Washington D.C. that day.
Moving on from the basic theme of the truck, the details still needed to be worked out. Longtime friend to Jake and Steph, and owner of Roadsknz, Steve Pearson had been in Jake’s ear about wrapping one of his car hauler’s racks with stainless for years. Jake decided this would be the one. This was about the time that everyone realized this truck was not going to be a “normal” working truck, but something much more.
At this point, the focus shifted toward a show some people might be familiar with, held on the third weekend in March every year, and a deadline was set. Jake and Steph decided the truck was going to make its debut at MATS in Louisville, KY. Steve and Lucy at Roadsknz worked on the truck for a total of about two weeks. Starting out with cut paper templates, they custom-made over 270 pieces of polished stainless steel to completely wrap the car carrier’s rack, in addition to adding their usual Tank Sknz, Box Sknz, step plates, and other shiny Roadsknz products to the truck.
Next, the truck needed to get an interior to match its custom exterior. Getting the job done nicely, Rockwood Products put together one of their “Top Shelf Trucking” custom packages. To complement the beautiful white and black upholstery work done on the door panels and ceiling, along with the rig’s white and blue exterior theme, white marble dash panels were a very classy finishing touch to the interior, which also features a painted steering wheel, custom pedals, and blue lighting accents. This thing is decked-out, both inside and out, and from top to bottom!
Bringing along their “crew” to help in Louisville, which included Travis Thull, “Big Jim” Halliday, Joey Lang and David Eich, these folks worked tirelessly to get the truck ready for the show. Over the weeks before the show, these were the go-to guys when anything needed to get done. And, with all that creativity and effort, it came as no big surprise to those at the show that this truck took home some hardware (it was constantly surrounded by a crowd for the entire three days of the show, making it really hard to get any good pictures).
The crew was amazed and honored that “End of Watch” took home three major awards at the 2017 Paul K. Young Truck Beauty Championship – 1st Place Working Bobtail, 1st Place Working Bobtail Lights, and 2nd Place Working Interior Cab Only. Now that the show is over, the truck will go to work.
In addition to more truck shows, Jake and Steph also plan to take it to as many events as possible that support law enforcement. Who knows, you may see the truck at your local PD’s “National Night Out” – an annual event created to bolster relationships between neighbors and law enforcement, while bringing back a true sense of community.
“End of Watch” is more than just a pretty truck – it’s a rolling memorial for those who have given their lives for us, and another reminder that freedom is not free. Remember that the next time you are getting pulled over. Police officers are not the enemy, they are our partners, and an essential part of a free and secure society. If you see this rig out on the road, show some love and support by giving a heartfelt thumbs-up, and then, if you feel so inclined, offer a quick prayer of protection for all of the active officers out there risking their lives by just doing their job.