Longtime trucker Keith Haley of Waterford, CA (just south of Oakdale) passed away on July 4, 2017 when he lost his fight with colon cancer. Known for his cool narrow-nose Peterbilt and for raising three truck-driving sons, Keith had a long and productive career in the trucking industry that spanned some 50 years. Keith was an awesome, outgoing type of person that never stopped doing things – some might even say he was a workaholic. I met Keith through his son, Scott, after I began washing his truck and trailer.
Starting his driving career right out of high school, Keith drove for William Hatchery for a while before going into the National Guard (1964-1970). After that, he worked for several trucking companies like Sword, Burt and Ernie Prouty, Cherokee Freight Lines and Kodiak Express, where he retired from after many years. Keith worked for Danny, owner of Kodiak, for a long time, but it wasn’t really the typical employee-boss type of relationship, it was more like a friend helping a friend (Keith took the loads he wanted and got the job done without any fuss). And who wouldn’t want to give the gravy loads to a guy with Keith’s awesome setup?
Keith bought his narrow-nose 1964 Peterbilt with a butterfly hood from Ernie Prouty in 1985, and since then, this rig has seen a lot of miles and places. It originally had a 318-hp 8V71 Detroit with a 4+4 transmission, but that motor blew up. After Keith overhauled the engine, it blew up a second time, so Keith decided that it would be cheaper to change it out with a Small Cam Cummins. Today, with a 176-inch wheelbase and an updated brownie, this rig still runs great – and pours out black smoke on demand! Keith used the truck to run down to Los Angeles, hauling building materials, on 24-foot flatbed doubles (he really liked to pull those doubles).
When not trucking, Keith liked to go shooting, hunting and gold mining. Tim is Keith’s oldest son, then Scott (a past feature of mine from December 2015), and then Matt. All of the brothers are very close, and all were close to their dad, as well. All of the boys are involved in trucking, and all of them credit their dad with teaching them how to do it right. Tim works for Triple C Trucking hauling cows, Scott works for himself (Scott Haley Trucking) and also hauls livestock, and Matt is a Teamster driver for Sheedy Drayage Co.
After being diagnosed and treated for colon cancer, Keith went back for his six-month check and everything looked good. Unfortunately, about six months later, at his next check-up, he found that it had returned, and this time it was even worse. Keith passed away on July 4, 2017, at the age of 70. The time of his death was 10:44 A.M. Just out of curiosity, Keith’s boys looked up the police code for 10-44 and found it was the code for “Permission to Leave Patrol” which seemed fitting.
The funeral service was held on Saturday, July 15, and Keith’s sons were able to fulfill their dad’s final wishes – to be transported to his grave on the back of his old Peterbilt. With one call to Jason Hicks and a couple quick measurements, a platform was built and attached to the truck to hold Keith’s casket for his final ride. The boys found great joy and sadness at the same time doing this, but they did it together, and felt good about that. The trip did not happen without plenty of tears and some laughter, as well as a lot of black smoke from that Peterbilt, but the boys were glad that so many people showed-up to pay their final respects to their dad.
Watching Keith take one last ride on his Peterbilt, with his kids, blowing black smoke, brought back a lot of memories and made for a touching tribute. Lots of friends and family attended the funeral, and many told great old stories about Keith and trucking. The service ended with the playing of Keith’s favorite song – “Roll On 18-Wheeler” by Alabama. Although those that knew Keith Haley will miss him dearly, his memory will live on through his three sons and everyone else who loved him. Roll On, Keith.