It has often been said that if you do what you love that you’ll never work a day in your life – but how many of us out there can actually say we have achieved that goal? Percy Thompson of Ettrick, WI is one of the lucky few who can honestly say he has achieved this lofty ideal. Percy has been trucking for 32 years, most recently in the understated and amazing Peterbilt 389 seen here, but he doesn’t feel like he’s worked a day in his life.
Born and raised on a small dairy farm in Wisconsin, Percy Thompson (52) has had a lifelong passion for trucking. Learning to drive in a 1975 Chevrolet Titan 90 cabover powered by a 350 Cummins, Percy hauled a lot of milk in the beginning. When he got out of high school, he landed a job hauling machinery for a local dealer. Though Percy began driving at a much younger age, he begins his “official” history and experience with trucking in 1979 when he started hauling interstate freight for Millis Transfer Incorporated of Black River Falls, WI.
While at Millis Transfer, Percy got his first truck – a basic 1981 Peterbilt 359 that he used to pull reefers and dry vans. Eventually, Percy found himself at Bud Meyer Truck Lines in a slick 1991 Peterbilt 379 pulling a stainless steel smooth-bore tanker, hauling chemicals for Colgate. This 1991 Peterbilt 379 provided much of the inspiration for Percy’s current truck. That rig had six-inch stacks and plenty of other chrome, but, unfortunately, with less than 30,000 miles on the odometer, the truck was involved in a horrendous crash that involved a drunk truck driver. That crash did $56,000 worth of damage on a then $85,000 truck! Luckily, Percy escaped the crash, but his truck was totally destroyed. Though insurance covered the repairs, it was never quite the same – you could always see where the truck had been repainted and several of the repaired body panels never quite fit right again.
Percy’s current truck (pictured here), is a 2011 Peterbilt 389 that was ordered as a glider kit by Clint Moore of Kansas City Peterbilt. This truck is both eye-catching and subtle at the same time. Calling upon the styling of his ’91 Peterbilt 379 and the old-school mentality of building a simple, polished-out truck with a clean and sterile look, Percy did not do anything particularly radical to his rig. However, what has been done to this rig is well thought out, which gives the truck a “spotless” look.
The exterior modifications done to Percy’s Peterbilt include six-inch stainless steel exhaust from Dynaflex, as well as a factory 18-inch stainless steel bumper and Clint Moore visor. Other exterior additions include a stainless steel pig-tail box and deck plate, along with polished half-fenders. Percy also removed the fairings from the 63-inch standup sleeper to help open up the 270-inch wheelbase, and then mounted United Pacific round headlights on Double JJ brackets up front. Painted a pale metallic blue with slightly darker fenders and fuel tanks, the truck’s clean look is completed by the five standard bullet cab lights and deleted air horns. Inside the cab, the changes were kept modest, which included polished gauges, a custom wood steering wheel and a wood shift knob.
After the glider kit arrived at Kansas City Peterbilt, the truck received a special engine – a Signature 600 Cummins painted not red but the traditional (and old-school) Cummins beige. Percy enjoys having all of the luxuries a new Peterbilt 389 provides, but he also has the added benefits of lower maintenance costs and higher reliability that comes with the older Cummins power plant – he gets the best of both worlds!
Percy’s special Signature 600 engine is routed through a 13-speed Fuller and 3.36 high-torque rears. The truck also has an air-ride car hauler front axle with the blocks removed (which dropped the front end about six to eight inches), and it rides on 22.5 rubber all around. The majority of Percy’s chrome was purchased from Homer Schultz of Homer’s Custom Chrome Shop in Milwaukee, WI (Homer’s blue Peterbilt wrecker was our cover feature in August of 2009), while most of the assembly was handled by Clint Moore and his crew at Kansas City Peterbilt. Percy currently pulls a polished 50-foot Great Dane stainless steel spread-axle reefer for D&G Transportation out of Germantown, WI. The super-clean matching trailer features polished quarter fenders and painted rails, along with a painted-to-match Carrier reefer unit.
Percy’s father (with the same name) always stressed to his son the importance of developing long-term relationships with those you work with, and that is exactly what Percy has done at D&G Transportation for the past 14 years. D&G is almost a wholly owner operator based outfit (both trucks and trailers), owning only a few of their own trucks to pick up the inbound freight. D&G acts as a consolidator of the freight, which is then shipped by their owner operators. With a fleet size of 84 trucks, most of which are kept just as nice as Percy’s, D&G is by no means a small operation. Percy does a weekly turn of LTL food products to Denver, CO with multiple drops in between. In Percy’s own words, “Working at D&G is about working together to get the job done.” For Percy, and the many markets D&G services, D&G is truly one of the premiere LTL carriers.
Raised in a family with six children (he has three brothers and two sisters), Percy is a family man with family values. Happily married to his wife Roxanne for 18 years, they have raised five kids, both from previous marriages (three daughters from Percy and two sons from Roxanne), as well as having two granddaughters and two grandsons, with a third grandson on the way to “break the tie” as Percy said. When not behind the wheel of his truck, Percy enjoys old cars and riding around on his Harley, golfing (he and Roxanne live right off the second hole tee-box at Ettrick’s local 9-hole course), and spending time with his grandchildren.
Percy would like to thank his wife and family for their support, as well as all of his friends. He would also like to thank Homer Schultz for providing much of the chrome on his rig and Kansas City Peterbilt for their impeccable job assembling his glider kit. Finally, he would like to thank D&G Transportation for his many years of enjoyable employment.
We at 10-4 Magazine would like to thank Percy for his patience, effort and enthusiasm about doing this article and the pictures. When the weather turned foul on our first photo shoot, he did not hesitate to schedule a second shoot and get the whole truck cleaned up all over again. We love to see that sort of commitment in the driver’s we meet (and feature)!
In a world consumed by profit and practicality, Percy Thompson has achieved an admirable position – a man who loves his job and doesn’t even feel like he works. “I’ve never had a real job,” said Percy. Although Percy has been trucking for 32 years, it has always felt more like a hobby to him, which proves when you love your work, it’s no longer work. But, we are pretty sure that Percy has many more miles of “not working” ahead of him!