You never know what road trucking will take you down. Bryan Dax, a longtime owner-operator from Two Rivers, Wisconsin, knows that well. After three decades of trucking, Bryan was inspired by a boxer with a good idea, so he shut his 1990 Diamond Reo road tractor down and spent several years building what is thought to be the longest, and certainly the most unique, fifth wheel tractor in the world – The Red Giant – a rolling media center and advertising outlet, complete with two huge LED screens and sound. Today, Bryan and his company, REO Mobile Media, LLC, are on an entirely different road, but the scenery still looks pretty much the same.
Back in 1990, when Bryan first purchased this truck new, it had to be specially ordered – you didn’t just buy a cool Diamond Reo off the lot. And as far as Bryan knows, his rig was the last OTR tractor Diamond Reo built. The truck was hand-built in Harrisburg, PA and took three weeks to complete. Even back then, before Bryan made all of the extreme modifications seen here now, this truck was not a typical assembly line cookie-cutter rig. Originally, the truck had a 260” wheelbase, a 3406B Cat with 425 hp, an 18-speed transmission, 3.55 rears and a 90” Double Eagle bunk.
Running for outfits like Wisconsin Express Lines and Kaukauna Cheese (now Bel Cheese), Bryan and his Reo traveled a lot of miles together. In 1991, truck writer and photographer Bette Garber saw him out on the road and chased him down in her white van. After Bryan pulled over, they talked for awhile and then arranged to do a photo shoot of the truck. Those pictures and an article were printed in a magazine Bette worked for 20 years ago. Bette was planning on doing a follow-up article about Bryan and his truck, but she passed away before she could do it – I want to thank Bryan for letting me be the one (exclusively) to write it in her memory.
Sometimes the ties in trucking take you down a different road. It was 1997, and Bryan found himself in Pensacola, Florida looking for trouble. He ended up at a nearby boxing gym where he met ex-fighter and trainer Roy Jones Sr. The two became friends, and Bryan spent a lot of time at the Roy Jones Sr. Gym, where he would go to hang out or do odd jobs, like sweeping the floor or taking the amateur fighters to their events. Bryan also, at times, assisted Roy Jones Sr.
One day, Roy mentioned to Bryan that he wanted to do something special for his son, Roy Jones Jr., who at that time was the world champion. Bryan, who was, and is still the world’s greatest boxing fan, suggested that he put a portrait of his son on the side of his trailer for everyone to see. So they did. One day, Roy Jr. heard about it and invited Bryan to his ranch with the rig. When Roy Jr. saw the trailer he said, “Wow!” After Bryan beat the champ on his own pool table, Roy Jr. said, “Let me give you some good advice. Advertising pays big money. You should put some real (paid) advertising on your trailer.” And with that suggestion, the idea for “The Red Giant” was planted.
Six years ago, after logging over 2.6 million miles on his old Reo, Bryan shut the rig down to make his rolling billboard a reality. Bryan took the truck to S&J Truck Sales in Fort Wayne, IN – they are a family business that specializes in stretching truck frames, and they are the best. When Jim and Michael Raines at S&J asked Bryan how long he wanted to make the truck he replied, “Fill the fuel tanks with steroids and see what happens. Make it the longest semi-tractor in the world.” Bryan’s original intentions were to spend about $75,000 to replace the frame rails and paint the truck, but with the steroids, the project grew – and so did the price – to a whopping $750,000. There were a few bumps along the way, but the Shore Line Credit Union in Two Rivers, WI believed in Bryan’s business plan enough to loan the remaining funds he needed to finish the project.
Today, “The Red Giant” has a 430” wheelbase and an incredible 252” ICT custom bunk with 16’ slide-outs on each side housing (2) 11’ x 6’ LED screens. These screens can be programmed to run multiple (paid) ads that run in a loop, thus creating a new revenue stream for his now “retired” truck. The rig is still powered by a 3406B Cat and it still has an 18-speed transmission, but it now has 3.08 rears. The cab was custom stretched and the dash frame was handcrafted out of aluminum at A-Car Restorations in Reedsville, WI. All of the wood products for the floor, doors, dash and shift tower were custom-made by Rockwood. When attached to the matching red trailer, the entire combo is over 93’ long! And when he’s asked, “What are you hauling?” Bryan always replies, “I’m empty. I can’t afford cargo insurance and I’m too heavy to haul anything.” And with an empty weight of almost 72,000 pounds, I can see why he’d say that!
Daktronics installed the computer systems and the two large LED screens. When I asked Bryan about his computer skills he said, “My skills are great – I can turn it on and off.” Kelly Hilliker took classes to learn how to program the ads and then taught Randy Nickels how to do it, too. Daktronics, who built the screens, can get into Bryan’s computer wirelessly and help with questions and problems that might arise while Bryan is on-site at a job. Bryan’s job is to drive the truck from point A to point B. Randy and Kelly program ads into the computer, so when Bryan gets to a venue, all he has to do is take the covers off of the screens and turn on the computer.
The real beauty of this advertising system is that it can run multiple types of ads including stills (photos), videos and live broadcasts. But, even more important than that, “The Red Giant” is an attraction itself – if the stunning graphics and sound don’t grab your attention, the truck will! And, since the entire system is mobile, it can be taken directly to any event with a targeted audience. The ads can be flipped from one side of the truck to the other by the click of the computer. The truck is also equipped with satellite television, a Blue Ray and DVD player, video games and WiFi.
Although truck shows are probably the most suitable events this unit was created for, they are not the only place Bryan takes it. He can take it to any type of sporting event or festival, concerts, charity events, company parties, just about anywhere. Last fall, Bryan took Ice Road Trucker Alex Debogorski on a cross-country tour, promoting his new book, that took them on a trip from Times Square in New York to Hollywood, CA and just about everywhere in-between.
Bryan admitted that it was his wife Denise and his family that kept him on the straight and narrow at one end of the road, while Roy Jones Sr., Buddy Moore and the fighters at the gym were on the other end doing their best, too. Bryan is having an amazing time with this wild truck, but he couldn’t have done it alone. He would like to thank Shoreline Credit Union, Brenda Turner, Beck and Rita Hilliker, Roy Jones Jr. and his son Andre, as well as his son Michael Dax, his father (who passed away in the midst of this project and never got to see it finished but is still watching over), and his mother Virgily Dax. Bryan also wanted to thank his partner Kelly Hilliker for everything that he has done, Randy Nickels for all of his help, the City of Two Rivers, WI for all of their support, John Krause and John La Maide, Larry Mackey for writing and singing the song “Interstate Dreamer” about Bryan and the Red Giant, and Vince Holland for being there when he needed a true friend. He also wanted to thank his three daughters and their spouses, Nicole and Chad Luebke, Kristine and Ben Gielow, as well as Victoria and Brian Wingrove, for all of their help.
Bryan and “The Red Giant” will be at the trucking show in Louisville, Kentucky on March 31-April 2, so look for them outside near the show trucks. 10-4 Magazine is proud to have several “commercials” that will be playing as part of the loop Bryan is running out in the parking lot, so look (and listen) for those if you are planning to be there.
Bryan Dax may not be running freight anymore, but his old Diamond Reo on steroids is still out there tearin’ up the pavement – and looking great while doing it! Congratulations to Bryan for finding a creative way to keep on truckin’ without all of those trucking headaches. We wish him all of the luck and success that he deserves. If you would like more information about “The Red Giant” or would like to find out about advertising your company on it, call (920) 793-5990 or visit www.reomobilemedia.com.