Albert Guzman has been obsessed with trucks for as long as he can remember. Growing up around trucks, Albert’s father did everything he could to discourage his son from becoming a trucker – even refusing to hire him at his own company for ten years! But Albert, being very stubborn and persistent, found some great “old school” mentors that taught him not only how to drive, but also how to be a trucker. Today, Albert and his father work together at the company, Guzman Express, and have a great relationship, but it took losing his mother last year for him to really start to appreciate life and his family.
Albert Guzman Jr. (47) was born and raised in San Bernardino, California. His father, Albert Guzman Sr., worked at Kaiser Steel in Fontana. While working at the steel plant, Albert’s father met a lot of people and made a lot of contacts. In 1968, while still working at Kaiser, he bought a few old trucks and formed Guzman Trucking. And although he had never driven a truck, he saw an opportunity and took it. Building the company up to five trucks (which primarily hauled steel coils on flatbeds around Southern California) while still working his day-job at Kaiser was not easy, but Albert Sr. was never afraid to work.
When Albert was growing up, his dad went to their yard in Fontana every weekend to work on their trucks and Albert, whenever he could, would tag along. He loved hanging out at the yard and talking to the drivers. In 1975, Albert’s dad, wanting to be closer to the business, built a house in Fontana and moved the family there. He then built a shop behind the house and began to park the trucks there, too. Now, it was even easier for Albert to hang out with the drivers. He also loved to hang out at the truck stop down the street. He used to ride his bike over the bridge on Cherry Street, and then have lunch at the truck stop, pretending to be a trucker.
Not long after moving to Fontana, Albert started washing trucks on the weekends for $5 a truck (what a deal). One of the places where he washed was Teresi Trucking – this was where he met veteran driver George Lines. Albert loved talking to George and eventually started going out on the road with him. George taught Albert how to drive in the mountains and, more importantly, how to properly come down a hill. Spending most of his time in the yard, Albert was heavily influenced by the cool old truck drivers he met there and saw around town – guys like Frank Frazer, Bennie Hernandez, Danny Fox, Don Fain, Ronnie and Donnie Corriville, Jim Edwards, Dean & Jim Huss, Larry Klenske and Bill Frampton, to name a few. When he was 14 years old, Albert used to sneak out of the yard in his dad’s trucks when his parents weren’t home and take them for spins around the neighborhood.
When Kaiser Steel went out of business in 1983, Albert Sr. was finally forced to retire. Looking to get his son involved in the company, Albert Sr. changed the name to Guzman & Son while Albert Jr. was still in high school. After graduating from high school, Albert went and got his CDL, but his father would not hire him as a driver. By then, Albert’s old friend George Lines had started working at a tanker outfit called Western Highway (owned by Steve Beneto), so he helped Albert get a job. Albert drove for Western Highway, delivering fuel throughout California, Utah, Arizona, Nevada and Oregon, for almost ten years. Albert liked working for Steve Beneto, saying, “He was a great guy that taught me a lot.” Then, in 1991, Albert left Western Highway, bought his own truck, became an owner operator, and then went to work at his father’s company, which was now Guzman Express.
Once Albert got involved in the company, it started to get bigger. His father had always kept the business between five and seven trucks, but Albert wanted to grow, so they began leasing on owner operators and broadened their delivery area. Over the next ten years or so, the business grew to 14 company-owned trucks and about 50 owner operators. But Albert and his father did not always see eye-to-eye on how things should be ran. One of the problems was that Albert Sr. had never been a driver – he had always just owned and managed trucks – so it was hard for him to relate to his son’s concerns. Also, Albert Sr. liked to run old trucks, while Albert Jr. saw the benefits of owning newer ones. Thankfully, Albert’s mother, Hortencia, was the glue that held everything together. She not only took care of everything behind the scenes, but she also kept her husband and son from killing each other.
In 2002, looking to make things easier on themselves and give their drivers more of an opportunity to personally succeed (or fail), they began selling their company trucks to the drivers and hiring even more owner operators. In 2006, when the recession began, the fleet dropped down to just a handful of company-owned trucks and about 15 owner operators. Albert Sr., who still works out of his office in Fontana, is still very involved with the business, but Albert Jr., out of Oak Hills, CA (near Victorville), now handles the day-to-day operation of the company. In a nutshell, Albert owns the trucks (4) and flatbed trailers (6), and his dad owns the business. They currently have 13 full-time owner operators and haul mostly steel throughout California, Arizona, Utah, Nevada, Colorado and Texas. Occasionally they haul building materials (like the drywall seen here), but not very often.
Albert’s first truck was a used 1986 Pete 359 painted yellow with a black frame, fenders and roof. It was a nice truck, but it was nothing special. After he paid that one off, he ordered a new 1997 Pete 379 with a stand-up sleeper from Rush Peterbilt in Fontana, CA. Over the years, he has owned a few KWs and Freightliners, but most of his trucks have been Peterbilts, and most, up until that point, had been yellow and black. In 2001, as the yellow and black paint scheme got too popular, Albert decided to change his colors to yellow with a metallic grey frame, fenders and roof. He ordered several trucks with this color scheme, but when it came time to order his latest ride, pictured here, he changed things again.
The latest truck in Albert’s four-truck fleet is a 2011 Peterbilt 389 with a 63-inch flat top, a 600 Cummins, an 18-speed transmission, 3.55 rears, and a 290-inch wheelbase. When Albert orders his trucks, he usually orders them pretty plain and then adds everything he wants. This truck, which was ordered in March of 2010 from Rush Peterbilt in Fontana, was just solid yellow with a grey frame and no cab lights or horns. When it arrived, the truck’s Cummins engine had a bad hum in it, so it needed to be replaced. When the new engine came in, Albert decided to have it painted yellow to match the truck. Once the new engine was in, the guys at the body and paint shop, including Alex McIntyre, Bob Calles, Alfonso Gomez, Mike Rivera and Sammy Alcantar, tore the truck apart and began transforming it into what you see here on these pages.
The most striking thing about Albert’s truck is the paint, which features a split-color scheme with yellow (on the bottom) and metallic grey (on the top) and a black breaker stripe. The breaker stripe is also outlined with a thin orange pinstripe on top of the line and a thin lime green pinstripe below the line. Going a step further, the guys also painted the air cleaners, door jambs and dash panels with this same split-color scheme and breaker stripe. They also repainted the frame (all of Albert’s trucks get their frames repainted when new). In addition to painting the two-tone color scheme, they also painted the tanks (except for the ends – those are polished), the visor, the Hogebuilt rear half-fenders, part of the grille surround and fender brackets, the headlight buckets, and the five-inch aluminum cab and sleeper extensions. They also mounted a seven-inch Dynaflex exhaust system and a polished diamond-plate deck plate. The truck was finally completed in September 2010.
Albert’s 2007 trailer is no slouch, either. The 48-foot all aluminum Fontaine “Phantom” flatbed, which features a ten-foot spread and two polished aluminum boxes on each side, has been completely polished from front to back. Most of Albert’s polishing is done by either Vic Caliva in Montebello, CA or Jose Vargas out of Whittier, CA. Albert tries to get his trucks polished at least twice a year, preferably just before a show.
On the back of Albert’s sleeper, there is a special sticker, in memory of his mom. Sadly, Albert’s mother passed away on August 9, 2010 after a five-year battle with cancer. Albert was very close to his mom, and his parents had been married for over 50 years, so the loss was devastating to Albert, his dad, and the entire family. Since his mother’s death, Albert has come to realize the importance of his family, so he now spends as much time as possible with them. Albert also has a much better relationship today with his father, who is now 72 years old.
Albert is also learning to be, in his words, “less selfish” when it comes to his wife and kids. Albert has been married to his wife Veronica for 26 years and the two have three kids – two daughters, Andrea (24), Victoria (21) – and one son, Chris (16). Veronica not only takes care of the house and kids, but she also handles all of the paperwork and finances for the company. She also takes care of Albert – always putting him first – which he is just starting to realize and appreciate. For years, Veronica has said that Albert is “obsessed” with trucks – and she was right! Their daughter Victoria also helps on a part-time basis at the office. Looking to get even more organized in the office, Albert is bringing in his brother-in-law Oscar, a retired Rialto Police Officer, to help. Oscar was also nice enough to come out with us on the photo shoot, which was done out in the middle of the California desert just outside of Death Valley, to help wherever needed (he did a lot of “dusting” that day).
Guzman Express is certainly not a one-man show. Albert wanted to thank some of the people that help keep his trucks looking good and his company running smooth. He wanted to thank everyone at Rush Peterbilt in Fontana, including his salesman John Richmond and everyone else previously mentioned out in the body and paint shop, some of his great friends like Vince Jenkins and James Davis, and all of his loyal customers (thanks to Pabco in Las Vegas for providing such a nice-looking load of drywall). He also wanted to send out a special thank you to Joe & Elsie McFann of Little Sisters Truck Wash in Hesperia, CA. Their crew at the wash has always taken great care of Albert’s entire fleet and always makes sure that Albert and his guys look good. And remember that old veteran driver, George Lines, who helped Albert get started? Well, today, at 68 years of age, he drives for Albert. But, most importantly, Albert wanted to thank his mom and dad for all they have done. Without them, none of this would have been possible!
Spending much of his time in the office and on the phone, Albert doesn’t get to drive as much as he used to – but, for him, that is okay (he would rather be at home with his wife and kids). When he does get out, Albert likes to go to Colorado and Utah, because he likes the weather and the scenery is beautiful. Business is good right now, but he would like to build the company back up to the size it once was, mostly through owner operators. Albert may still be “obsessed” with trucks, but he is now learning how to be more involved and interested in his family, too. And although his love for trucking runs deep, Albert Guzman’s new outlook on life may prove that blood is thicker than diesel.