Taking “pride in your ride” should be more than just a catchy phrase for truck drivers. Many guys out there just don’t care much about pride anymore. One of the problems is that a lot of drivers are just doing a job, instead of living a lifestyle that they love and are proud to be a part of. Wayne Baker of Taylor Ridge, Illinois believes that more drivers need to take pride in their equipment – and themselves – to lift this industry back up to where it was in the glory days (which were not that long ago). And, judging by the equipment Wayne runs, he obviously doesn’t just talk the talk – he walks the walk.
Wayne Baker (54) was born and raised in Missouri. When he was 12 years old, his family moved to Fort Bragg, a small city on the coast of Northern California. Wayne’s father “dabbled” in trucking, but he was never a full-fledged truck driver. After high school, Wayne left California and moved to Wellington, Kansas to “learn the trade” from his older brother Bill, who hauled grain.
When he was 20 years old, Wayne applied for a job with Maurice Bruenger, and much to his surprise, got hired. Obviously not reading his application correctly, they started him out hauling swinging meat from Wichita to Los Angeles twice a week. About the time they figured out he wasn’t old enough to be running out of state, he turned 21, so they kept him on. Wayne stayed there for another year or two and then moved on to Wallace Hollis Trucking out of Oklahoma City, and began hauling frozen chickens west and fresh flowers (LTL) back. A few years later, he got back together with an old girlfriend in California, moved back to Fort Bragg and got married.
Back in Fort Bragg, Wayne started hauling logs for Jerry Philbrick. He ended up working for Jerry for over 10 years, driving the same truck the entire time – a 1974 Peterbilt 359 long-hood with a “buzzin’ dozen” (a 12V71 Detroit). The truck was equipped with a quick-change unit so when he wasn’t hauling logs out of the mountains to the mills, he could hook-up to regular trailers and move logging equipment between job sites. Running logs is demanding work – 75% of the time Wayne was running off-road – which really teaches a guy how to drive a truck. But as the “tree huggers” and “Hoot Owl lovers” gained power in the region, Wayne saw the writing on the wall – logging in California was going to die!
In 1993, after his marriage ended, Wayne left California and moved to Salt Lake City, where he took a job driving for Jeff England at Pride Transport. While at Pride, he met Darlene Swift, and the two have been together ever since. After a few years, they started driving as a team for Pride. In 1997, Wayne moved out to Illinois with Darlene, and the next year they both left Pride, taking a local job hauling containers of John Deere parts between different assembly plants in the area. In 2002, Wayne was given the opportunity to take over payments on a friend’s truck and finally became an owner operator. After quitting the container gig, he started finding his own loads and hit the road.
Wayne’s first truck was a blue 1999 Pete stand-up with a 550 Cat and 280-inch wheelbase, hooked to a matching 1999 48-foot spread-axle Great Dane reefer. It was a nice setup! About this same time, Darlene got a 2000 Freightliner Classic XL and hit the road, too (this Freightliner was later one of the first trucks “tricked-out” by the Chrome Shop Mafia boyz for the TV series Trick My Truck). Both Wayne and Darlene hauled loads for Pride from time-to-time, so they had kept in contact with Jeff England. After getting into a head-on collision with a sleeping pickup truck driver in Oregon, Wayne’s truck was totaled, but the trailer was fixable. Not sure what to do next, he found himself at Pride Transport, where he made Jeff an offer to buy his personal/show truck (our cover truck from October 2003). After some negotiations, Wayne was the truck’s new owner. And this was no ordinary truck!
If you remember, Jeff’s truck was a 2002 long-hood Peterbilt with a 63-inch flat top, a 280-inch wheelbase, custom running boards and one of the first ever Cummins Signature 600 motors (it was actually a test engine in one of Jeff’s fleet trucks for several years before going into this truck). But what really set this rig apart was the twelve extra inches added to the hood! Painted in the standard grey and black colors of Pride, Wayne had his trailer painted to match and went trucking. Over the years he did a few things to the truck (stretched it to 330 inches, added some purple flames, and re-did the interior), but for the most part, he kept it the same.
In 2010, Wayne’s old boss Jerry Philbrick decided to give Wayne the old 1974 Pete log truck he had driven for him all those years. The truck had just been sitting for a couple years, and Jerry figured if anybody was going to restore the relic, it would be Wayne. Seeking help to pick up the old rig, Wayne called one of his California friends, Monte Orsi. When Wayne met up with Monte to take over the load, Monte fell in love with Wayne’s rig, and to make a long story short, Monte went home with Wayne’s truck and Wayne went home with a 2002 Pete day cab he bought from Michael Dusi that was very similar to his truck – it was even grey and black.
Now that he had a smaller truck, Wayne went back to pulling the John Deere containers. His intentions were to be home more so he could start working on his new “project” (the old Pete), but to this day, he has not started working on it yet. After about a year of driving that cramped day cab, Wayne decided that it was time to step up and get a new “big boy” truck, so he called Clint Moore at Kansas City Peterbilt.
As Wayne and Clint were putting the specs on this new truck together, the factory notified Clint that they had found a few brand new 2007 Cat motors stuck in a corner, and if Clint wanted one of them, now was the time. With that in mind, they ordered Wayne’s new 2011 Peterbilt 389 with a 2007-model (pre-urea) 550 Cat, an 18-speed transmission, a 294-inch wheelbase, and a 48-inch flat top. The rig was also ordered with an air-ride front end and a car-hauler beam, Low AirLeaf suspension on the back, 3.36 rears and a weed-burner exhaust underneath. Wayne didn’t want anything too flashy, so they ordered the factory two-tone paint in flame red and black with red pearl, which sounds flashy, but it’s not. On cloudy days or at night, the truck just looks maroon, but when the sun comes out, the colors pop! Clint calls it a “sneaky” paint scheme.
When the truck arrived at Clint’s shop, they installed 7-inch “dummy stacks” from Lincoln Chrome, one of Clint’s visors and flush-mount cab lights from RoadWorks. They also painted the tanks, chopped the breather screens, swapped out the stock headlights with a set of painted double rounds on JJ brackets and added a Valley Chrome bumper. Opting for original WTI full fenders, they also installed 11-inch cab and sleeper panels, as well as smooth deck plates, front to back. Not much has been done inside yet (the seats were lowered and slid back), but Wayne plans to either paint or black chrome all of the interior pieces and dash panels in the near future. His current trailer is a 2008 polished stainless 53-foot Great Dane with a sliding spread. This trailer is painted to match the truck and has WTI single hump fenders all around.
Wayne began working this rig in November of 2010 and today it already has over 135,000 miles on it. The day he got it, he went to the container place to pick-up his first load and was promptly told to go home – apparently, they did not need his or Darlene’s services anymore. By the end of the day, Wayne had already lined up several loads and the two have been busy ever since. Although they have their own trucks and haul their own freight, Wayne and Darlene usually end up running together, which works out great. These two have been together for 16 years now, but Wayne has yet to marry her, jokingly saying, “I don’t want to rush into anything.” Today, they mostly haul refrigerated food products in and around the Midwest and east coast.
Many people have helped Wayne along the way, so he wanted to personally thank them here. Darlene, of course, as well as Darren at Lincoln Chrome, Clint Moore, Carl at Rockwood, Dave at Jones Performance and Continental Tire. He also wanted to thank Ron at WTI, Mike at RoadWorks, Bryan at 4 State Trucks, Valley Chrome and Sean at Hogebuilt. But, most importantly, he wanted to thank Jerry Philbrick for not only giving him the old Peterbilt, but for being like a father to Wayne all those years he was in California.
Wayne can’t wait to get started on his old log truck project, but it will have to wait until he is not so busy. And he is not only busy working, but also trying to improve the image of trucking – a subject very near and dear to him. If this industry is going to not only survive but thrive, drivers need to start improving their image to the public and start having some pride in their profession. That pride will show in the way they look, the way they talk and the way they maintain their truck. And if you hold Wayne Baker (and his ride) up to those standards, it’s pretty obvious that he has an enormous amount of pride!