If you want to build something that lasts, steel is one of your best choices. Farwest Steel has been a processor and distributor of steel products for over 50 years. Based in Eugene, Oregon, this outfit not only has an enduring product, but they are also an enduring company, as well. Everything about Farwest is built to last, including their business plan, their products, their relationships with their employees, and even their trucks. And with a team of dedicated employees and drivers, like veteran steel-hauler Bryan Welsh, that legacy of lasting quality will surely continue for many decades to come.
Dale Fischer ran a successful lumber mill in Springfield, Oregon in the 1950s and decided to build a steel shop. Starting with just two bays in Eugene, Farwest Steel was born. Today, the family-owned business operates 11 locations, has 700 employees, and a 50-truck/160-trailer fleet that delivers steel throughout the western states. Their original Eugene location now has eight bays, which house a multitude of steel products and processing machines, including “burning tables” capable of cutting precise shapes out of steel plate as thick as 12 inches. One of their more advanced machines, known as the Mazak, is a 3D cutter capable of cutting across corners and around edges of square and round tubes.
Being diverse is what separates Farwest from their competition. As a company, they have never been afraid to take risks and expand their services to stay ahead. Right now, they are in the process of opening a new 350,000 square foot facility in Vancouver, Washington, that will house their latest acquisition – a Bradbury Decoiler and Cut-to-Length machine. One of only a few on the entire west coast, this massive machine takes coiled steel and unwinds it, flattens it, and then cuts it to whatever length is desired. This new $50 million facility will also have a rebar shop, a fabrication plant, two bays with burning tables and lasers, and two distribution bays for bars and tubes. The company plans to have this facility fully-operational within the next six months.
Another thing that sets Farwest apart from their competitors is their distribution network. With service centers in Oregon, Washington, California, Idaho, and Utah, their fleet of company trucks and drivers are never far from where they need to be. Whether delivering a small 50-pound box to someone’s garage or an entire truckload of steel beams to a huge corporation, the drivers at Farwest are experts at getting it done. One such driver is our longtime friend Bryan Welsh of Junction City, Oregon, who just happens to drive the “sloped and slammed” Farwest truck that is on our cover and centerfold this month.
Bryan (36) has been at Farwest Steel for 15 years, and just recently switched to running locally so he could be home every night. Before that, he was running out to Boise, Idaho twice a week, which is an overnight run. Giving up his sleeper-equipped “Boise truck” was not as hard as he thought – especially since his Traffic Manager Steve Brockamp let him build another show-worthy ride, just as nice as his last truck, but without a sleeper or extra drop-axle. After three months of hard work, the final product looks as good (or better) than his last ride.
Starting with a basic Farwest truck, which is a Kenworth T800 daycab with a 485 Cummins, a 13-speed, 220-inch wheelbase, 3.70 rears, the Diamond interior package, Industrial Yellow paint and a Navy Blue frame, Bryan went to work. It is not easy to make these T800s look sweet, but Bryan found a way. His 2012 truck features aluminum boxes and a custom headache rack built by Pro-Tech, seven-inch Lincoln Chrome exhaust, stainless Pro-Tech quarter fenders, painted hubs and 22.5 low-profile tires and wheels. Bryan also switched out the square cab lights with bullet lights then added two more, installed extra grille bars, and then mounted his swan on the hood (that swan has been on every one of his trucks). He then visited Jenny at Van Dyke Signmakers and had her make some vinyl stickers with simulated silver-leaf, which he used to trim his fuel tank straps and add a fancy stripe down the center of his hood. Being in the steel fabrication business, Farwest makes their own heavy duty front bumpers, rear light bars, mud flap brackets, license plate holders and steel diamond-plate deck plating, which is sprayed with blue bed liner for durability and grip.
Inside the nicely-appointed cab with black, button-tuck door panels, headliner, and back wall, Bryan also added a leather steering wheel and shift knob, removed the seat bases to drop them down, and installed two old-school fans on the dash, like his dad’s trucks had when he was a kid. Actually, although Bryan likes the “looks” of the fans, they do a good job of keeping the windshield fog-free in the winter, and when it gets hot, they can be turned around to cool the cab. When building this truck, Bryan wanted to take his new age truck and give it an old-school flair, and these fans are evidence of that fact.
The Farwest trucks have not always been as nice as the ones you see today. For a long time, the company bought used trucks – like old Mack cabovers, old grocery store trucks, and used Kenworths. It was all old, worn-out junk, painted yellow with blue steel wheels. In 1989, Dan Squire, who was the truck boss back then, decided to start ordering custom KW T800s with similar specs. Since then, the fleet’s quality (and quantity) has improved tremendously. Having a fleet of identical trucks makes sense – the parts are interchangeable and the mechanics (and drivers) know them well. Most of the trailers are the same, too (40-foot Western outside frame flatbeds). T800s may not be the coolest rigs, but Farwest has transformed theirs into some of the slickest fleet trucks on the west coast.
Having nice rigs must keep their drivers happy, because Farwest has a very low driver turnover rate. Many employees have been with the company for 35-40 years, and Farwest has the highest safety rating possible. Having not had a “chargeable” accident in years, Farwest drivers take great care of their trucks, but they are also expected to work hard, too. It is not uncommon for a driver to leave the yard in the morning with 20 drops for the day. Then, after finishing their deliveries, they might be asked to pickup another load and bring it back to their home terminal. Most truckers could not handle the workload or the pace, which is why Farwest only hires the best drivers, like Bryan Welsh, and then takes such good care of them.
Bryan was born and raised in Eugene, Oregon. His dad, Bill Welsh, has been a trucker since 1971. As far back as he can remember, Bryan always wanted to be a truck driver. Bryan has always idolized his dad and has many fond memories of going out on the road with him while growing up. At eleven years old, Bryan started washing trucks for money, and by the time he was a senior in high school, he had his best friend and cousin working for him, washing as many as 30 trucks per weekend. The first truck he ever drove was a 1973 A-Model Pepsi truck with a V-12 Detroit owned by Bob Louvring. In 1994, right after his eighteenth birthday, Bryan got a job at Rexius Forest By-Products, hauling anything and everything on a flatbed. The diversity of loads gave him a great education. He stayed there for over three years before getting hired at Farwest Steel in 1997.
Over the years, Bryan has had several of his own trucks, too. In 2000, he bought a 1969 Peterbilt just for fun, and then in 2005, he bought a 1985 Pete 359 and started hauling lumber on the side for extra money. In 2006, he bought a 1977 Kenworth W900A and continued to haul the lumber with it. The truck was clean, but not too fancy. After the mill closed in 2007, he quit working the truck and fully restored it to better than new. Painted School Bus Yellow, dumped, and pressed out from top to bottom, this was one cool ride. Bryan “played around” with the A-Model for a while, taking it to truck shows and such, and then sold it last year.
As mentioned before, Bryan gave up his run to Boise, ID earlier this year and started running locally to be home more. After meeting the love of his life, Jami Curry, he didn’t want to be away from home. After a brief engagement, the two were married on September 22, 2012 at a ranch outside Junction City, Oregon, with Bryan’s daughter Taylor (12) at their side. Bryan is so thankful to Jami for showing him that he could still love trucks and trucking without it engulfing his whole life. He now loves to spend his evenings at home, doing “regular people” things, which is something this truck driver has never been able to do for his entire life.
Bryan wanted to thank Larry at Pro-Tech for his last-minute efforts to ensure that his truck was photo-ready, his boss Steve Brockamp for allowing him to build a cool ride, and Farwest mechanics Rick and Nate for all of their help putting this truck together. He also wanted to send out a big “thank you” to Jim Marci of JNR Truck Repair in Junction City, Oregon. Jim, who is a welding and fabrication expert, has helped Bryan with all of his truck projects over the years, and always has an open bay for him whenever he needs it. We wanted to thank a few people, too. Our thanks go out to Oliver (and his son) for coming in on a Sunday afternoon and opening up the warehouse so we could take our pictures inside. We also wanted to thank Bryan for his friendship and for his years of hard work for the magazine – not only was he instrumental in setting up our distribution racks in the Pacific Northwest, but he also attends truck shows, takes pictures, and writes articles, as well.
Farwest Steel knows how to build things that last. They build high-quality products that last; they built a company that is strong and on the grow, even after 50 years; they have a fleet of beautiful yet functional everyday work trucks that were built to run for the long haul; and they built a family with hundreds of happy and loyal employees, because they treat them right. As Bryan Welsh begins the next chapter of his life as a husband, he and Jami look to build something else that lasts – a lifelong marriage filled with love and happiness. We wish them all the luck.