Most of us are content to have just one “Redeemer” in our life, but Voris Steward of Houston, TX has two. Within his strong Christian faith, Voris found his ultimate Redeemer, but he also has an amazing show-quality work truck he named “Redeemer” to open up the conversation with others about how they too can find their salvation and redemption. His cool black KW catches people’s eyes, and then the big white cross on the back of the cab often catches their hearts – and that is what Voris was hoping to accomplish with his truck when he built it. He did not build it to glorify himself, but instead to glorify his Redeemer and to help spread the “good news” to those around him.
Born and raised around Houston, TX, Voris Steward (37) grew up around trucks and the construction industry. His mother and father were never married, but he always had a good relationship with his dad. His father drove a truck for Nabisco, and his uncles (on his mother’s side), Jerome and Benjamin Smith, had a construction company, as did his grandfather, Daldon Smith. Specializing in demolition, excavating, dirt hauling, and land clearing, these operations used a lot of heavy machinery, which required trucks to move them around, so Voris was no stranger to trucks or the trucking industry.
Although Voris attended (and graduated) college, he was never very excited about going to school – from an early age, he knew that he wanted to be involved in construction and/or trucking, like the rest of his family. By the time he was ten years old, Voris was already working in his uncle Benjamin’s shop, greasing trucks, cleaning trucks, and moving vehicles around the yard. Not long after that, his uncle Jerome taught him how to drive and how to operate the heavy equipment. After graduating from high school in 1993, Voris moved on to Lamar University in Beaumont, TX with a full academic scholarship, and eventually earned an Associate of Applied Science and Diesel Mechanics degree.
While still in college, Voris got a job at a local truck shop in Beaumont working for a guy named Donny Rollins. This shop, among other things, specialized in front end work and mobile alignment service. Voris and Donny got very close rather quickly and Donny became a father-figure to Voris. After Donny suffered a heart attack, he left young Voris (maybe 21 at the time) in charge of running the business for several months. Voris gained valuable knowledge and confidence during this time, realizing that he could eventually run his own business. After earning his degree, he stayed in Beaumont for another year, working with Donny, until one of his uncles asked him to come back and start working in the family shop and do some driving. He did that for about two years, and then got the itch to go out on his own.
In December of 1999, Voris bought his first truck – a 1996 Freightliner FLD with a big sleeper. Powered by his favorite engine, a Detroit Series 60, hooked to a super-10 transmission and 3.90 rears, Voris leased on at Stine Truck Line, a flatbed outfit in Buda, TX. Although he was licensed to run in all 48 states, he primarily ran between the midwest and the east coast, hauling tractors, building materials, and steel. He learned a lot and loved it, but being out on the road for long periods of time got old fast, so after about a year, he moved over to PCI Transportation in Houston, and started hauling lumber and steel closer to home. After a year of that, he went back to his roots, hauling sand and gravel for Aggregate Haulers. Still driving that Freightliner FLD, Voris stayed with Aggregate Haulers for two years, until 2004, when he finally got his own authority and formed VES Transport.
With his own authority and his own end dump trailer, he continued hauling for Aggregate Haulers, but he also added back-hauls of mulch and potting soil. His dream was always to buy a lowboy and haul heavy equipment, but that dream would have to wait. Presented with an opportunity to haul the mulch full-time, Voris bought a new walking floor trailer and went to work. Six short months later, he bought a second truck, a 1994 Freightliner FLD 120, along with an Eagle Bridge conveyor trailer (potato wagon), and then hired a driver to run his first truck so he could drive the second truck and pull the potato wagon. Then, through a series of coincidences and favorable events, Voris ended up with a loaner lowboy trailer and started hauling heavy equipment on occasion for one of his mulch customers. Before long, he started to build up a large clientele of heavy haul customers, and he still had a driver in the other truck hauling mulch.
In 2006, Voris bought a third truck – a 1999 Kenworth W900L with a 72-inch sleeper, and hired a second driver to drive his other Freightliner. A year later, in 2007, Voris bought a brand new lowboy of his own and was now, officially, a full-time heavy equipment hauler. That same year he married his longtime girlfriend Jocelyn, bought a house, and, later that year, his daughter Cerianna was born. On top of all that, his new wife Jocelyn also earned her Master’s Degree in Occupational Therapy that year – 2007 was a very big year for Voris.
The following year, in 2008, Voris bought the 1994 Kenworth W900L you see on our cover and centerfold (and these pages) this month. Of course, it looked nothing like it does today – it was dark purple with a 60-inch sleeper and it had been sitting for a couple years, so it was pretty rough. But Voris knew exactly what he wanted to do – build the ultimate heavy-haul truck – a project that would end up taking over two years. While working on his new project, he continued to drive his other Kenworth, so he was in no hurry. But, in 2009, as the economy came crashing down, Voris was forced to let his two drivers go and park the Freightliners. Since the trucks and trailers were all paid for, he did not have to sell anything. Now, it was just Voris – one man – with a whole bunch of trucks and various trailers.
Over the next two years, Voris hauled anything and everything, working on his project truck whenever possible. After removing the sleeper, he had the frame doubled, added a drop axle, and had it painted black. He also designed and built a custom air-ride system for the front end, and the cab, as well. Wanting more flexibility with weight placement, he lengthened the track of his sliding fifth wheel, which can now slide back and forth about six feet. The truck, which has a 260-inch wheelbase, had a Detroit Series 60 engine (of course) and a 15-speed overdrive transmission, but Voris wanted more pulling power. “Tweaking” a few things on the engine, he was able to accomplish 800+ horsepower, and then he added a 4-speed auxiliary transmission, making the truck a true 2-stick unit. If need be, he can crawl up a wall with this truck! Next, it was time to make the heavy-duty KW look good.
Wanting to do something a little different, Voris modified the truck’s double headlights by cutting a portion of the fiberglass out and then installing a single, high-intensity headlight on each side. To protect the truck’s 22-inch tapered Valley Chrome Bumper, Voris installed a bumper lift kit from Twelve Gauge Customs (unlike the typical “flip” kits, which swing out, Voris’ bumper slides out and then up for additional clearance). He also installed a Twelve Gauge drop visor, strapless air cleaners, stainless body drop panels, Talladega “single hump” rear fenders, seven-inch pipes, police-style spotlights, a one-piece deck plate, and a rear light bar from Valley Chrome. Wanting to keep the chrome to a minimum, Voris had the wheels, visor, mirror brackets, breather screens, grille surround, steps, tank straps and fairings, exhaust bands, and steel deck plate all powder-coated black. He also replaced the cab lights with nearly-invisible LED lights, installed a billet grille, built a custom light box behind the cab to hide the air bags, and hand-fabricated his own fiberglass fuel tank bracket covers. The final touch was installing a granite floor in the cab and a pair of “Legacy LO” black leather seats.
Doing almost all of the work himself, the truck made its debut at the truck show in Dallas, TX in August of 2010, where it earned a mere 3rd place trophy. Voris knew he could do better, but it was time to put the truck to work. After the show, the black Kenworth became Voris’ daily driver, and he loved it – for a while. In July of 2011, while driving on a small road in Louisiana, a drunk driver pulled out in front of Voris. Not able to stop or avoid the car, Voris plowed into it hard, destroying the car and wrecking his truck’s front end. Thankfully, nobody was hurt, but it would take Voris eight months to get the truck repaired and back on the road. But Voris vowed to make it even better, this time!
After having the hood repaired by someone else, Voris went to work on the front suspension. Before, he had designed a two-valve system that went up and down (like most of them), but now, the truck has a four-valve system. Not only can Voris make the truck go up and down, but now it can go side to side, as well. This comes in handy when trying to level-out the truck or get into (or out of) a tight spot. It is also fun in parades and convoys, because Voris can make his truck dance! When he rebuilt this system the second time, he also ran larger lines so it would go up and down (and side to side) faster. Besides a few small things here and there on the exterior of the truck, he basically fixed it and then put it back to the way it was before the accident. But, at this point, he decided to completely redo the interior.
The interior of the truck already had nice seats and a black granite floor, but Voris wanted to do it all. He began by removing the angled section of the dash so that it was flat all the way across (he mostly did this so his daughter could watch movies on the dash-mounted DVD player from the passenger seat). He then had the dash panels powder-coated black, and then replaced the button-tuck door panels and headliner with smooth black leather. All of the switches and gauges are chrome, and Voris took every one of them apart and replaced the orange indicator lights with blue LEDs. Next, he replaced the stock side windows and vents with one-piece glass and then installed aftermarket electric motors on each of the windows and mirrors. He also installed a big radio, a billet steering wheel, custom stainless kick panels, and blue accent lighting throughout. Now, he was ready for a rematch in Dallas!
Getting the truck back on the road just a few months before the 2012 show in Dallas, Voris was excited to see if his new and improved truck could compete. At the end of the show, his truck was awarded 1st place in his Working Bobtail class, so I guess you can say he did well. This is also where we first met Voris, only to see him again a few months later at the 4 State/CSM show in Joplin, MO. His subtle truck, sitting amongst all the fancy, flashy, colorful rides that were parked around it, for some reason just stood out to us and we just couldn’t resist it – or maybe it was Voris’ magnetic personality.
Voris named his truck “Redeemer” as a reflection of his steadfast Christian beliefs and designed a logo, shaped and based on the classic KW badge, which features a cross, amongst other things. A trucker friend, Caleb Eilers of Odessa, TX, sent the logo to JR at Lifetime Nut Covers and had him engrave Voris a custom hood emblem and then gave it to him as a gift. After that, Voris had JR engrave the logo on his fuel filler caps, too. With a vinyl graphic of the logo on the back of his cab, Voris gets approached all the time by people to talk about his faith – which is exactly why he did it!
Currently, VES Transport consists of four trucks and four trailers, but just one driver – Voris. But, with this kind of diversity, he can haul just about anything, and if something extra comes up, he can call a friend and put him in one of his other trucks to cover it. Typically, Voris pulls his 55-ton 2008 Fontaine Lowboy and hauls equipment, but he also has a flatbed, a walking floor trailer, and an end dump. Voris likes staying near home, because he does not like to be away from his family for long. Speaking of family, Voris’ mother, Mamie Smith, who is semi-retired, loves to go out on the road with her son all of the time, and also helps out, when she can, in the shop. When not on the road, Voris loves to sing in the choir at his church, attend various charity events, and go to Christian concerts with his wife and daughter.
Not wanting to take all the glory or credit himself, Voris wanted to thank a few people for all their help and support. First and foremost, he wanted to thank his “Redeemer” – the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, for all of the blessings in his life. He also wanted to thank his wife, Jocelyn, his mother and father, his grandparents, Daldon and Callie Smith, for setting such a solid example for him to follow, and his uncles, Jerome and Benjamin, for teaching him the ropes and helping him get started. Voris also has a great bunch of friends (more like brothers) who help him, including Howard “Cowboy” Rogers, Donald “Popsicle” Krushall, Arthur “Powdercoat” White, Robert Jefferson, Von Harris, Victor Garza and Ellis Campbell. Voris also wanted to thank his five-year-old daughter Cerianna for all the fun she adds to his life – he absolutely loves spending time with her and cherishes the privilege of being able to teach her how to be a caring and compassionate adult when she grows up.
Everything on Voris’ truck is real – nothing is fake. Nothing was done just for show or for looks, and everything has a purpose. Actually, Voris is a lot like his truck. He is an honest, hard-working, straight-forward man with a purpose, and that purpose is to glorify and bring honor to his Redeemer (not the truck). Voris Steward may have two Redeemers in his life, but one of them is there for you, too. And like it says on the back of one of his friend’s trucks, “The offer stands.” And it always will.