Since diversity is the key to success in trucking these days, Kelvin Monzon wants to be able to truck it all! Born and raised in the heart of Los Angeles, California, this young go-getter came from humble beginnings, but at barely 27 years old, he has built a growing operation from the ground up, which includes the cool heavy duty wrecker on our cover this month. Kelvin not only built this unique Freightliner FLD tow truck, but he has also amassed a small fleet of trucks and trailers, and he helps his dad run his trucking business, too. Needless to say, this sharp “kid” is on the fast-track to trucking success.
Kelvin Monzon’s link to trucking goes all the way back to his grandfather in Guatemala, who owned land there and was a logger. Kelvin’s dad Jose started trucking in Guatemala when he was only 15 years old. Marrying his childhood sweetheart over 30 years ago, Jose immigrated to Los Angeles in 1978 and then his wife, Lorena, joined him three years later. These were not easy times for Kelvin’s dad, who worked in a factory for several years. Wanting to get back into trucking, he started hanging out with the truck drivers at work. With their help, in 1987 he was able to get his CDL and buy his first truck – an International cabover – which he used to haul containers from the port, running as Monzon & Son Trucking.
Born in 1986, Kelvin grew up in the heart of Los Angeles and learned to drive a truck when he was only 10 years old. Kelvin loved to go trucking with his dad, and spent most of his free time at the yard, washing and greasing trucks, whether they needed it or not! In high school, he taught himself how to weld, paint and do fiberglass work by just reading magazines. After his dad bought him a Ford F-150 pickup truck, Kelvin proceeded to fully customize it, which kept him off of the streets and out of trouble – which is not an easy thing to do in L.A. When Kelvin was about 16 years old, his dad bought a 1996 Peterbilt 3-axle and said, “When you graduate from high school, this will be your truck.” Kelvin’s future was set – or was it?
Kelvin’s mother had different plans for her son – she wanted him to go to college. Wanting to keep the peace and make his mother happy, off he went to study at California State University Long Beach. While still in school, he started interning at a small community bank and a micro lending firm. Wearing a suit-and-tie every day, he liked the thought of working his way up the corporate ladder, but as his college time came to an end (he earned a Bachelor’s Degree with a double major in International Business and
Business Management), so did his thoughts of getting away from trucking. Feeling “the pull” to get back into the industry, he compromised and took a management job at Con-way Freight, hoping to use his new-found business skills at a trucking job. He did a lot of great things for that company, but after two years of struggling and corporate headaches, he left Con-way and went trucking (much to his mother’s displeasure).
While still at Con-way, Kelvin bought the 1999 Freightliner FLD 120 seen here, but it looked nothing like it does now. The truck came from Old Dominion, and was just a 2-axle fleet truck. Painted green and white, Kelvin put a driver in the truck and sent him out to pull double bottom dumps around L.A. After leaving Con-way, he bought another truck (a KW Super-10 dump truck) and formed KJ Monzon Trucking. Wanting to be more diverse, Kelvin converted the FLD into a 3-axle and set it up so that he could pull a
variety of trailers. Working seven days a week, Kelvin would pull an end dump in the day and then bottom dumps at night, sleeping a few hours here and there whenever possible. Working with his dad, who also has bottom dumps and dump trucks, the two have separate companies but they share the work and the same yard (his dad now operates as Kelvin Transportation).
Kelvin was determined to succeed, and as his business grew, he also helped his dad’s company to grow, too. Building their fleets up to four trucks each, the two were doing really well, but Kelvin was getting burned-out from driving, dispatching, working on all of the trucks and doing most of the office work. Wanting to focus more on the office work and dispatching for both of their companies, Kelvin got out of the truck and stopped driving every day. Around this time, he had a bright idea to convert the FLD into a heavy-duty wrecker so that he could go out from time to time at night, when the office was quiet, and do some part-time trucking.
Roberto Madrigal of Madrigal Welding in South Gate, CA started the project off by stretching and doubling the frame. After that, an extra drop-axle was added. Then, Kelvin installed a Zacklift DTU (detachable towing unit) rated at 100,000 pounds to the Freightliner’s fifth wheel. Although the truck only has a 350 Cummins N-14 under the hood, it is also equipped with an Eaton deep-reduction 15-speed transmission, which gives the truck plenty of extra torque for those heavy jobs. After the wrecker was mechanically set up, Kelvin went to work on the paint, the interior, and a bunch of cool custom accessories (customizing a Freightliner FLD is not easy).
After spraying the two-tone metallic blue and black paint right there in his dirt yard, Kelvin brought in a local sign painter named Alfonso to add the metallic silver flames. Alfonso also painted a mural of a pin-up girl on the deck plate and added old-school pinstripes all over the truck. Other exterior details include 8-inch dual exhaust, fiberglass single-hump rear fenders, two custom light bars, a stainless steel grill, HID headlights and a custom front bumper. All of the numerous LED lights have clear lenses, and extensive amounts of stainless steel trim pieces were added. Kelvin also modified and extended the stock fiberglass visor and added a set of custom ATA polished aluminum tool boxes to help fill in the gap behind the fuel tanks.
Moving inside the truck, Kelvin installed a blue tile floor in both the cab and sleeper, and then had blue door panels made to match. New seats were covered in blue and black leather, and then installed on custom stainless steel bases, complete with lights. The dash was adorned with chrome bezels and gauges, the headliner was replaced with a piece of polished stainless steel, and several extra pieces of stainless trim were affixed throughout. A custom shift knob was also added, as well as a blue shifter cover and blue sun shades. In regards to the sleeper, things stayed pretty stock back there.
The project began in October 2011 and took about six months to complete. Once Kelvin put the wrecker in service, he quickly became the preferred guy to call when a dirt-hauler broke down in L.A. What started out as a part-time thing is now becoming a big part of Kelvin’s business, which is now called Monzon & Son Enterprises, as a tribute to his father. Kelvin hopes to one day add a low-boy to his fleet and, eventually, a full-blown rotator for recovery jobs. Counting the tow truck, he currently has seven trucks and a variety of trailers, including seven sets of double bottom dumps, two end dumps and two flatbeds. All of Kelvin’s trucks are painted in the two-tone blue and black paint scheme.
We first saw the truck at the Golden State Trucking Expo in Pomona, CA back in October of 2012. At that show, we awarded it with our “Sponsor’s Choice” trophy, and were very impressed with its enterprising young owner. When we later called him to set up a photo shoot for the cover, he said, “Give me three weeks – I want to do a few more things before you shoot it.” We agreed, and Kelvin went to work.
Over the next few weeks, Kelvin sanded the clear off the truck and then had Alfonso come back out and add a bunch of ghost flames and skulls, and then completely re-sprayed the clear. He also air-bagged the front end, added a new 7,000-watt sound system, complete with (3) 12-inch L7 Kicker sub-woofers in a custom enclosure on the floor in the sleeper, and extended the truck’s front fiberglass fenders down several inches to cover the tops of the tires when the air is released. He also replaced the stock mirrors with new ones from a Freightliner Cascadia, for a cleaner look. When we finally showed up for the photo shoot, we were pretty impressed – especially after we saw the primitive conditions he did all of this work in!
Looking for a “signature” Los Angeles landmark as our backdrop, we ended up at the once-fabulous Forum in Inglewood, which is now getting a complete makeover by its new owners. The Forum was once home to the Lakers (NBA) and the Kings (NHL) and a popular concert venue for some of the biggest musical acts, including Led Zeppelin, Elvis Presley, KISS, Guns N’ Roses, AC/DC and Nirvana, just to name a few. In 1979, Jerry Buss bought the Forum and with it came the Lakers and the Kings. When the Staples Center was built in 1999 and the teams moved there, Mr. Buss sold the Forum (it later became a church). With Jerry Buss’ recent passing on February 14, 2013, we thought the Forum location was a fitting tribute to both the city of Los Angeles and Kelvin’s deep-seeded L.A. roots.
To stay better informed and connected, Kelvin recently became a chapter chairperson for the California Construction Trucking Association (CCTA). With a 70-year history and over 1,100 members, the CCTA gives its members a voice in the industry’s vital activities and legislation – and offers them some great group discounts. Kelvin is enjoying this position, which further shows just how well-intended this “kid” really is. For more details about the CCTA, visit www.calcontrk.org.
Kelvin wanted to thank his dad for all of his help in trucking over the years, and his mom for making sure he got a good education. He also wanted to send out some “props” to Harbor Truck Supply in Long Beach, CA and Aranda Truck Accessories (ATA) in Commerce, CA for all of their help in putting the wrecker together.
“We Truck it All” is Kelvin’s company motto (he even had that phrase painted on the back of his front bumper) – and if being diverse is the way to succeed in trucking today, he is certainly on the right track. Of course, it also helps to be educated, hard-working and dedicated – all traits that Kelvin Monzon possesses. He is also a hustler, and in the trucking game, that can be the difference between failure and success – but in this case, failure has never been an option!