This month’s “Editor’s Choice” is a man that inspires many – including me. Jason Shelly has an amazing truck, he’s a great father, he’s a devoted husband, and he’s a true warrior for the kingdom of God! Not only does his “long and low and a little bit retro” Kenworth turn heads wherever it goes, but his unwavering faith (and some fun stickers he hands out) helps turn hearts, as well. As a third generation trucker, Jason definitely has trucking in his blood, but as he has proven in the past, he never lets trucks or trucking supersede his love and commitment to his family or his Christian beliefs.
Throughout his almost 20-year trucking career, Jason (37) of Telford, PA has only had three trucks – a 1997 KW, a 2000 Peterbilt, and his current truck, a 2000 Kenworth W900L. Featuring a 550 Cat with almost 900,000 miles on the odometer, a 13-speed transmission, a 300-inch wheelbase, 3.70 rears and steer tires all around, Jason consistently averages seven mpg or more. In addition to his fuel-efficient setup, Jason attributes his good fuel mileage mostly to the fact that he only drives between 53-55 mph. Hauling fresh meat to the Amish Farmers Markets along the eastern seaboard, Jason, who operates as J.M. Shelly Transport (dba Triple B Hot Rodz & Haulin’ LLC), avoids the interstates because of the excessive tolls and the high speeds. The way he sees it, he’d rather add a few hours to his work week then spend a few hundred extra dollars. All of his freight is hand-unloaded down a ramp out of his trailer, so Jason stays in good shape, servicing 16 coolers at eight or nine different Amish markets.
Married for 14 years to his wife Renita, the two have three children – Bryce (8), Brandt (7) and Brooklyn (5). Trying to teach his son about “the real world” and give him a good work ethic, Jason is currently home-schooling Bryce as they roll down the road. They try to get most of the book-work stuff done at home before getting on the road, but once they leave, everything turns into either a “life experience” and/or a teaching moment – whether it be trouble with the truck, a conversation with a shipper/receiver, or even seeing a deer get hit by a car, Jason uses these everyday experiences to teach his young son life lessons. As soon as the other two reach the third grade, Jason will take them out on the road, too (he likes them to at least be able to read before he takes over their teaching).
Some of this might seem familiar to you, as this is not the first time we have featured Jason and his KW in the magazine. In August 2005, Jason was featured in our “Readers And Their Rigs” column, and the headline read: “Jason Shelly’s Dirty Diaper Express” – because back then he used to take Bryce out on the road with him when he was a newborn baby. The “Dirty Diaper Express” handle came from the occasional stops Jason would have to make to replace Bryce’s rear filter. Jason loves the fact that he can be such a “present” father, and be a truck driver, too. In the summer and on school breaks, all three of the kids travel with dad, which prompted Jason to get a bigger sleeper!
When we originally featured Jason’s truck, he had a flattop sleeper. Not long after that, he replaced it with an Aerodyne sleeper with two small bunk beds. When the family outgrew that one, Jason found an old 86-inch ICT sleeper and then gutted it out completely. Re-skinning the entire exterior, a pleated panel was installed on the back, as well as two small diamond-shaped windows on each side. Redoing the inside, too, Jason added a toilet/shower, a microwave, a refrigerator, a flat-screen TV, two full-sized beds, and a pull-out desk, so Bryce could do his schoolwork (or just color in a coloring book). With modest amounts of chrome, cool “retro” stripes, and tastefully-placed “doodles” (what the kids call pinstripes), Jason’s truck is just cool enough to be noticed, but not so wild as to scream, “Look at me!” And that’s just the way Jason (and his Amish customers) likes it. His trailer, on the other hand, does get a lot of attention, but it was designed to do that.
For the last seven years, Jason has been an ambassador for Good’s Insurance Agency (GIA) by advertising their company on the sides of his trailer. With offices in Pennsylvania and Arizona, Jason has not only been a customer of GIA for several years now, but he has also become great friends with the owner, Tim Good. And Jason’s trailer is not just adorned with some run-of-the-mill vinyl wrap – he recently installed a unique “frame system” around the perimeter of his trailer which holds specially-made vinyl signs. The end result is a perfectly-smooth finish, that can be changed in a matter of hours, and done at a fraction of the cost of traditional vinyl wraps (30%-40% less). And, when you want to
take it off, your trailer sides are not ruined! The unique frame system, which mounts easily to the outside edges of the trailer, is made by a company in Riverside, CA called Ackland Media Frames. For any owner-operators (or fleet owners) out there who want to earn some extra income, this is a great opportunity, and for any businesses that want to advertise their products and/or services, this is a striking and effective way to do it. Check out www.acklandframes.net for more information and inspiration.
Growing up in a family that was involved with outreach, Jason was actually born in Puerto Rico, where his parents had relocated to be missionaries. Being raised in a strong Christian home, Jason was always a church-going kid, but about the time he turned 21, he took ownership of his faith and began living a servant’s life. Jason started trucking in 1994, and he met his wife Renita in college – the two were married in 1999. Renita also came from a missionary family, so it was no surprise when the two of them decided to follow their hearts and move to Sacramento, CA. Jason parked his truck and they headed west, where Renita took a full-time position as a project manager for Habitat for Humanity (a Christian outreach ministry that builds homes for those in need), while Jason served as a chaplain at the 49’er Truck Stop on I-80. Jason said that it was some of the best years of their life. Once their commitments felt fulfilled (about two years later), they packed up their stuff and went back to Pennsylvania to start their family – and Jason went back to trucking.
Being very active in their church, Jason and Renita have always been involved with Bible studies, Sunday School classes, volunteered in various ministries, and attending many different services each and every week, but Jason wanted to do more. Looking to get out of his “church-family comfort zone” and start serving those outside his local community, Jason and his friend Rick Kerns started a sticker ministry. Having special stickers made with the classic “Keep on Truckin” logo, along with a reference to a certain Bible verse (Psalm 34:8), the mission was simple – attend trucking events, talk to people, hand out stickers, and then let God do the rest. They also have special stickers geared for hot rod shows and motorcycle races, which they also attend often (and pass out stickers). Rick, who lives in Philippi, West Virginia, is not only one of Jason’s closest friends, but he has also become one of his vital Christian mentors. It seems so simple and silly, but Jason and Rick have seen some amazing things happen because of these fun little stickers, and they are sure that a lot of good is happening that they don’t see, as well. And that is okay by them.
A couple years ago, Jason got involved with “We Care” – a prison ministry – after one of his closest friends sold his business and moved his family to minister and serve full-time at prisons in Alabama. Every January, this organization hosts a week-long crusade where hundreds of volunteers, like Jason, go out in groups of 10 to proclaim Christ and disciple inmates at prisons throughout the state. This year, Jason’s team went to Holman Correctional Facility, a maximum-security prison in Southern Alabama with almost 1,000 inmates – some on death row. Believe it or not, although it can be a little intimidating at times, Jason really enjoys this ministry (not many people would willingly give up a week of their time to spend it in one of Alabama’s most notorious prisons).
Some of us are called to plant seeds, some to water them, and others to harvest the fruit. We all have a calling, and we all have been given special talents to fulfill that purpose. The hard part, for some, is figuring out that purpose. Jason’s only wish is to follow God’s will – wherever that takes him. And whether that leads him to Alabama, or Africa, or anywhere else, one thing is for sure, Jason Shelly will continue to inspire and encourage those around him, regardless of where his feet are planted.