For a lot of us, we developed our love for trucking through our dads or other relatives, or maybe a friend of some sort, but for Joel Olson, it is safe to say that his love for trucks came from within. Joel’s dad Jimmy did not work in the trucking industry – he worked on a tug boat.
Growing up in Lincoln City, Oregon, as a young boy, Joel would sit in his front yard waiting for cool trucks to drive by. During that time (the 40s and 50s), a booming logging industry brought a lot of trucks to their area, so Joel didn’t have to sit for very long before he’d see some cool trucks roll by. And of all the trucks he’d see, his favorites were the LT Macks from the 1950s owned by a local logging outfit called Jones Logging. These trucks were top notch, and they caused Joel to fall in love with trucks.
Spec’d with 180 Cummins engines and 3-stick Duplex transmissions, these old Macks were where Joel wanted to someday be, so just a few years later, in the summer after his junior year in high school, he drove over to the Jones shop and landed himself a summer job driving those cool Macks, filling in for drivers on vacation or out sick. Over the next few years, Joel met a lot of good loggers and learned a bunch about off-highway logging roads – like how to carefully drive on them and how to “make a truck last” when being worked in those harsh conditions.
In 1962, Joel had a good idea to “build” his career on – he wanted to start making logging roads for a paper and pulp mill named Longview Fiber. That was a big year for Joel Olson – he bought his first truck (a 1959 Ford “gas pot” ten-yard dump truck), Joel Olson Trucking was formed and, more importantly, he married his best friend and the love of his life, Carole.
Joel ran that Ford gasser day and night hauling rock and dirt up and down those logging roads. Back then, it was not uncommon for Carole to bring him dinner up on the landings or even ride along with Joel in the truck (now that’s a great date night). As Joel’s workload grew, so did his family. In 1965, Joel and Carole brought their first son, Darin, into the world, followed shortly thereafter by their second son, Craig, in 1966. While Joel’s business was booming, he developed a close working relationship and friendship with a fellow logger with three log trucks named David Bruijn. These two guys, together, took very good care of Longview Fiber’s needs. And before Joel knew it, his road-building took him to three dump trucks, including his first new one – a 1965 Peterbilt ordered red with an unheard of painted red interior trim and a factory-polished dash. This high-tech ‘65 even had a dealer-installed 8-track player.
The good times hit a sad point in the late 1960s when Joel’s good friend David Bruijn passed away. Joel bought all three of Dave’s Peterbilt log trucks, including one that he still owns today. Throughout the latter 60s and the better part of the 70s, Joel operated roughly three to four dump trucks and three to four log trucks which, of course, were always pressed-out and always on-time thanks to a great group of drivers. One of these exceptional drivers was Bob Howard, an ex-Navy man who drove all day and then helped Joel every night and Saturdays at the shop, keeping everything ship-shape. One thing is for sure: Joel didn’t just drive his trucks – for many years he was the mechanic, too.
Around 1977 things got even more interesting when Longview Fiber agreed to a timber “land swap” with Boise Cascade, which moved most of Longview’s timber land in towards the Oregon valleys. Longview Fiber wanted to keep Joel as their primary hauler, but that meant the Olsons would have to move from Lincoln City, taking Joel Olson Trucking to the small town of Clatskanie, Oregon. At that point, Joel sold his dump trucks and began to focus entirely on the log trucks, and boy did that move pay off.
By the early 1980s, Joel’s log truck fleet grew from four to over 32 log trucks. By this time, Joel made sure to keep his sons plenty busy helping out down at the shop and learning that same work ethic their dad had. Joel always said to his sons, “Boys, your mother and I don’t need any trouble out of you two, so you’d better get good grades and stay out of trouble.” And they took that advice to heart.
Needless to say, both Darin and his brother Craig did very well in school, and both went on to college. Craig earned a degree in forestry from Oregon State University and Darin earned degrees in both diesel mechanics and business from Linn-Benton Community College in Albany, Oregon. And neither one of the Olson sons forgot about their work ethic during their college years.
Every summer, Craig would go to work at RSG Forest Products in Mist, Oregon scaling (measuring) incoming logs into the mill, and Darin would spend most of his days pulling lumber off of the green chain at the RSG mill and then head over to his dad’s shop to turn wrenches at night. Later, after graduating from college, Craig went to work for Longview Fiber as an assistant tree farm manager, and later became a head manager. Today, operating under the Weyerhaeuser name, Craig is still one of their largest farm managers. Darin also left college full of drive and energy, but he headed right back up to the Olson shop and jumped back into the action at the family business.
By the time 1984 rolled around, another opportunity for Joel Olson Trucking presented itself. Joel had always hauled logs into the RSG mill in Mist, Oregon, but now they wanted him to also haul a majority of their finished lumber products leaving the mill on flatbeds. Not a problem, said Joel. With Darin’s energy and drive, they began building a fleet of flatbeds, and it didn’t take long for Joel Olson Trucking to amass one of the finest flatbed fleets in the northwest. Over the next few years, RSG grew a lot, and with their growth, Joel’s company grew, too. Joel’s superb service and dedication to doing whatever it took helped to make RSG’s shipping needs possible during that time, and before he knew it, Joel was operating 24 flatbeds, along with all of their log trucks, and Darin was now trucking full-time.
The 80s was a productive decade of growth for Joel and his crew, but as the early 90s came, the northwest timber industry fell into a slump, reducing the amount of freight needing to be hauled. About this time, Joel brought Darin into the office to begin finding freight and dispatching. Darin wasn’t too sure about the whole thing, but like his dad, he was willing to do whatever it took. At this time, general timber prices were up, and the paper pulp industry was having a hard time getting their needed share of wood products, so Joel pitched an “out of the box” idea to Dave Bowden at Longview Fiber that would turn out to be yet another game-changer.
On every logging site there were always piles of wood waste. In those days, companies would just burn all of this refuse, but Joel wanted to equip trucks with dumpster-style “roll-off” boxes with roll-off pup trailers and deliver empty boxes to the logging sites all over the countryside to be loaded up with the wood waste. After the boxes were filled, Joel would send a roll-off truck up to the log landing, pick them up, leave the loggers empty boxes, and then haul the loaded boxes full of refuse wood to the paper mills. Dave loved this idea and it really took off. Joel’s roll-off truck fleet grew from five units to 25 just as fast as they could build them. Thinking “out of the box” helped Joel turn trash into treasure – or at least a valuable, sellable resource!
The last two decades have probably been the most challenging and the most diverse in all of Joel’s history of trucking. Thinking outside the box has always been Joel and Darin’s objective, and it has really made the difference for Joel Olson Trucking. Whether it was the family’s initial move from the coast to the valley, moving into the flat-bedding market, or deciding to invest millions into a new method of drop box logistics, they have never been afraid to try new things. Today, Joel Olson Trucking’s fleet stands at over 100 trucks ranging from log trucks, semi-end dumps, roll-off box combos, flatbeds, and even a few pressed-out lowboys – all of them top shelf, of course. They also added two more truck shops, for a total of three now.
Because of Joel’s determination and his loving and supportive wife, their two sons, their faith in God, and all their good drivers and mechanics, Joel Olson Trucking has been and always will be able to stand the test of time. Thank you Joel, Carole, Darin and the whole crew for letting us share your story. It is our honor. Thank you for being an encouraging role model to so many of us in trucking, whether you meant to be or not. Keep thinking differently than everyone else, and you will always be one step ahead of the pack!