Building a business from the ground up is never easy – especially in trucking. But that is exactly what Bill Rethwisch and his wife did. And in this case, it took a lot of blood, sweat and gas – literally! Today, their petroleum-hauling company, thanks to the diligent efforts of the Rethwisch family, has seen some success, and some of that success is evident in the incredible, award-winning work trucks they have recently created.
Bill Rethwisch Jr. (40) of Tomah, WI has had trucking running through his veins his entire life. From the time he was five years old, bouncing around in the cabover his dad, Bill Rethwisch Sr., drove for Nufl Freightlines in the 1970s hauling general freight to the east coast, trucking has been calling his name. When Bill Jr. turned 21, he began running a ‘92 Kenworth T-600, hauling general freight in a dry van, from Iowa to New York and back. In September of 2006, Bill Jr. purchased a brand new 2007 Peterbilt 379 with a 63-inch bunk and leased onto a company out of Wisconsin hauling chemicals and gas.
In 2009, Rethwisch Transport was born when Bill decided to purchase his own tanker and go completely under his own authority. Today, Rethwisch Transport has grown to a fleet of seven 389 Peterbilts, working seven days a week, and all through the brutal Wisconsin winters. Still hauling petroleum products, all of the Rethwisch trucks typically stay within about a 200 mile radius of the Tomah, WI area, making it easy for most of the drivers to be home with their family on most nights.
Every one of Rethwisch’s 389s have been given some sort of special touches, including custom paint jobs, matching trailers, extra lights and chrome, making their whole fleet of working trucks truly show-worthy. The reason behind this isn’t to bag tons of awards, but instead to better portray the petroleum hauling and trucking industries in a good light. “We’ve always tried to promote a positive image in all parts of trucking. So many gas and chemical haulers you see out there don’t seem to have any pride, so we try to use these trucks as promotional tools. It gives the drivers we have a sense of pride and a feeling of being part of something bigger,” says Bill.
Bill’s daily driver, an orange and cream 2012 Pete 389 with a 600 Cummins and 63-inch flattop sleeper, which made its debut at the Mid-America Trucking Show in 2012, took home the Jake Eilen “Pride in Your Ride” Award (Bill’s most prized award to date), Best of Show at the Shell Rotella SuperRigs in 2013 (and a calendar slot), and was crowned National Champion of the Working Combination class in the 2013 Pride & Polish national series. Needless to say, his rig had a good year at the shows!
Around Thanksgiving of 2012, Bill acquired a 2013 Peterbilt 389 with a 12.7 liter Detroit and an 18-speed Eaton-Fuller transmission from Fitzgerald Glider Kits in Crossville, TN for his driver Jeff Schultz. In February of 2014, Bill Jr., his father, Bill Sr., and the entire Rethwisch crew began an extensive rebuild of the truck. Before any custom work began, the truck first had to be torn apart – the complete drivetrain and the entire interior was pulled out and gutted. The frame was sand-blasted, painted green, and a custom deck plate was installed, along with a stationary fifth wheel, to keep a clean look. Four straps on the fuel tanks were reduced to two (for a smoother look), and a new Dynaflex exhaust system was hooked to the Detroit under the hood, which didn’t miss out when it came to custom touches, either (the 500-horsepower engine was given the same paint scheme as the rest of the truck, along with a bunch of other chrome touches – they even put the “Rethwisch” logo on the side of the valve cover).
For the interior, no detail was left untouched. Custom-built panels were set throughout the entire cab, a new sound system was installed, and color-changing LED lights, which shine bright back in the sleeper, were also added. The floors and dash wear the same lime green and white paint design as the exterior, which keeps the theme running strong throughout the entire combination. The truck’s seats were taken to Flynn’s Auto Trim in La Crosse, WI for new upholstery and to have the Rethwisch name embroidered on the head rests. As beautiful as the exterior of this truck is, the interior is equally-impressive, if not more so!
Before the rebuild, the truck had been pulling a 2012 polished aluminum Polar tanker, but in true Rethwisch style, it also had to be redone to compliment the newly-refurbished tractor, so nothing on the trailer went untouched, either. The paint design from the truck flows right onto the trailer, the hose trays were replaced with new hose tubes on each side with chrome doors, the loading and unloading heads were chromed, and several custom-built panels, along with plenty of LED lights, were put underneath the trailer. All of the brackets for the lights on the trailer had to be custom-built, as well. Together, this truck and tanker-trailer make an unbeatable combination.
After a total of just six weeks, working anywhere from 14 hours a day to staying in the shop all night, the rig (dubbed “Blood, Sweat & Gas”) was complete. In March of 2014, the truck make its first appearance at the 2014 Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville, KY where it earned a 1st place in the Working Combo (2006 and Newer) class, 1st place in the Paint and Graphics (Combo) class, 1st place in the Lights (Combo) class, 1st place in the Engine class, and Best of Show Working Combo. Pretty impressive, huh? Well, that was just the beginning. Since the Mid-America show in March 2014, “Blood, Sweat & Gas” has taken home Best of Show at every event it has attended, including the Shell Rotella SuperRigs (including another calendar slot, which makes Rethwisch’s second year in a row), and at Overdrive’s Pride & Polish 75 Chrome Shop show in Wildwood, FL, which qualified Bill and his rig to compete for the National Championship title once again in Dallas, TX at the end of August.
Bill is very proud of what his company has become through all the years of hard work. “My wife and I started this company completely on our own. It wasn’t easy to get it going, but now things are getting easier as we go, and we’ve worked hard to have the reputation that we have. To win the things that we’ve won and to be featured in the publications and calendars that we have, is huge. It’s a great accomplishment and something that we set out to do, and we’re very proud that we’re doing it,” says Bill. On the rare times that Bill gets away from trucks and trucking, he enjoys camping with his wife of 11 years, Sayra, and their four kids – Andy (17), Augustine (15), Luke (7) and Owen (2).
I would like to thank Bill and Jeff for taking the time out of their weekend and for being so flexible when it came to our photo shoot. The Rethwisch family and their drivers have built the kind of professional reputation this industry needs, and I know they will keep it up for a long time to come. Fulfilling your dreams doesn’t come easy or without hard work, but in the end, it’s all worth it. We can’t wait to see the next amazing creation they come up with!