I recently decided it was time for me to buy my own truck again. Searching through the truck sales magazines, I found a place in Springfield, Missouri, called Quality Truck Sales (QTS). On my next trip through there, I stopped in and was blown away at all of the cool older trucks on their lot. And, to make a long story short, I bought a black ‘07 Peterbilt 379 dipped in chrome and covered with lights. It was the perfect truck! But throughout the process, and in talking with all of the folks at QTS, I realized that there was a story to tell about this dealership and one of its interesting founders.
A rock on his desk says, “Some people make things happen, some watch things happen, while others wonder what has happened.” I think Arsenio Rodriguez has made things happen while others were watching and wondering how that just happened for years. Arsenio knew at a very young age that he wanted to be a truck driver, but his path to achieving that goal was very different from most of us.
Arsenio’s father was a truck driver in Cuba before he came to the U.S. in 1960. It was a year later before Arsenio, his mother, sister, aunt, cousin and grandma came over on a Freedom Flight. Before leaving Cuba, Arsenio would use the lid to a pot as his imaginary steering wheel, dreaming of the day when he could hold a real wheel, in a real truck, and do the only job he ever wanted to do. The family lived in Florida before moving to New Jersey to be close to some family, and then later moved again to Kansas City, Missouri, to be near other family, where they finally settled and made it their home.
A driving career today could never start like Arsenio’s did back then. Arsenio couldn’t wait to be 21 so he could drive a rig interstate, and the DMV unwittingly helped him with this problem. When they spelled his name wrong on his license, he went in to get it corrected – he was 18 at the time. He told them that they had got his birthday wrong, as well, and they added the three years he needed to be 21 without any questions!
Now, with a valid license, he went to work for Cartwright Van Lines driving a furniture truck. Jack Koder, Safety Director at the time, told Arsenio to hook up to a trailer and take it to California. No road test back then – just get in the truck and go. Only one minor little problem: while he had the license he did not have the experience. It was then that he enrolled in the school of Hard Knocks and began his driving career. Luckily, on that trip, he found a driver who showed him how to shift and he followed this driver until he could not keep up – then, he was on his own. At that time, the interstate wasn’t finished and trips weren’t done in a few days, it took at least a week. Learning as he went, it took Arsenio a little bit longer, but in the end, he prevailed and made it to California.
When he was 19 he bought a truck and leased it to Crete Carriers. Leaving there, he went to Wilson Certified Express for six months, pulling their trailer. At just 21, his license showed he was 24, and after saying he had experience pulling doubles he got a job with Consolidated Freightways pulling them. Another driver knew right away that he had never pulled a set of doubles and told him, “Don’t look back – the more you look back the more they wiggle.” The test run was from Kansas City, Missouri to Des Moines, Iowa. After getting through that run, he working for CF for four years, running various routes.
Over the years, Arsenio owned and operated a lot of cool rides (see photos). Eventually starting his own company called Continental Transportation, Arsenio worked hard and built it up to 30 trucks. Later, he decided to sell the trucks, figuring that this would be his retirement. The plan was for Arsenio and his wife to move to Florida, buy a convenience store, and live happily ever after – but that was not meant to be.
Taking four of his trucks to Midway Ford in Kansas City for them to sell, the trucks sat there for a month while Arsenio continued to make payments and pay insurance on them. He told them he could do a better job of selling them, and he did. He worked out a deal that they would pay him for selling the trucks. What originally was going to be a job for maybe a year turned into 20 years!
Arsenio met his wife Nancy at a club in Kansas City and, as they say, the rest is history – they have been married for 35 years now. She has been there through the trucking days, the trucking companies, and then she joined him selling trucks at Midway Ford after the kids were in school.
In 2008, the economic downturn was really starting to hurt trucking companies and businesses. Most would have thought it to be a really bad time to open your own used truck dealership, but Arsenio was determined. The company, Quality Truck Sales in Springfield, Missouri, was started with the simple vision of delivering reliable used trucks, to truckers across America, at a reasonable price. That is the key to their success. It was true back then, and it is still true today.
Arsenio, along with his partners Todd Clark and Jim Towery, opened their doors on April 1, 2008. Todd said they started off lean, but that was how they kept the doors open, and the business gradually began to thrive. Todd said, “Put your head down and keep swimming” – and that’s what they did. Todd had worked for GE Financial, lending to truckers, financing new and used trucks. Jim, who owns and operates Steelman Transportation in Springfield, Missouri, had borrowed money to finance his trucks from Todd in the past, and that is how Jim became the 3rd partner in this new venture.
Quality Truck Sales is a member of the Used Truck Association, and they subscribe to a code of ethics that include Honesty, Integrity, Professionalism, Value, Excellence, Keeping Promises, Complete Satisfaction and Relationships. A banner expanding on each of these topics hangs on the wall as you walk in the door, and while inside the dealership, I felt that everyone there really believes and abides by those words. You can also find this code of ethics on their website.
In the later part of 2009, the dealership opened an in-house finance company called Commercial Transportation Funding Inc. Growth continued, and in 2011 they opened a detail shop, which includes a paint booth. In the shop, they work on refurbishing older trucks that a lot of drivers still want to own. I totally understand this because I am one of them – I still love the “old iron” too.
Family is a big part of the business. Todd’s daughter Sara is the receptionist and Justin Sabo, Todd’s nephew, is the Finance Manager. He started with the company in September of 2014. Barry McGowen is in sales – he drove for Mayflower Moving when he was going to school. After earning a bachelor’s degree, he went to USA Truck and was a supervisor of risk management and human resources before becoming Vice President for Christenson Transportation. When that got old, he went into sales, which was a little less (very little less) stress than being in management. James Barrett was a car salesman out of high school. He started working at QTS as a lot mechanic and then helped start the detail shop. Now, he has moved up to sales. Mike Blair has been the shop foreman for the last three years. Mike oversees the operation of painting, fixing and “primping” these older trucks so they can be put on display out on the lot for buyers to see them and, hopefully, fall in love.
“It’s been quite a ride,” Arsenio said. Last year they sold 300 trucks and they now employ 30 people. They have a special niche, buying good used rigs and then overhauling them (some even come with a 2 year 200,000 mile warranty). Many have a remanufactured transmission, rebuilt engines, all new tires and many other extras, making these older trucks very desirable. They may be old, but they are not worn out! You are buying a used truck so there might be a bug or gremlin or two, but in the end, you have a solid piece of equipment that you can make your own. These trucks still have a place rolling up and down America’s highways.
When pulling into the lot at QTS, you are going to find a really beautiful lineup of Kenworth W900s and Peterbilt 379s. Enjoy the view, because when you walk down the rows in the parking lot of a truck stop these days, square hoods are not what you are likely to see, as sloped-nose and aerodynamic rigs are now the norm. But, as long as we can keep some of them on the road, we can keep the dream of owning one alive, and QTS can help to make that dream a reality.
If you are in the market for a good used truck and are looking for an honest and personal dealership with amazing customer service, check out Quality Truck Sales. Go to their website (www.qtsales.com) and see what they have on the lot at the moment, or call them at 888-769-1999. Talk to someone and see if it really is possible to get you in the truck of your dreams – I did, and it was. And I couldn’t be happier. Thanks Arsenio!