Martin Milk Transport out of Visalia, CA has been “doin’ it right” since the beginning. But, even before that, owner Eddie Martin and his wife, following in the footsteps of the generations that came before them, had already built a solid reputation by not cutting corners and always going the extra mile. Today, running a clean fleet of trucks in California, hauling raw milk and various dairy products, the Martin family and their drivers are still dedicated to getting the job done – and getting it done right!
Eddie “Big Ed” Martin (61) was raised in Corcoran, CA. Most of his family was involved in trucking – specifically, ag hauling in California’s central valley. Ed’s wife of 36 years, Ivy (54), also grew up in a trucking family. In fact, her grandmother operated her own rig and hauled beets, which was pretty unheard of back in those days. Ivy’s mother drove, too, and she, along with Ivy’s dad, owned and operated Long’s Trucking. And when they weren’t trucking, they did dirt work with a backhoe.
After getting married in 1979, Ed and Ivy, with help from Ivy’s parents, Jerry and Genevieve Long, bought an old diesel-powered 1961 Ford N-Series conventional truck and a backhoe and started doing what her parents did – ag hauling locally and dirt work. Most of the hauling was seasonal work which included grain, tomatoes and cotton. Each of these commodities ran for about three months, and when they weren’t doing that, Eddie was busy digging holes for trees and trenches for pipelines, septic tanks, sewer systems and sprinklers.
For the next 15 years, from 1980 to 1995, this was Ed’s routine – hauling seasonal ag freight locally for nine months of the year and backhoe work the other three months (and whenever else he could find the extra time). During this time, Ivy kept busy not only helping Ed run the business, but also raising their four kids – Craig (36), Seth (32), Kaley (30) and Zoie (22). Also, during this period, Ed went through a couple more trucks, including a 1957 IH “Emeryville” cabover and a 1981 International Transtar II cabover. Both of these trucks were painted in the company colors – tan with brown stripes. Later, when the Transtar got a makeover, it was painted silver with blue stripes.
In 1995 the economy took a downturn, so Ed sold his trucks and backhoe and went to work for Jim Aartman, hauling milk. This was a whole new world for Big Ed. To haul milk you must have special training and a “Milk Handlers License” from the California Department of Food and Agriculture, which needs to be maintained and renewed on an annual basis. Hauling milk is a big responsibility, and Ed has never taken that fact lightly. The milk needs to be kept at a certain temperature, measured properly, and cleanliness is a must – the tanker trailers and the tanks at the dairies must be washed out and cleaned at least once every 24 hours (many dairies clean out their tanks every time they are emptied, which might be several times a day).
While hauling milk for Jim Aartman, Ed met Gary and Donna de Graaf and their two sons, Dustin and Daniel, who ran a specialty dairy in Pixley, CA called the Jer-Z-Boyz Ranch. On this farm, they milk Jersey cows instead of the usual Holsteins. The Jersey cow, originally bred on the Channel Island of Jersey, just off the coast of France, is quite small, ranging from only 800 to 1,100 lbs. Because they are smaller, Jersey cows take up less space, eat less, drink less, and have become a very sought-after milking cow. Jerseys are adaptable to hot climates and, unlike the typical black and white dairy cow, come in all shades of brown. Jersey milk is also higher in butterfat and protein, making it more desirable for high-quality cheese, ice cream, butter, sour cream, cream cheese and yogurt.
Over the years, Ed and the de Graaf family got to know each other pretty well. Knowing Ed’s work ethic and moral code, the de Graaf’s, looking to expand their operation, made Eddie a business proposal in 2007. They wanted “Big Ed” to haul for them exclusively, and were willing to help him buy his own truck and tanker to do it. After making the agreement, Ed and Ivy bought a nice 1991 Peterbilt 379 and a tanker trailer, and Martin Milk Transport was born. The truck was white with orange fenders, so that became the company colors. It also had a #3 painted on the hood, so their first truck was #3, not #1, like the one seen on our cover and centerfold this month (that truck was purchased at a later date).
Hauling two loads of raw milk out of the dairy every day, seven days a week, Ed quickly realized that he needed a relief driver. At the time, his oldest son Craig was 28 and working construction. Eddie called him and said, “Craig, you need to go and get your CDL.” Having some trucking experience from past jobs over the years, that was not a problem, and before he knew it, Craig was an integral part of the family-owned trucking business. Craig’s younger brother Seth, who had just signed-on for four more years in the Marines, was now excited to get out and join the operation. In fact, being stationed not too far away, at Camp Pendleton in Oceanside, CA (just north of San Diego), allowed Seth to come home on weekends and help out.
As the dairy continued to expand, so did Martin Milk Transport. In 2009, just two years into it, they added two more trucks and trailers. Wanting to do something a little different, Craig bought his own truck and trailer, formed Martin Milk & Hay Transport, and began hauling hay. At this point, the hay business was booming, and when Seth finally got out of the Marines in 2011, he bought his own truck and trailers and started his own business (Martin Hay Transport), and then began hauling hay, along with his brother. In 2013 the hay market collapsed and the milk market started growing again, so both Craig and Seth converted their hay trucks into tractors and rejoined their dad in the milk operation.
Today, Martin Milk Transport runs ten trucks and trailers, which is a collection of four trucks owned by Eddie and Ivy, three trucks owned by Craig, and three trucks owned by Seth. In addition to still hauling raw milk out of the Jer-Z-Boyz Ranch and several others, they also do a lot of plant-to-plant hauling of processed milk products like cream, sweet cream, soy milk, condensed milk and whey, for large companies like Hilmar Cheese, and more. Eddie and Seth don’t do much driving anymore, as paperwork and dispatching keeps them both pretty busy. Craig still drives pretty regularly, but he also owns and operates a full-time paint and body shop in Tulare, CA called Martin Paint & Body.
The Martin Milk fleet is a combination of (2) 379 Peterbilts, (2) 389 Peterbilts, (2) 386 Peterbilts, (2) Freightliner cabovers, (1) Freightliner FLD and (1) Freightliner Cascadia – all painted white with school bus yellow, purple and turquoise accents, and hooked to matching West-Mark tankers. The two rigs we focused on at our photo shoot, which we did at the Jer-Z-Boyz Ranch in Pixley, were truck #1 (a 1994 Peterbilt 379) and truck #9 (a 2014 Peterbilt 389). Truck #1 was originally a daycab, and it got wrecked in 2013. About that same time, the company took delivery of truck #9, which was their first brand new truck ever. As Craig began to rebuild #1, Seth began to customize #9. Both of the brothers wanted to debut their new (or rebuilt) rigs at an upcoming show in Southern California in October 2014, so the race was on!
After fixing the broken and wrecked parts on truck #1, which has a 270-inch wheelbase and gets its motivation from an old-school Cat 3406B and an 18-speed transmission, the rig was fitted with a 36-inch flattop sleeper by the folks at E.M. Tharpe (Golden State Peterbilt) in Porterville, CA. Then, it got a fresh white paint job, complete with custom striping done by Ruben Flores of Visalia, CA (he stripes all of their trucks by hand). Wanting to keep the shiny parts to a minimum, Craig decided to paint many of the exterior accessories white, including the tanks and straps, breathers, visor, grill surround, cab lights, headlight buckets, fender brackets and mirrors. But he didn’t stop there.
Continuing to build truck #1 into a real show-stopper, Craig added 8-inch Dynaflex pipes, Hogebuilt quarter fenders and smooth stainless steel step boxes. The truck also got some extra lights, including breather panels with six lights on each side, six lights on the back of the sleeper (which also has a back window), and old-style blinkers, mounted on the bottom of the mirror brackets. Under the hood, the engine was painted school bus yellow to match the frame, and on the back, a polished aluminum deck plate was added. Inside the cab, the interior was freshened-up with some new leather and a booming stereo from Addictive Audio was professionally installed.
While all this customizing was being done to truck #1, Seth was busy “pimping out” truck #9. This rig, which features a flattop sleeper, a 500-hp PACCAR MX engine and a 10-speed transmission, is painted white with school bus yellow fenders and frame, and was hand-striped by Ruben Flores. It also got a deck plate, a custom painted visor, a custom Valley Chrome bumper with a “frenched-in” license plate, five cab lights, breather panels with clear-lens LED lights, 8-inch Dynaflex stacks, and 34-inch Hogebuilt quarter fenders. The truck was also fitted with a “Gen 3” front air-ride kit from 12 Ga. Customs. Inside the cab, the dash got all chrome gauges, as well as a custom-etched billet steering wheel and a big 2,000-watt stereo, complete with (2) 12-inch JL Audio subs and a variety of smaller speakers. Yes, this baby can get loud!
Both trucks made it to the show (Truckin’ for Kids in Irwindale, CA) and both did very well. Craig’s #1 truck ended up with two 1st place trophies (one for his regular class and one for the tanker class), while Seth and the #9 truck took home a 2nd in the tanker class, a 3rd in his regular class, and the award for Best Metal Shine. But, they also got our attention, and for the next several months we quietly stalked them on Facebook, subtly asked people about them and their trucks, took notice when we saw them out on the road, and then finally made contact. Sometimes, you just have to be patient – good things can and will come to those who wait.
Flash forward a few months and we found ourselves in Pixley, battling the flies on a hot and humid day, while we shot these two incredible, bona fide, everyday work trucks. Meeting at the Jer-Z-Boyz Ranch, we would like to thank Gary de Graaf for allowing us to “take his place over” for the day, and for letting us tear up his beautiful lawn (just a little bit) in front of his milking barn. We had told Ed and the boys that we wanted to take some family shots, but we had no idea how big the family was – or that ALL of them would come out that morning to join us. But, actually, it was an amazing display of love and support, and everyone was happy to be a part of the fun.
Most of the “kids” have families of their own, now. Craig has two girls, Riley (11) and Addison (7), that he has raised, on his own, as a single dad, for the past six years. Seth has one girl, Presley (4) and one boy, Matix (1) – he is the only boy in the family – everyone else has had girls, so far! Seth recently got engaged to his long-time girlfriend, Breesha, but the two have not yet set a date. Kaley and her husband Jesse Paez have two girls, Paizley (9) and Kezlee (4). Jesse used to be a professional skateboarder, but now he drives a truck and is very involved with the company. Zoie (22) is still single and lives at home, with Ed and Ivy, in Corcoran, CA. Although she helps out when needed at the company, her focus is to one day be a model.
Many people have helped the Martins to get where they are today, and they wanted to send out some special “thank yous” to a few of those people and companies. Big thanks go out to Gary and Donna de Graaf, along with their sons, Dustin and Daniel, for not only helping them get started, but for being great friends, as well. They also wanted to thank Ryan Junio and family at Four J Farms, Hilmar Cheese Company, and all of their other great customers.
In regards to the trucks, they wanted to thank E.M. Tharpe (Golden State Peterbilt), A & L Chrome Shop, Ruben Flores, and all of their dedicated and hard-working drivers and other employees. Craig wanted to thank a few of his guys at the paint shop – Mingo, Alex and Ed (A.K.A. “The Animal”) for all of their help with the trucks, and Baltzer Polishing in Dinuba, CA for keeping their rigs spotless and shining. They also wanted to thank “Danny V” at Morgan & Slates Mfg. in Hanford, CA for making all of their custom deck plates, light bars, and other metal pieces. But, most importantly, they wanted to give praise and thanks to The Lord for all of the success and blessings in their life – they couldn’t have done it (or anything) without Him!
Working together as a family has always been a great benefit to everyone involved with Martin Milk Transport. “Big Ed” and his famous trademark mustache, which he has had forever, is well-known and well-respected throughout the milk-hauling business in California. When he and his wife and boys started this adventure, they wanted to build a good reputation and make a lasting impression on the industry – and in less than ten years, they have already done that. How? By not cutting corners, by rarely ever saying “no” to new business, by running clean equipment and, simply, by doing things right. You can’t do much better than that!
1) Truck #1 sitting nicely in the tree-lined driveway of the Jer-Z-Boyz Ranch while truck #9 lurks quietly in the background.
2) Eddie Martin and Gary de Graaf.
3) Truck #9 sittin’ low.
4) Craig, Ivy, Ed and Seth Martin.
5) Ed holding Craig as a baby in front of their first truck – a 1961 Ford N-Series – in in 1980.
6) Ed’s second truck – a 1957 IH Emeryville.
7) Ed’s third rig – a 1981 International Transtar II.
8) Jersey cows on the Jer-Z-Boyz Ranch.
9) Some of the details on the back of the sleeper of truck #1.
10) The simple yet elegant and functional interior of truck #1.
11) A shot from the back of truck #1 as it sits on the grass.
12) The painted Caterpillar 3406B under the hood of truck #1.
13) Most of the Martin family, including spouses, girlfriends and grandkids.
14) Truck #1 making a big “impression” (literally) on the grass at the Jer-Z-Boyz Ranch with truck #9 sitting behind it.
15) The five granddaughters, including Riley, Addison, Presley, Paizley and Kezlee.