It’s a bit of a play on words, but trucks really do talk – and they tell a story, if you look close enough. The story is what the owner, man or woman, wants it to say. From the color of the truck, to the way it is lettered, the graphics, and all of those shiny accessories (or these days sometimes the lack of all that shine) which makes it unique to the man or woman who owns it and/or drives it on a regular basis.
Owning the truck lets the driver tell a greater story than the company driver who has to drive what the company offers and “allows” in the way of personalizing their ride. One company has stood out to me over the years and that is TMC out of Des Moines, IA. Their black trucks are rarely ever seen dirty, and on the back of all of their bunks it says “Destination: Excellence” – all we have to offer out here is service and, as a company, what better destination than excellence?
Drivers have been naming their rigs since the early days. A couple famous truck names are Phantom 309 and Giddy Up Go, which were both made famous in old trucking songs. Those names played a big part in the songs that tell their stories. Lyrics from trucking songs to rock and roll can be seen on the back or side of a bunk, and sometimes even on the hood. It all depends on the driver – whether it’s Merle Haggard’s “White Line Fever” (a sickness born down deep within my soul), Leland Martin’s “Stone Cold Fingers” (another million miles ain’t no big deal), Whitesnake’s “Here I Go Again” (here I go again on my own, going down the only road I’ve ever known), or Steve Earle’s “Guitar Town” (I love to hear those steel belts humming on the asphalt), we all love a great song with a driving theme. I wouldn’t be surprised if I saw Aaron Tippin’s and Tony Justice’s “Brothers of the Highway” song on the side or back of a truck sometime soon.
Song lyrics are popular to adorn the back of the bunks rolling up and down the long lonesome highway, but some thought should go into what you have on the back of that bunk for everyone to see. “I Feel The Need For Speed” might not be your best option when the nice officer is walking up beside your truck to tell you how much over the speed limit you had just been going. There is no magic in picking the name of your truck – it all comes down to personal preference and what “story” you want the truck to tell. One truck we owned way back when was “Midnight Rose” because of the color (black cherry). After adding some pinstripes, she was ours.
Many artists used to specialize in pinstriping and lettering those beautiful old trucks that the drivers were so proud of. These days, it’s rare to see pinstriping, as vinyl lettering and graphics dominate the market today. Some of these vinyl graphics today can even compete with the beautiful air-brushed murals of yesteryear. But, there are still a few drivers that prefer paint over vinyl, and many of those classic “retro” schemes on the rigs of the 70s and 80s have made a big come back.
Many rigs have “In Loving Memory of…” and a name (or names) of loved ones who are gone. For families that have been trucking for generations, “Family Tradition” is a pretty common name, and I have also seen “Pit Crew” with a list of the kids or grandkids loved by the driver on the back of many trucks, too. By the peeper window on the passenger side is a popular place for the names of kids with fur, sometimes complete with paw prints! You can’t deny how much drivers love their furry friends that ride along with them on the road.
When it comes to personalizing a truck today it seems like the options are endless, and the only thing that might hold you back is how much that custom piece of artwork might cost or how long it might take to finish. From my own experience, I would have to say that it is worth saving up for – after all, it is a write-off, and where do you spend most of your time anyway? If you love it enough, it will be worth it.
Personalizing your truck and giving it a “voice” is more than just giving it a cute name. There are a few stand-out truck accessory companies that have paved the way for many of the knock-offs available out there these days. Double JJ headlight brackets and blinker bars will always be popular, as well as all of the quality wood and stainless pieces Rockwood makes for your rig’s interior. Lifetime Nut Covers continues to expand their “chrome plastic” fabrication business, which they virtually created over 25 years ago. These are all American companies, and their products are proudly made right here in the USA. By supporting these businesses, you are saying a lot about who you are, what you believe, and what you support.
Steering wheels, shift knobs, floors, lights (and more lights), stainless, whatever you can dream (and afford), you can have it on your truck. And the creature comforts that are available today, we could have only dreamed about 20 years ago. Many trucks, both company-owned and owner-operator alike, now have auxiliary power units and refrigerators, microwaves, satellite TV and so much more.
Of course, with cell phones and our hands-free devices, today we can “run with” friends – and I, for one, appreciate all the friends who “run” with me on some of those long nights. Let’s face it, whether you are telling fun (and mostly true) trucking stories of yesteryear or discussing the news headlines of the day, it’s safer and helps keep you more alert when you are having a conversation while driving. And, if no one is up, then just crank up the radio or put in a CD and sing along!
Taking care of your truck is a pride thing, and it doesn’t matter if you are an owner-operator or a company driver – how your truck and trailer look is a reflection of you and your company. It contributes to the decision customers make, good or bad, when deciding if they should continue using your company, whether you want to believe it or not. I know for a fact that when you roll into a customer’s place and you have that big shiny ride, a lot of them take notice. I suppose they might take notice if your rig looks like crap, as well. If you take good care of your equipment, it is usually automatically assumed that you will take good care of their freight, too.
Some drivers are out here strictly to make a paycheck, while there are others, like me, who are still out here because we are so in love with what we do that we could not imagine doing anything else. So, which one are you? I want to thank my friend Jason Morris for letting me use a quote that he wrote that I think sums it up perfectly. In fact, I liked it so much, that I decided to put it on the battery box cover of my truck – “Leavin’ footprints in our walk through life, living the dream and leaving a legacy… true tales from the road, with the pics to prove it!” I have plenty of trucking tales and pics, that’s for sure.
If you are new to the business and have decided to take the plunge and buy your own truck, it might pay to listen to some of the old-timers, because most of them have been there and done that, and they might have some great ideas to help you make your truck tell the story just the way you want it told. And, if you have been out here a long time, you probably have an interesting story to tell, so why not let your truck do some of the talking!