George DeFrancesco has been making cool “moooves” for almost 20 years. Based out of La Puente, CA, his company, DeFrancesco’s Dairy Transport (DDT), built its foundation hauling raw milk in polished tankers. Over the years, this hard-working trucker, who started out with nothing, built a solid business which has now diversified into other commodities, as well. George says that his secret is not about making huge amounts of money, but instead, earning lots of little profits. As he puts it, “Just keep earning nickels – eventually you will have enough of them to make a buck!” And, based on his rig featured here and on our cover and centerfold this month, he has obviously made a few nickels.
Some people are born into a trucking family, which makes it easier to follow in the footsteps of the ones that rolled before them. Such is not the case for George DeFrancesco (49) – he had to search a little harder for his trucking mentor. His dad has owned his own landscaping business for years, and George worked with him a lot while growing up, but he was not interested in digging holes – he wanted to go trucking. Thankfully, he had an uncle who farmed and trucked, and George spent as much time as he could with him. His name was Byron Burkhardt.
Growing hay on his farm at the southern end of the Sierra Nevada Mountains in the shadow of Mt. Whitney (the highest point in the lower 48 states) in beautiful Olancha, CA, Byron had a 50-acre farm and a couple cool 359 Peterbilts, which he used to haul the hay and crude oil. Both of these trucks were daycabs with 2-sticks – one was a 1970 and the other was a 1971. Some of George’s earliest memories are trucking with his uncle in those rigs. Whenever Byron shifted those two sticks, he’d put his hands through the steering wheel and then turn to George and give him a wink. For whatever reason, that particular memory really stuck in George’s brain, and was probably one of the things that made him realize that trucking was what he wanted to do.
Working with his father since he was 12 years old, George learned a lot about work ethic from his dad, who is one of the hardest-working people he knows. But, as soon as he could get away from the world of landscaping, he did. Around the time he turned 18 and graduated from high school (1985), he got a job at a local transmission shop. It was not a very glamorous job – he mostly tore apart transmissions – but it was better than digging holes and trimming trees. A few months later, he applied and got a job at Alta Dena Dairy as a lube and service guy in their Truck Maintenance Department (he wanted to be a truck driver, but he was still too young).
Back then, still owned and operated by the Stueve family, Alta Dena Dairy was one of the largest and well-known operations in Southern California, but their fleet of trucks was pretty old. George cut his teeth working on Internationals, GMCs, and Freightliners from the 1960s and 70s. These old rigs required a lot of work to keep them going. Anytime George got the chance to drive one of the trucks around the yard (or beyond), he took it. Although he did not have his CDL – or even his permit – he got pretty good at driving the trucks. At 19, he finally went and got his permit, and then started going out with Alta Dena’s in-house tow truck drivers on road calls when one of their trucks would break down.
Alta Dena had three of their own tow trucks, and with an aging fleet, they were constantly going out on calls. One day, two of the smaller trucks were already out on calls when a call came in for the bigger rig – a 1966 Freightliner with a Holmes 500 wrecker body. George’s boss, Jim, not having any other options, sent George out on the call. At the time, George only had his permit, and he had never been out on his own, but he got the job done. A few weeks later, it happened again, and this time he had to go all the way into Los Angeles and pick up a truck and trailer. Again, George got it done. Not long after that, he got his CDL, and a few months later, Harlen Stueve, one of Alta Dena’s owners, took him from the maintenance department and put him in a truck.
For the next five or six years, George ran various delivery routes for Alta Dena Dairy throughout Southern California. Around 1992, after the Stueve family sold their operation to a big company, Harlen Stueve started his own milk-hauling business (Stueve’s Milk Transport), which hauled a lot of Alta Dena milk. Doing his regular routes in the day for Alta Dena and then doing part-time work at night and on his days off for Stueve’s Milk Transport, George got very busy – but he made a lot of money. So much, in fact, that in 1997 George was able to order his own truck – a brand new 1998 Peterbilt 379 short hood daycab with an N14 Cummins and a 13-speed – and DeFrancesco’s Dairy Transport (DDT) was born. His last day as an employee of Alta Dena Dairy was December 31, 1997.
In the beginning, George had a driver who ran the truck all day and then he would run it all night, hauling reefer loads for Alta Dena Dairy. Keeping the truck constantly moving was the only way he could make it work. Six months later, he bought a second truck – a sleeper truck – from Oldland Distributing, and then the following year he ordered his third truck – a 1999 Peterbilt 379 long hood daycab with a 550 Cat and a 13-speed. George remembers taking his first and second trucks up to Olancha to show them off to his uncle Byron, but by the time he bought his third one, his mentor had passed away.
Over the next seven or eight years, as the economy boomed, George built his fleet up to 20 trucks and even more trailers. Branching out into other areas of trucking, George was pulling milk tankers, reefers and dry vans. Times were good. In 2007, he (DDT) even spent a bunch of money and became the main sponsor of an NHRA Funny Car for a few big races. While at those races, as a main team sponsor, he got to meet many of his childhood racing heroes, including Don Prudhomme. But, as we all know, the economy took a dive in 2008, which caused George (and everyone else) to downsize. Today, he runs about 12 trucks, hauling raw milk in tankers, plastic bottles and bottled water in dry vans, and hay on drop-decks. He has always loved the way the tankers look, but he is really enjoying hauling the hay.
Although most of his trucks are white with black frames, fenders and roofs, George wanted to do something different when he ordered a new truck for himself in 2014. The truck he ordered (the one you see here and on our cover and centerfold this month) is a 2015 Peterbilt 389 with a 48-inch flattop sleeper, a 280-inch wheelbase, and Medium Ivy Green and Black Effect paint. The truck is powered by a 600-hp Cummins hooked to an 18-speed and 3.25 rears, and is equipped with Low-Air suspension and a car-hauler front axle. Knowing he was going to do a lot of customizing to the rig, he ordered it with no exterior extras – no cab lights, no visor, no exhaust, no rear fenders and just a stock front bumper. The interior was ordered with all the good stuff, but it remains stock.
Once the truck came in, George took it to the shop that does all of his work – Statewide Towing & Recovery’s Body Shop, Hydraulic Shop & Collision Center in Riverside, CA. Once there, the guys stripped the new truck and painted the frame Black Effect, as well as the visor (from ATA), deck plate (from Jericho Specialty Metals), cab and sleeper drop panels (from ATA), grille surround, air cleaners, front bumper, headlight buckets, fuel tanks, nine cab lights, and Hogebuilt rear fenders. A shock box was purchased from California Custom Truck Accessories in Fontana and then modified and installed by the guys in the shop, who also fitted the rig with an 8-inch Dynaflex “Original Monster Stack” exhaust system. Extra lights and other goodies were ordered through Mayen Truck Accessories in Fontana. The final touches included black Peterbilt emblems, hidden hood latches, and tons of pinstriping done by Rick VanDervort.
The entire truck build took about four months – it finally hit the road on May 7, 2015. A year later, it already has 100,000 miles on the odometer, which proves that George is working it. The trailer in the pictures here is a brand new 2016 West-Mark 6,700-gallon stainless milk tanker that has been completely polished and fitted with extra lights. This trailer was built special for George to display at the big farm show in Tulare, CA a few months back.
For the past 26 years, George has been married to his wife Veronica. The couple has two children – Justin (25) and Jake (21). Justin went to college and now works for the Gas Company, while Jake (AKA Jake Brake) now drives in the family business. Veronica has been by George’s side since the beginning, and the two of them run the entire operation – they have never had any dispatchers, managers or office workers – it’s just them. George wanted to thank his wife for all of her help over the years, and for putting up with all of the “unnecessary” chrome. He also wanted to thank John Richmond, his salesman at the Peterbilt dealer in Fontana, Harlen Stueve, for putting him in his first truck, and his dad, for teaching him the value of hard work.
George likes old things – he collects old cars, old gas pumps, old farm equipment and other old things, which he decorates his yard with. He currently has a 1959 and a 1960 Cadillac, an old 70s Challenger with a Hemi, and several old trucks, including a ‘64 Pete with a butterfly hood, a ‘63 cabover Pete, and others. Since he likes old stuff, he chose the location for our photo shoot – which was an old abandoned processing plant of some kind on Hwy. 43 just outside of Tipton, CA. Over the years, George has stopped at this place many times and poked around – it even has an old scalehouse. Undoubtedly, it has been vacant for well over 20 years, but it is still in pretty decent shape, and it made an interesting backdrop for our pictures.
Looking ahead to the future, for the past few years George has been pulling permits and developing a plan to open a scale and wash rack on his premises in La Puente (which is about 20 miles east of Los Angeles), but it is a slow and expensive process. Although the tanker business is booming and the hay is getting good, too, his goal over the next five years is to expand his brokering business and either downsize his fleet or pass the company on to his son, and then focus on the scale and wash rack.
Nothing was ever given to George – he started with nothing and then worked hard for everything. And as long as he can keep makin’ those nickels add up to bucks, he will continue to make cool “moooves” in his cool truck – whether that means pulling a polished milk tanker or a drop-deck loaded with hay. Either way, you can bet that George DeFrancesco and the rest of his drivers at DDT will look good doing it!