It takes faith to make the choices others won’t and to step out on your own – faith in yourself, your support structure and, for many, a higher power. At only 24 years old, Justin Troyer of Shedd, OR has leaned on his Christian faith on more than one occasion, making what some might consider “tough” decisions, but not Justin – this kid takes it all in stride. Raised to work, Justin has been part of the workforce since he was eleven years old. Buying his own truck a couple years ago was a big step, but he did it. And, having just paid off his cool cabover, this time next year, after he turns 25, he will go out on his own fully as an owner-operator with his own authority – and he can’t wait.
Born in Albany, OR, Justin is the youngest of twelve kids. Yes, you read that right – 12 kids! Growing up in a family with nine boys and three girls taught Justin to not only be strong and determined, but how to survive. When he was three years old, the family moved to eastern Oregon (Ontario), on the Oregon-Idaho border. Justin’s dad was a truck driver (he’s retired from driving now) and his grandfather spent much of his life working in the logging industry way back when, in British Columbia, Canada, way out in the sticks. Currently, Justin’s dad owns a welding shop and does some farming.
When Justin turned 11, he began working for the local farmers. Being hard-working and industrious, Justin saved the money he earned. When he was in 7th grade, he had saved enough money to take a trip to Belize in Central America to visit one of his sisters, who had moved there to do missionary work. Her and her husband had started a school down there, and Justin wanted to check it all out – and he loved it! In fact, he decided to stay and attend their school. He stayed in Belize for about a year and then went home, but he did not go back to school, he started working full-time.
Being raised in a Mennonite family, Justin attended private schools for most of his life. He had a solid foundation of faith, but he really disliked school and the politics and problems that came with organized religion. After leaving Belize and going home, he just didn’t want to go back to school – he was ready to work – so 8th grade was the last year of education he completed. Going to work in the concrete business, Justin’s next few years were a blur. Loving to travel, he would work at a job for a few months, save his money, and then take a trip. He traveled much of the United States and Canada, often visiting siblings that had moved away, and took several trips back to Belize.
When he was 18 years old, Justin went to Alberta, Canada, to do some logging work. Since his mother had been born up there, Justin could claim dual citizenship and get a Canadian truck driver’s license (they call it a Class 1 license). He spent most of his first year in Canada hauling logs on ice roads in a Kenworth T800, and then switched over to loading log trucks and working on the landings the second year. He really liked loading – and he was really good at it. He made a lot of money that year (sometimes as much as $600 a day), but he didn’t like living up there, in the middle of nowhere, so he eventually came back to Oregon. When he got back to the US, the DMV did not recognize his Canadian license, so he had to go through the entire process, again, to obtain his CDL here.
Around 2011, Justin’s dad decided to quit trucking and parked the rig he had been driving for almost ten years behind his shop, where it sat for a few years. While Justin was away in Canada, he thought a lot about that truck – an old Kenworth cabover – and decided that when he went back, he would buy it from his dad so he could fix it up and start working for himself. Once he got back, Justin got a job as a welder at Mil-Stak, a company that manufactures hay bale stackers and equipment. He did this for a year, while working on the truck, and did a little trucking on the side hauling hay, as well. Once the truck was ready to hit the road, about two years ago, Justin officially bought it from his dad and started trucking in it full-time. Justin used the money he had saved to fix it up, so his dad carried the paper on a two-year loan for the actual truck itself. Justin just finished paying it off and recently got the title in the mail!
The truck was originally bought by Justin’s father, Loren, at an auction in 2002. Back then, it had a really long wheelbase (probably for a drom box), a single stack, and was painted black with a white cab. It was also covered in tar – it took a few days just to wash the tar off it. Justin, his dad and a few of Justin’s brothers worked together to get the truck ready for dad to run. They cleaned it up, shortened it up (to 215 inches), added a second pipe, and got it running smooth. After that, dad drove it until 2011, when he quit driving and parked it.
When Justin got back from Canada, about three years ago, he started working on the truck. He and his dad spent a year getting it ready for Justin to run, while he worked as a welder at Mil-Stak. They began by tearing the 1994 Kenworth K100E down and then rebuilt everything. The engine is the truck’s original 500-hp Cummins N14, which was rebuilt about 700,000 miles ago, but it still ran great so they left it alone. The KW’s 13-speed transmission is original, too. They built a custom rack for the exhaust, which is also the truck’s air intakes, had custom battery boxes made and installed them under the cab, rebuilt the light bar on the back, moved the tanks forward, and then painted the entire chassis, and some of the accessories, a medium metallic blue. Justin also made his own air bag system for the front axle.
Once the heavy lifting was done, they took the truck to the Peterbilt dealer in Boise where the cab was painted a metallic cream color with blue flakes in it. After that, they installed a drop visor, 8-inch exhaust, high-intensity headlights with LED light bars, Hogebuilt quarter-fenders, stainless steel tank straps, and a custom-made polished aluminum deck plate. All the lights, including the cab lights, were switched over to LEDs, and a custom front bumper was added. The truck was fitted with 22.5 low-profile tires, five bullet-style LEDs were mounted on the rear light bar, along with a piece of aluminum with diamond shapes pressed into it, and then the truck was lettered and pinstriped, all in vinyl, by Van Dyke’s Signmakers in Tangent, OR.
When the truck was finished, Justin moved back to the western side of Oregon to help his brother for a few months who had a line-haul between Halsey, OR and Seattle, WA. Pulling pneumatic tanks, Justin did this for a while, and then leased on at Linn West out of Tangent, OR. As much as he wanted to become a true owner-operator, to do so at such a young age would have cost him a small fortune (mostly for insurance). Once he turns 25 next year, he plans to go out on his own, but he’ll continue to pull loads for Linn West, as well.
At first, Justin rented a trailer from Linn West, but last summer (July 2016) he purchased his own 1988 Ravens 48-foot flatbed with a black curtain and blue accents. The blue on the trailer does not match his truck exactly, but he plans to remedy that soon. Hauling mostly bagged and palletized grass seed and fertilizer, Justin primarily runs in Oregon, Washington and Idaho. Although the exact mileage of his truck is unknown, based on mileages at rebuilds and such, he estimates that the Kenworth probably has about 1.4 million miles on it.
One day in November 2014, Justin stopped to get coffee, and fell in love with the barista. After meeting Kesley and chatting with her a bit, he asked her out. He knew almost immediately that she was the one, and exactly one year and one day after meeting, the two were married on November 14, 2015. And, almost nine months to the day later, their daughter Layna was born (she is six months old now). When asked if Justin wants to have a large family, he said, “No, just four or five.” Not a surprising answer, from a guy who grew up with 11 siblings!
Most of Justin’s siblings are still pretty close, although many of them have moved away to places like Montana, Texas, Massachusetts, Colorado, California, and the one in Belize. Most of his siblings are not into trucking, but he does have two older brothers that are – Lowell (44) drives an orange 1984 Pete 359 and Herb (34) drives a 1982 Freightliner cabover. Justin’s dad still “plays” with trucks a bit, too, currently restoring an old Western Star. Justin wanted to thank his parents, who have been married for almost five decades, for all their help over the years, and his wife, Kesley, for the support she gives him each and every day.
Trucking is not always an easy job – Justin recently had a steer tire blow out after running over some broken chain on I-84 in the Columbia River Gorge, during a snowstorm, in the middle of the night. Because the roads were so bad, he had to just sit and wait on the side of the icy highway, in 20-degree temperatures, praying that nobody would lose control and hit his truck, which was sitting just three feet from the side of the road, for over 17 hours, waiting to get help. Justin said, “Days like that help you to really appreciate the good ones.”
Justin does not drive this old cabover out of necessity – he drives it by choice. When asked how long he will continue to run it, he said, “Until it won’t go no more!” Justin likes being a one-truck operation, and has no interest in growing, except to maybe add a second truck at some point as a spare/back-up rig. Faith is defined as confidence or trust in a person or thing, seen or unseen, and it takes a lot of faith to truck, these days. Thankfully, Justin Troyer has a deep faith, above everything, that keeps him grounded and driving forward.