In generations past, it was not uncommon for trucking families to exist for multiple generations. Today, however, that is becoming more and more rare, so when I come across a trucking family that remains in the industry together, I pay attention. The knowledge and history these people have tell a story, filled with pride for this industry, that has stood the test of time. This is one of those stories. A story of one man’s love for a truck, which was passed down to his son, and remains two generations strong.
Everett Rotert drove many trucks during his 49-year driving career, but among those trucks he owned, one of them had a future to stay in the family. Together, with his wife Ruth, they raised nine children on the family farm, located about four miles outside of the town of Montrose, MO, where they have remained lifelong residents. As the kids grew up, summers would be spent riding with Everett in one of his trucks or just enjoying being country kids, including fishing on the bank of the creek that ran through their property.
Being the third oldest of the nine kids, Duane had quite an interest in trucks and trucking, and was often found riding with his dad whenever possible – and sometimes he was even found behind the wheel in his early teens. In 1973, two milestone events took place: Duane turned 18 years old and obtained his Chauffeur’s License, and his dad Everett purchased a slightly used 1972 Kenworth W900A. Everett drove the Kenworth until Duane came on-board full-time in 1978, a year after moving to town, and would remain that way for over eight years, until Duane opened up Rotert Body Shop LLC in Montrose. At that point, Duane still did short runs with the truck part-time, but only to help during the harvest season.
In 1996 this Kenworth saw its first makeover with the removal of its 36-inch sleeper, which was replaced with a larger 60-inch sleeper. The 60-inch sleeper was off a 1978 Kenworth that had been in a rollover wreck. The right side of the sleeper had been damaged, but between Duane and Everett, it was repaired, and then the truck received a new paint job. The exterior work was all done in-house, including the subframe and the addition of an air-ride cab and sleeper. The interior of their Kenworth came with a “Splendor” interior and the new sleeper had a “VIT” interior, so the truck was sent out to a man in East St. Louis and the interior of the cab was made over to match the VIT interior of the sleeper.
Proud of the fact that only a few times has this truck been out of their hands and in the hands of someone else, Duane and his dad did almost all the work themselves – there isn’t a nut or bolt that they haven’t touched at one point or another. The truck has always been home on weekends, except for the occasional run that had it out longer. The usual run at that time was hauling oats out of South Dakota to Oklahoma. This was a steady rotation of three loads one week and two loads the next. Duane told me about a time when he was out hauling the last load of the week, where he came in on Friday afternoon and, between he and his father, they overhauled the motor, and Duane was back in South Dakota loading that Monday morning.
Having never owned a truck prior, in 2004 his dad decided to sell the truck, and Duane knew he needed to buy it. Since then, Everett passed away in 2013 at the age of 83, but the family farm remains in the family, as one of Duane’s younger brothers and sister purchased the property and have continued running the small crop farm operation there. Everett’s wife Ruth turns 88 this August and has since relocated into the nearby town of Montrose.
2016 would mark the beginning of the truck’s 2nd restoration, beginning with new frame rails. In 2017, the rig got new paint, some additional chrome and a transition from the original 13-speed Eaton Fuller transmission to an 18-speed Eaton Fuller. The change was made simply to have a few more gears to work with in the low range. The W900A also sports a Big Cam IV 400 Cummins under the hood, 3:55 rears, a 270” wheelbase, chrome pieces purchased from 4 State Trucks, an 18” Valley Chrome bumper, 6” Dynaflex straight pipes and Hogebuilt stainless steel full fenders.
The truck you see here today was unveiled at the 2017 4 State Trucks “Guilty By Association Truck Show” (GBATS) in Joplin, MO and also earned the February spot on the GBATS 2018 calendar. I saw this truck for the first time at that show, where I also had the opportunity to photograph it, along with Christopher Fiffie of Big Rig Videos, for 4 State Trucks. Timing, scheduling and winter delayed my opportunity to tell its full story – until now!
Along with his wife Jenay, Duane is a lifelong resident of Montrose, MO. They welcomed me to their home when we made plans this past May for me to drive up to photograph this piece of history. Montrose is definitely “small town USA” – everyone knows everyone, and everyone in town is friendly and welcoming. Photo locations were all taken in or around the town of Montrose. The KW is still on the payroll, which puts on about 15,000 miles a year during the fall harvest and can be found pulling a 42-foot 2009 Timpte Super Hopper.
In the trucking industry, there is plenty of stories and history to learn, but these multi-generation trucking families have become a rarity, and a single truck taking on two generations is even more rare. Thank you to the trucking families that keep the love for trucks and the industry alive, who have instilled a work ethic in the future generations, so they may continue the legacy, and not get left behind. As always, to all the drivers out there doing the deal, truck safe.