As some of you may know, there are various ways we happen upon the trucks we feature – through travel, at shows, and sometimes word of mouth. With word of mouth, it is a matter of meeting the right people and being at the right place at the right time. When I find a good-looking truck, it is more than just the opportunity to photograph the truck, it is also about being able to find out the story behind it and the individual behind the wheel, as well. This 389 was no different, with the proof in the photos that sometimes, timing is everything.
Back in the middle of June was the annual Shell Rotella SuperRigs event, held at White’s Travel Center in Raphine, VA in 2018. I was there for work, but also happy to be attending a show on my birthday! Like all of us do, taking the time to have lunch was a good idea, and so was the BBQ place that was found. Also working at the show was Chris Fiffie of Big Rig Videos and, with the planning of what needed to be done during the event, he joined me for lunch.
As you all know, Big Rig Videos is a household name in the trucking industry, so it is no surprise that he is recognized by people wherever he goes – and this is where meeting the right people at the right time came about. While eating lunch, Chris was approached by a tall cowboy who sat down and began talking to him. The cowboy? Chad Blackwell, owner of Blackwell Cattle Service, and proud May 2013 cover spot holder on our beloved 10-4 Magazine, with his 2007 Peterbilt 379 Legacy #2. Following a quick update on his life and recent cattle adventures, Chad offered up assistance, if we needed any locations for photo shoots, since he lives in the area.
I had a truck in mind that I was interested in doing a shoot of, but with available time (or rather lack thereof), it didn’t work out, but Chad mentioned HJH Trucking and that Adam and Jarrod Russell would be rolling through on Thursday, June 14, to load up on the morning of Friday, June 15. I ended up meeting up with Adam and Jarrod at White’s Travel Center that Friday at 7:30 in the morning to follow them to where they would be loading – at Chad’s place. I managed to get pictures of both the trucks that day in an opportunity most don’t get, photographing a truck getting loaded with livestock.
For those that don’t know, the big feed lots and stockyards, where there is loading and unloading of livestock, usually strictly prohibit photography of any kind. But, because it was Chad’s place, I was able to see first-hand Adam and his oldest son, Logan, working side-by-side, loading the trailer. If you didn’t see his face, you would think Logan was an old hand in this operation, even when moving the truck around.
Adam Russell, owner of HJH Trucking, Inc. out of Fieldon, IL, along with his brother Jarrod and their cousins, are part of the third generation of truck drivers in their family. Adam’s grandpa (mother’s father) Herbert Heitzig started trucking in 1939 hauling coal, livestock and grain locally. The second generation is comprised of Adam’s father Randy Russell and his Uncle Greg Heitzig (mother’s brother), who both still drive today. From what Adam says, as he talks about his oldest son and the following of his second oldest son, the next (fourth) generation of truckers in their family is almost a guarantee.
Learning to drive in his early teens, as most do who grow up in the crop farming industry, Adam always knew that he would drive truck – not because it was forced or because he was supposed to, but it is what he always wanted to do. One of the fondest memories for Adam when he was younger, at about age 13, was when his grandpa was relaying loads of grain for one of the local farms. Adam would load the trailer and pull it down the dirt and gravel roads to the highway, where he would meet his grandpa, and then they would drop and hook.
Back then, Adam’s grandpa and uncle Greg co-owned Heitzig Trucking, until his grandpa passed away in April of 1998. Adam’s grandma continued to run the company for another two years. In October of 2000, Adam purchased his first truck from his uncle – a 1997 Peterbilt 379 – and in January of 2001, HJH Trucking, Inc. got its authority. Adam came up with the name as a tribute to his grandfather, who started it all in their family, with using his grandfather’s initials as the company name, Herbert Joseph Heitzig.
In November 2003, Adam married his wife LeAnn and together they have five children – Logan (14), Ethan (12), Carly (10) and 8-year-old twin boys, Ben and Kade. To date, Adam’s favorite part about trucking is the interest his children have shown, with not only riding along but also helping out. As with most farming families, there is a close-knit bond throughout the family, and this one is no different (Logan is the one seen in the photo with his dad, Adam).
The pictured Peterbilt 389 is a 2009 that was purchased by HJH Trucking brand new in October 2008. This simple yet classy truck boasts a C-15 CAT with an 18-speed Eaton Fuller Transmission, 3:55 gear ratio and a 280” wheelbase. The exterior of the truck sports a tapered (from 20” to 18”) Valley Chrome bumper, a custom-built visor by Walter Brothers out of New Berlin, IL, 7” Lincoln Chrome exhaust and Hogebuilt stainless steel half fenders. In addition to this classy truck, it pulls a shiny 2018 Wilson livestock trailer behind it, as well.
I asked Adam what advice he would pass on regarding hauling livestock, and he simply stated that a driver needs to make sure the livestock he/she loads are fresh and healthy prior to loading. Once they are loaded, it is good practice to check on them regularly while in route to delivery to insure the livestock is riding good, and that they unload at the final destination in good health.
Today, HJH Trucking, Inc. runs nine trucks driven by family and friends including Adam, Jarrod, his father and cousins. Adam stated that the family atmosphere of the operation allows for everyone involved to work as a team and keeps everything running smooth. The company hauls grain, cattle and hogs locally, but also transports cattle and hogs over-the-road, as well.
For as long as I can remember, I have always been especially intrigued by the large cars pulling cattle pots and, for the most part, the “old school” look that has been passed down from generation to generation, as far as driver appearance, is pretty cool, too. It has been an honor to tell this man’s story and to benefit from another “timing is everything” moment.
The photos were taken on the road and at the loading facility, which is private property, operated by Blackwell Cattle Service. The loading location definitely proved to be a perfect spot for the truck photos and was certainly location-appropriate to what the truck does regularly. Special thanks to Chad Blackwell for his time, communication and assistance with setting this all up. As always, to all the drivers out there doing the deal, truck safe.