Heavy-haulers, by the very nature of their loads, stand out from the crowd. But some provide a knockout punch with big rides and even bigger specialized trailers, making them true heavy-haul heavyweights. Anker Trucking in Lynwood, IL has been at for decades, and their fleet of heavy-haul trucks, along with almost every size, shape and configuration of trailer, allows them to haul just about any type of machine or equipment, wheeled or otherwise, out there. And although they are not considered to be a “flashy” operation, their flagship purple and silver KW, driven by Joel Anker (33), might make one wonder.
Being a fireman for much of his life in South Holland, IL, Joel’s grandfather, William Anker Sr. (Bill), bought a 1967 Hendrickson truck and Ravens dump trailer and formed Anker Trucking in 1976. Hauling stone out of the Thornton Quarry, one of the largest aggregate quarries in the world, located just south of Chicago, this well-known quarry has been in operation since 1924. A year after Bill started trucking, his son William Anker Jr. (Billy) graduated from high school and joined him in the operation. Bill bought a new 1977 Hendrickson truck and Ravens dump trailer for himself and passed the ‘67 down to his son. They hauled stone for about six years.
In 1982, Billy bought himself a Kenworth with a sleeper and ran OTR for the next two years pulling food-grade tankers. In 1984, Joel’s grandpa Bill bought his second truck, a brand-new Peterbilt, along with a flatbed trailer, and began hauling concrete sewer pipes and other flatbed freight. Billy sold his tankers and, once again, joined his father.
Pulling flatbeds, lowboys and drop-decks and hauling all sorts of freight at first, by 1986 Anker Trucking was specializing in moving heavy machinery exclusively, and 30+ years later, that is still what they do. In his 80s now and semi-retired, Bill Sr. still does some escorting, but spends much of his time in Florida now, while Billy is still very active in the company and in a truck almost every day.
After high school, Joel went to community college to study business and welding – two things he knew he would need when the day comes for he and his brother Kyle (31) to take over the business. Learning to drive in the first new truck his dad ever bought, a 1990 KW W900L, Joel would drive the truck and trailer to school, attend his classes, and then work the rest of the day hauling loads. Joel’s younger brother Kyle headed to diesel tech school for a year or two after high school and has been in the shop ever since (he doesn’t drive).
Today, Anker Trucking operates about 15 trucks, six of which are quad axles, and over 70 trailers, including flatbeds, drop-decks, lowboys, stretch flatbeds, stretch drop-decks, single drops, double drops, beam trailers and various configurations up to 12-axles. Their latest trailer acquisition is a very specialized Faymonville MegaMax stretch lowbed trailer from Germany that has four axles that can self-steer or can be steered, by the driver, wirelessly from the cab. With a removable gooseneck, this trailer is rated to hold 100,000 pounds on the deck. Although Anker Trucking covers the entire United States (except for California), they usually operate within about a 300-mile radius of Illinois.
Most of the trucks in the Anker fleet are different colors with various paint schemes, and most are Kenworths. Along with several Kenworth T800s, there are a few “fancy” rigs, including a two-tone blue Kenworth W900L with a Seminole scheme, dad’s W900L with a Seminole paint scheme in black and blue, Joel’s old W900L, which is red with maroon fenders, a yellow and black KW, a nice gray KW, a red and white Peterbilt 379, and several others. But the fanciest of them all is Joel’s purple and silver Kenworth featured here.
With a stretched-out wheelbase and a large 72-inch sleeper, Joel’s previous KW was just too long and too heavy to accommodate his daily needs. So, in the winter of 2017, Joel ordered a new 2018 Kenworth W900L glider kit with a shorter wheelbase and a tiny sleeper – more like an “extra cab” to hold speakers and take cat naps (on your side) in! Joel was uncertain about what colors to choose, so he let his then 5-year-old daughter Reese pick them. She chose Metallic Purple Roam with Silver Effect stripes outlined with Dark Ash Rose (a red color).
The quad-axle rig was built in Kenworth’s Ohio assembly plant and then shipped in April 2017 directly to Ziegler CAT in Altoona, IA. Once the truck was in Iowa, it was fitted with a 625-hp C-15 engine, along with the rest of the drive-train, and then a 7-inch exhaust with deep-drop Pickett-style elbows, a painted visor from 12 Ga. Customs and some of the extra lights were installed. After all the initial work was done, the truck was brought to the Anker shop in June for everything else.
Not liking the quality of the factory paint on the frame, the first thing they did was strip it down, completely sand it, and then apply a few fresh coats of nice gloss black. The truck also got a polished stainless headache rack from Brunner Fabrication that has built-in hydraulic tanks in the center section, single hump stainless-steel rear fenders on custom brackets, and a 20-inch Valley Chrome box end “American Eagle” style front bumper.
Some of the smaller details added to this truck include specially-made stainless blinker boxes, mounted on top of the front fenders, designed by Joel and built by RoadWorks, painted mirror brackets and a rear light box from 12 Ga. Customs, billet fuel caps, small stainless cab and sleeper extensions and a stainless grille from RoadWorks.
All the added stainless, for the most part, came from Roadsknz, including the tank wraps and step covers (Joel is done with polishing aluminum, so everything is either stainless or painted on this truck). To make sure it looked good in the dark, Joel installed over 200 Trux Dual Revolution LED lights which can either be DOT-legal or all purple at the flip of a switch. Many of these lights are hidden underneath to create a nice purple glow at night. Toying with the idea of lowering the truck, Joel decided against it, not wanting to jeopardize any of its integrity, capability, practicality and usability.
This truck tested everyone’s patience, but everyone was happy with how it all turned out. Joel originally had the truck’s two silver stripes wrapping around the back of the truck, but his dad suggested a “swooping” design that ended on the sleeper, which some say looks like eyelashes. While Joel was not very excited about the design, it was his dad’s idea, and dad was writing the check, so the design stayed. Joel has come to accept the stripes now, but it is still an ongoing joke around the shop – but it’s all in good fun.
The interior of the KW is fairly stock, but it was ordered with every available upgrade and option, including that beautiful diamond-tuck leather, so it is nice and comfortable inside. Joel added a full stereo system, complete with 10-inch subs from JL Audio, amps and extra speakers, wrapped the steering column with stainless, and installed a purple glitter knob on top of the shifter. Joel considered going nuts on the interior, but again decided against it, knowing the harsh environments they often work in would probably trash it.
Joel’s brother Kyle, who did a lot of the work on the truck, added a few extra touches of his own. He built custom dust deflectors for the air valves and air drier, so when they release air, it doesn’t go straight down and create a dust cloud that ends up on the truck (his deflectors divert the air off to the side). He also made custom grease guards that go around the U-joints to help contain the grease and keep it from flinging all over the underside of the truck. Joel wanted to thank his brother, along with Anker’s shop manager Rob, for all their help building and maintaining the rig.
Once the truck was finished, it made its debut at the Top Gun Largecar Shootout in Rantoul, IL in July of 2017. At that first show, since the truck was basically brand new, it was put in the Limited Mileage Bobtail classes, where he took 1st place in its class, 1st place in lights, and Best of Show! This event is where we first saw the truck and met Joel. In fact, our good friend Josh Rietveld, who just happens to have grown up with Joel and is one of his neighbors, made sure to tell us about the truck and convinced us to take a good look at it and consider it for a future cover. I don’t think we would have missed that Kenworth’s bright-colored paint, but thanks still go out to Josh for always lookin’ out for us and steering us in the right direction.
Unfortunately, we did not have the time to shoot pictures during that 2017 show, but we kept in touch with Joel throughout the year and were able to finally get it done at the 2018 event. Hey, good things come to those who wait! At the 2018 show, now competing in the Working Bobtail classes, Joel took home a 3rd in his class and another 1st in lights.
When Joel is not out hauling some big piece of equipment or working on the trucks, his young family keeps him busy. Married to his wife Ashley since New Year’s Eve 2012, the couple recently celebrated their 7th wedding anniversary and have three children – Nathan (9), Reese (6) and Eli (1). Of all the kids, Eli seems to be the one who loves trucks the most. Joel enjoys riding dirt bikes, playing hockey and washing trucks, which he finds to be very relaxing. Ashley attended Purdue University in Indiana and earned her teaching credentials. She recently began working at an elementary school as a teacher’s aide and is hoping to become a full-fledged teacher soon.
Eventually, Joel and his brother Kyle (who is married to Maria and has a one-year-old son named Troy) will take over the company, but not for a while. After all, Joel’s grandpa and father are still involved after all these years, and Joel’s dad still runs the show. When it does happen, Joel would like the company to stay the same size (if not shrink), because a specialized operation like this requires the owners to be very hands-on and involved. “As an owner, you need to watch everything, and being bigger just makes it tougher to do that,” says Joel. It sounds like Joel chooses quality over quantity, and that’s a good thing!
Back in the day, Joel enjoyed going to shows, but with young children, travel can be difficult. Now that they are getting a bit older, he is hoping to attend a few more, including events in Rantoul (IL), Waupun (WI), Kasson (MN) and Joplin (MO), at the least. But, Joel won’t just dead-head to a show – that would be wasteful. In fact, he won’t go anywhere out of his way unless he has a load on-board paying for his fuel. The company still owns the 1990 Kenworth W900L that Joel learned to drive in, but the truck is retired now. Joel would like to completely rebuild it soon and take it to the shows. I wonder if hauling your own show truck on your lowboy counts as a “load” going to a show?
A very simple and quiet guy, Joel wanted to send special thanks out to his wife for her continued help and patience, his grandpa and father for their support and getting this whole operation started, his brother Kyle and shop manager Rob for all their help building and maintaining the rig, and his brother-in-law Josh Evans, who is always a big help cleaning the truck when getting it ready for a show.
Joel Anker may be a calm and collected guy, but once he steps into the ring (or climbs up into the cab in this case), he is a certified heavy-haul heavyweight with a knockout punch that can’t be ignored – a flashy bright purple Kenworth that gets the job done!