Some people are born with a drive to start and do new things, while others are taught (raised) to be that way. For Patty Banks Thompson, both scenarios applied. Born into a strong trucking family with an entrepreneurial spirit, she was shown from day one by her parents, Jim and Maxine Banks, the importance of doing her own thing and owning her own business. And that entrepreneurial spirit later helped her start, run and grow her own trucking operation, called MAT Transportation, out of Junction City, Oregon, that is still going strong today, after over 30 years of service.
The Banks family started their trucking adventures up in the Pacific Northwest over a half century ago when Jim Banks of Eugene, Oregon, decided to fire up a company of his own. In 1958, Jim met an independent, strong, young woman named Maxine who owned a local cafe she called the “Tie up Cafe” located on Highway 99 in Eugene. Maxine’s cafe specialized in treating truckers right (she made at least 20 pies each morning along with her famous rolls made from scratch). Naturally, Jim and Maxine had a lot in common, and later got married. After that, their dual entrepreneurial energy took off.
Eventually owning and operating over 50 dump trucks, Jim tackled a stronghold within the quarry industry, then named his business Ace Gravel, to insure his company would be one of the first for folks to come across in the phone book (anyone remember those). Jim was a true business man, and the apple didn’t fall far from the tree! Jim and Maxine raised four kids – Donnie, Randy, Freddy and Patty – and all went on to become entrepreneurs, as well.
Continuing their entrepreneurial paths throughout the 60s and 70s, Jim and Maxine both worked hard to grow their business, and they also raised four kids along the way. Like all families, the Banks family had all the normal ups and downs, both in business and in normal family day-to-day life. But, one thing is for sure, all their kids watched and learned from them.
Patty Banks Thompson, their only daughter, born in 1960, figured out very young that to succeed she’d better be determined. And, growing up with three brothers, Patty had her independent strength and motivation pretty much figured out by the time she graduated from Siuslaw High School in 1978.
Like many kids raised in trucking, Patty had a roaming spirit, which is most likely why she decided to pack up and move to Minneapolis, Minnesota, and enroll in ‘travel school’ to learn about the airline and travel industry. Patty began to have second thoughts when she learned that her only real job placement opportunities after school were along the eastern seaboard, and with that in mind, along with the frigid cold Minnesota winters, Patty’s independent spirit kicked in and led her to try something new – and warmer! Patty moved to Hawaii of all places, and trained to be a photographer, and also worked as a bartender. Hawaii was a great experience for Patty, but by 1981 she realized her home was back in Oregon, so back to Oregon Patty went.
After returning to Junction City, Patty quickly began helping her mom and dad, along with the rest of the Banks family, operating a local trucking outfit that her parents ran. Throughout the 80s, Patty learned a lot of trucking’s details, such as finding and brokering loads, as well as maintaining a good group of flatbed drivers and equipment.
By the late 80s the trucking industry proved to be where Patty wanted to try her own hand at entrepreneurism, and that is exactly what she did, along with her then-husband, in 1988, when they formed MAT Transportation. Starting out with less than a handful of used cabovers, including a yellow Peterbilt 352, all of them were spec’d with long wheelbases for hauling long materials such as laminated beams, as well as many other commodities. Patty based her office and shop just west of Junction City, Oregon, on several acres along Highway 36, and this was also where she lived. Her office was a single-wide trailer, and the shop was a single-bay metal building. Her house was a small modular home, and Patty was more than happy with all of it!
During the 1990s, the company experienced a lot of growth, both in adding company trucks, as well as owner operators. In the early 90s, the company ordered several nicely spec’d long-wheelbased Freightliner cabovers of various colors to add to their fleet of mainly International trucks. Over-length truss beams were a big part of MAT’s freight volume, so these trucks had to have a lot of room for frontal overhang. These trucks were very well maintained and hand-washed every weekend.
On a quick side note, I’ll always take pride in how well this fleet was washed, because I was the squirrelly 16-year-old kid that washed them! In fact, Mikey, born in 1992, Patty’s first son, would occasionally walk out to the parking area in his diaper (see one of the photos) and wait for me to begin washing a wheel, then grab the hose and soak me with water! Those were good times and great memories that I will cherish forever.
By 1994, Patty had another son, Brandon, and from that day forward, Brandon has proved to be just as ornery as his big brother! In 1997, Patty made a big upgrade when she moved MAT’s office and shop into a larger facility in Junction City, Oregon – after all, by this time MAT Transportation was operating over 30 company trucks and had several owner operators. Big changes also took shape on the home front, as well, as Patty leveled their old modular home and had a beautiful new house built. The next year, in 1998, Patty’s first daughter Nichole was born, and she was just as energetic as her two older brothers, making for a very busy house.
Time tends to fly, and in Patty’s case, there’s no exception. Raising three kids and running a trucking company for all these years has made her one thankful woman. They’ve gone from cabovers to 379s, Western Stars, and now to 389s, all spec’d with their own personalities, just like her kids. Mikey Thompson, her oldest, plays a vital role in the company dispatching loads, purchasing equipment and running the shop, and his younger siblings, Brandon and Nichole, help and participate in the family business in much the same ways. Patty smiles every day at the thought of her own children growing up learning their entrepreneurial spirits in much the same way her parents taught (showed) her.
Today, MAT Transportation runs 11 trucks, throughout the 11 Western States, mainly running to LA, Salt Lake City, Las Vegas and Phoenix. They’ve had good luck with most of their trucks, ranging from Freightliner Classics to Western Stars, along with a few Volvos and other “aero” models peppered-in lately. But, over the last few years, Mikey has begun to go with his instincts, and as these trucks age out they are being replaced with more traditional Peterbilt 389s. Mikey makes sure to spec each truck with a different flavor, as driver individuality is a big thing, and MAT Transportation understands that.
The industry has changed volumes since Patty’s early days in the 70s, and she will be the first to thank all their good, hard-working drivers for making this family business run smooth. A well-deserved change Patty has seen over her decades in the trucking industry has been the way women are now held in the same respect as men throughout all aspects of her day-to-day ventures. Patty, we here at 10-4 commend your entrepreneurial spirit and thank you, and your family, for sharing!