Anyone’s last dollar is either spent wisely or spent with not knowing where the next dollar will come from. Some people spend every last penny they have on a dream because they believe, without a shadow of doubt, this is what they were meant to be doing. The last dollar was included in buying this truck and seemed fitting for Eric Dias to also name his company, Last Dollar, Inc. This is the story of one man, the dream he wasn’t willing to forego, a Peterbilt 379 and the many miles they have run together.
Born on March 11, 1987 and raised in Riverside, CA, Eric sort of grew up around trucks. His grandmother and aunts worked at Little Sisters Truck Wash, giving Eric the opportunity to sit in the seats of some of those trucks. Growing up, his family had a small farm raising hogs and his dad had an old cabover which he would ride along in. Eric had a passion for loud pipes and trucks lit up at night, with his most sought-after sights of bull haulers. The trucks weren’t always the cleanest, but what they brought to the road in lights and sounds was something that always turned his head. Eric’s father had an auto mechanic shop which gave Eric the chance to learn how to take motors apart and put everything back together again.
Eric’s parents divorced just before he entered middle school and it wasn’t until his mom started dating a trucker named Brad when an ignited love for the trucking lifestyle was started. This company driver taught Eric the ins and outs of driving, and probably hasn’t realized the impact he made on Eric’s life. A lost art with modern technology today is being able to read a paper map or atlas, with digital versions available today, including GPS. Brad taught Eric how to read a map and how to shift a truck from the passenger seat, which gave Eric time to tune his ears into the motor and learned when to shift.
Riding with Brad on his summer vacations lasted until Eric obtained his driver’s license and started working. Eric recalled Brad getting into a new Freightliner Classic, but all the company trucks were governed. Thankfully, at that time, there was a way to cancel that. First thing Brad did when he got into the truck was take a gum wrapper and jump the wire as a bypass for the governor to cancel it out. When Eric was 13 or 14, he and Brad were coming across Arizona and Brad offered the driver’s seat to Eric. It only took Eric three or four times of starting and stopping before he was back on the highway. He drove for about 3-4 hours while Brad explained what all the gauges were for and how to maintain a comfortable running speed.
With Brad as a mentor in his early years, Eric learned what it meant to take pride in your truck with maintaining the appearance of it, inside and out. Brad paid him $20 per week to clean the rig’s interior and, one time, when the truck wash was closed, paid Eric $100 to clean the outside with Windex and paper towels. Brad always kept his truck clean and treated it as if it was his own, and this set a precedence for Eric which he would come to appreciate and utilize when he later would purchase his own truck.
Out of high school, Eric came to realize he was running with the wrong crowd. Needing a change of lifestyle to get on a positive path for life, he found himself in the Navy recruiting office. His purpose was not to be stationed on a ship, but to go overseas and, with his passion for heavy equipment, he enlisted in the Navy as an equipment operator (also known as a Seabee), who are responsible for going on location first to set up the runways, etc. When Eric left boot camp, he graduated at the top of his class and with the option of going to California or Mississippi, he was sent to Gulfport, MS in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. After two weeks in Mississippi, he was deployed to Kuwait, which was the first of twelve deployments he would complete before discharging from the Navy after ten years of service.
In 2009, Eric purchased a home while stateside in Virginia and then got his first real taste of trucking, driving unmarked military trucks cross-country. He drove a yellow Western Star LowMax, complete with dual stacks and a 36” bunk. Over his ten-year span in the Navy, Eric accrued plenty of leave which was left unused. So, when he started the process of discharging instead of re-enlisting, he began using his leave on October 15, 2014 when he took a job working in the oil fields on a drilling rig. With all the leave he had saved up, his actual discharge date was February 7, 2015. Never has he looked back with any regret of the ten years he spent in the Navy, stating that he loved it.
After some time, working a couple different jobs including running heavy equipment and turning wrenches for a construction company in New Mexico, Eric moved back to the home he still owned in Virginia in July 2015. A few months later, one of his buddies who worked for Quality Carriers told Eric he should come by and check them out, as they had a contract through DB Customs to purchase your own cool truck.
Eric contacted DB Customs with the specs he wanted for a Kenworth W900A, but, unfortunately, with the contract, they were unable to build a truck that old. His next choice was a flat-glass Kenworth W900L with a real flat top bunk. DB Customs said it could be done, but it would take a while to find. Then, a chance opportunity came for Eric to buy a Peterbilt 379 that had exactly the look he wanted, and although it wasn’t a Kenworth, the price was right, and he knew he had to have it.
Since purchasing the 2006 Peterbilt 379, Eric has turned it into exactly the truck he didn’t even know he wanted. Through late night talks over beer and hair-brained ideas between Eric and his close friends, this 379 has taken shape with one-off ideas and parts inspired by older generations of trucks. The truck boasts a C15 CAT, a 13 speed, 3:36 rears, a factory 285” wheelbase and pulls a 2020 Reitnouer Big Bubba flatbed trailer. The truck sports true Pete 359 headlights from a 1984 model, Double JJ bars, grill inserts, a bowtie visor, United Pacific low lights on the cab, 20” Valley Chrome bumper, 104 lights total on the truck, 7” drop panels with penny lights, a car-hauler front end, 8” Dynaflex pipes and Hogebuilt 34” quarter fenders.
With a lot of time put in, Eric and one of his best friends, James, have done a lot of custom work to the trailer, too. To continue the theme of using the quilted stainless on the truck, they boxed in the landing gear, added filler panels for the front axle and made top boxes (so there is no wasted space), all with quilted stainless panels. They also made an aluminum panel with lights to hide the quick connects, added Peterbilt mud flaps across the back, added California connections under the trailer, installed a load gauge inside one of the tool boxes, built custom racks under the trailer to carry the load lumber, added 29 lights and four 34” Hogebuilt quarter fenders. Eric intends on adding 10 more lights (which will be LED stop lights like you’d see on a school bus), installed under the trailer for under glow, and painting the landing gear the same color as the truck.
The truck would not have come together like it did without the help of close friends Ron Miles of RMJR out of Union Grove, WI and James Stegall and family of Stegall’s Truck Shop LLC out of Perryville, MO. Ron and Eric came up with the idea of a quilted stainless deck plate and sleeper panels over beers one night. The idea transpired from Eric’s love of Mercury sleepers and his desire to match the trailer doors of the refrigerated trailer he was hauling at the time. But what they thought would take 2-3 hours, actually took 3-4 days.
Much like this story, is the story of James and Eric taking on a challenge some have yet to figure out – to give a twist to a 13-speed transmission and have it not only look like an 18-speed, but give it the capability to function as one, too. After much trial and error, and a little help from an old-school mechanic who owns a junkyard, they replaced the regular shift knob with two push/pull plunger valves. The end goal was to have a full-time air supply going to the front and the back. They installed a “T” on the main air supply so both splitters were getting full-time air. What you see today is a 13-speed transmission that functions as an 18-speed, and although the gears are there, Eric still typically runs his truck as a 13-speed.
Now a resident of Perryville, MO, Eric still has more plans for the truck to finish it off and refresh some things. New additions to the truck will be an air ride kit on the front, 7” Lincoln Chrome stacks, a new bowtie visor (painted the same color as the current one with his company logo on the inside of the visor) and tight-stitched diamond leather dash wraps. You can check out this truck in person if you are planning on attending the Laid Back on I-55 truck show in Perryville, MO on August 23-24, 2019.
Special thanks to Eric Dias for making sure the truck was dialed in (if you’ve seen the truck, you know it always is), but more importantly for giving me the opportunity to tell your story. Thanks to Kathy and Dennis Stegall for their assistance with getting me in contact with people for photo locations, Tom Davis of Davis Farm Supplies of Perryville, MO for the usage of two locations on their farming land and Kevin Thieret, owner of Earthworks, Inc. out of Perryville, MO for the use of his property (including a tour) of the landscape he calls home.
I had never been to Perryville, MO before, but the welcoming nature of the residents and the beautiful landscape gave me a desire to visit there again, one day. As always, to all the drivers out there doing the deal, truck safe.