When you drive a flashy truck and have flashy toys, there is never a dull moment. Brian Dreher of Campbellsport, WI has always been a fan of bright colors, and that preference has led him to own a lot of colorful trucks and other things, like snowmobiles and boats, over the years. His orange and blue combination featured here is a perfect example of his taste in trucks – he likes them to stand out.
Leased to Midwest Refrigerated Services (MRS) out of Milwaukee, WI for years, Brian and his wife Teresa own 13 trucks, currently running nine of them. With no outside office or shop help, Brian and Teresa do it all themselves. Running this truck between April 1 and November 20, Brian has averaged 65,000 miles a year since putting it on the road in 2016. Through the harsh Wisconsin winter months, he parks this beauty, which has no vinyl graphics (it’s all paint) and runs whatever other truck he has available. So, for those of you who think this truck isn’t used regularly, you are wrong. It might not run as hard as some others out there, but it runs!
Born in 1962 and raised in southeastern Wisconsin, Brian still lives within three miles of where he grew up. Brian (56) grew up around trucking – sort of. Brian’s dad was a truck driver, but when he and Brian’s mom started having kids, wanting to be home more, he quit driving and took a job at the local power company. He worked there for about ten years, until Brian was about 16 years old (1978), and then just couldn’t stay away any longer. Trucking has a way of dragging you back, and Brian’s dad just couldn’t resist that pull any longer. Buying a slightly used 1977 R-model Mack, his dad began pulling an end dump trailer.
Growing up, Brian was very athletic and played all the sports, but something happened when he began working – he got hooked. At 12, he got a job at a nearby horse ranch and worked 10 hours a day in the summer. Throughout the next few years, he would return to the horse ranch each summer and really liked it. When he was just 14 years old, he met Teresa in school and today, after getting married in 1981, they have been together for over 40 years. At 16, Brian started driving with his father, and at 18 he began going out in his dad’s truck by himself, but he still didn’t have a license to drive truck.
When Brian was 18, after graduating high school, he was all set to go to college – he even had money saved up for it. But then the trucking bug bit him. Brian and his two brothers chipped in and gave their parents a week-long vacation as a gift, but Brian’s dad said he couldn’t afford to shut his truck down for a week, so Brian filled in for him. Running between Portage, WI and Rothschild, WI as fast as he could, hauling coal in that R-model Mack hooked to a 26’ Dorsey end dump, that was it – he realized that he wanted to drive truck, and he never went to college.
Still working at the horse ranch in 1981, making $3.25 an hour as a full-time employee, Brian really needed to get a better job. Married now with a baby on the way, he started looking for a driving job, but there just weren’t any to be found. He also could not prove his driving experience, because it was all done with his dad, even though he was backing up hay trailers when he was 12 years old on the ranch. Eventually, he met a guy named Bill who had a brokerage that said, “If you buy a truck and trailer, I’ll put you to work.” So, Brian bought a used 1978 GMC Astro cabover and a 1975 Brown 45’ reefer trailer and (unofficially) began his trucking career.
This new trucking gig was over-the-road, and since Brian was not old enough to do that, he found a guy with a Chauffeur’s license (before they became a CDL) and the two became a team. After just a few months, this guy decided he didn’t want to truck anymore, so he got out of the truck – but he gave his license to Brian to use. Back then, they did not have a picture on them, so Brian became “Jeff” for a while. After about a year, the real Jeff wanted to get back into trucking, so he asked for his license back – he even got a job based on Brian’s experience! It took Brian one night at a local bar to find another license, and now he became “Rick” for a while.
After being pulled over in Chicago by a trooper that thought he might be overweight (he wasn’t), Brian was relieved when the cop never asked to see his license. But, by this time, Brian realized he was pushing his luck, so in the spring of 1982 he got his license. At that point, he had no verifiable experience, even though he had been trucking for over three years. After he gave Rick’s license back, he got into trucking again, too. To this day, all three of these men (Brian, Jeff and Rick) are still trucking, and doing rather well. This scenario couldn’t happen today, but it is funny how it all played out back then.
In those days, trucking was good. Brian paid for his tractor in nine months and his trailer in six. He drove that blue and white GMC Astro, powered by an 8V71T Detroit hooked to a 13-speed, for almost two years and never put a dime into it – not even one tire. Eventually, that old 8V71T got tired, so Brian re-powered the truck with a 445-hp Silver 8V92 Detroit and put a new 13-speed behind it. To this day, he loved that setup more than any other he’s driven.
When he was 22, he answered an ad he saw for work in the cryogenics industry and got the job. Parking his reefer and hooking to their tankers, he began hauling oxygen and nitrogen for a company based out of Anaheim, CA (Logex) in 1983. Running between Minneapolis and Milwaukee, he hauled nitrogen for the computer industry (they use it to create an oxygen-free environment for the manufacture of computer microchips) and oxygen to various Air Force bases. Brian did this for six or seven days a week for almost 10 years – until 1992.
During his time with Logex, he bought some trucks. In 1985, he bought his first new rig – a “Liberty Edition” Kenworth K100 cabover with a 400 Cummins, a 13-speed and a special paint scheme (blue with red and white stripes). Driving this new rig himself, he put a driver in the GMC, and this driver loved that GMC so much, he bought it from Brian. Needing another rig, Brian bought a new 1986 Kenworth T600 Aerodyne in June 1985 – quite possibly the first one ever sold in Wisconsin. He got a lot of flak from his friends for buying this sloped-nose “anteater” truck, but Brian really liked it. Painted silver and blue and featuring the “Kenworth Express” paint scheme, it got great mileage and was very comfortable to drive – and it was fast, too.
Driving the new T600 himself, Brian put a team in the Liberty Edition Kenworth. In 1988, he traded the Liberty Edition cabover in and bought a new two-tone rose Peterbilt 377 with a 444 Cummins and a 13-speed (he had a thing for those early aero trucks). Wanting to “juice up” the engine, he installed an alcohol injection system, which gave him 150 added horsepower and increased his efficiency by 1 mpg. This system worked so good, Brian claims, that the government bought the company making it and then shut it down. Driving the 377 Pete himself, he put a team in the T600. Unfortunately, the T600 was destroyed and burned to the ground in a fiery accident while hauling oxygen. In 1990, he replaced it with a raspberry-colored FLD120 Freightliner with a 70-inch integral sleeper and a 400 Cummins hooked to a 13-speed.
In 1992, after leaving Logex, he hauled liquid hydrogen for about six months, but it was way too stressful pulling a 13,000-gallon bomb around, so he went back to his roots pulling a reefer. Going to Wis Pak Transport, he started running LTL reefer freight. This company, which made frozen hamburger patties and moved LTL freight along with them, was later bought by Cargill. Not wanting to keep the LTL freight division, they sold it to the folks that created Midwest Refrigerated Services (MRS), the outfit Brian has been with for the past ten years.
In keeping with his traditions of buying brightly colored trucks, in 1994 Brian ordered a new Kenworth W900. Initially ordered in canary yellow, after seeing a local truck painted that exact same color, Brian changed his order at the last minute to pink. Pulling a matching pink trailer, this combo was striking, for sure, and this was way before all the cancer awareness trucks began to appear. This KW, powered by a 460-hp N14 Cummins, rode terrible and Brian never really liked it, so in 1998 he replaced it with a pink Freightliner Classic XL with turquoise and yellow stripes and a matching trailer. In 1998, he took this Freightliner combo to SuperRigs and earned a spot in their 1999 calendar.
In 2001 Brian purchased a new two-tone purple Peterbilt 379 with thin yellow and blue stripes and a matching reefer trailer, and in 2002 he bought a sharp yellow and green 2000 Peterbilt 379 from Ryan Stepp. Taking both of these units to the 2002 SuperRigs show, both were chosen to be featured in their 2003 calendar. Later, after running it a million miles, Brian redid the purple Pete and it made the calendar a second time (2011). Unfortunately, tragedy struck in 2013 when their shop, just behind their house, caught fire and completely burned with five of their trucks inside.
As you can see, Brian has had a lot of flashy rigs, painted in bright colors, but he wasn’t done yet. In 2013, he bought a new Freightliner Coronado, painted tangerine with purple stripes, and again made the Shell Rotella calendar in 2017 (this was his fifth truck to make it). Oddly enough, the combination featured here, which is awesome, did not make the calendar. The year they finished it and took it to SuperRigs (2016), they got there a little late, and by then his tangerine colored Freightliner had already been chosen, so this orange truck, quite arguably his best one to date, was out of luck.
2015 was a banner year for Brian Dreher Trucking – so much so, as the end of the year loomed, Brian and Teresa decided they needed to buy something. With a Kenworth T2000 just sitting parked with a viable drivetrain in it (no one wanted to drive the truck), they ordered a new Peterbilt 389 glider kit in September of 2015. Painted a dark “Hugger” orange and featuring a 312-inch wheelbase and a 72-inch standup sleeper, the truck arrived in December, just in time to have the T2000’s 475-hp Cat 6NZ and 13-speed transmission installed by Roger’s Relics in Waucousta, WI and to get it registered in time to receive the write-off. Not sure exactly what to do with it, they parked it for a few months while they came up with a game plan.
Tossing around a lot of ideas, Brian never dreamed they would take this project as far as they did. The first thing they thought about was the paint job. Reaching out to Jim Higgins at 12 Ga. Customs, known for his cool ideas regarding stripes and such on trucks, he was inspired by the paint job on Brian’s 35’ Kachina boat – which is dark orange with dark metallic blue “rips” throughout – and came up with a cool design utilizing this exciting scheme. From that point moving forward, it was game on!
Over the next few months, most of the work on Brian’s truck was done by Jeff at TA Truck Painting in Pewaukee, WI (the TA stands for Total Appearance). Once the paint scheme was all figured out, it was put on a transparency and projected onto the sides of the truck and trailer using an overhead projector like the ones used when you were in high school. Once the scheme was projected onto the truck as a template, the airbrushing was done over it. In addition to the Hugger Orange, metallic blue with black fogging was used for the tears. Also, the paint on the frame was split in two, with the front portion being orange and the rear section blue. Some people (even judges) do not notice this, but it is a pretty unique detail. Once the painting was done, the rest of the truck was put together.
Starting at the front and working around, the truck has a Valley Chrome bumper with a hydraulic lift kit, a polished 12 Ga. visor and breather panels, both fitted with “penny” LED lights, and painted 12 Ga. cab and sleeper panels with those same “penny” lights underneath. It also has an 8-inch Dynaflex exhaust, painted 12 Ga. battery box covers with custom-cut billet aluminum step plates (painted blue and then covered with clear protective vinyl so Brian can actually step on them), and polished stainless fuel tank straps, made by 12 Ga., with the tear scheme cut around the edges. Further back, the truck has painted-to-match WTI fiberglass fenders, a painted panel with lights between the painted fuel tanks, a smooth one-piece painted deck plate and a custom air-line connection box, made out of an old beer barrel from Stroh Brewery in Detroit, MI (Brian has had these beer barrels on several of his trucks).
The 2017 trailer is a 53’ spread-axle Great Dane, painted to match, with polished stainless lock rods and polished quilted rear doors. The painted WTI fiberglass fenders match the tractor, the front of the trailer is polished stainless, the painted reefer unit has a graphic painted on it that says “Cold Hard $$$” on the front, and everything that could be sanded and polished was done so by Jimmy and his crew from Cut Above out of Wildwood, FL.
Moving inside the truck, the interior has numerous painted pieces, a painted aluminum floor that extends from the cab back into the sleeper, a painted and polished steering wheel and billet foot pedals. The seats were redone with blue and orange leather, a painted fiberglass overhead console from Rockwood was added and the ceiling panel insert was painted to match the exterior scheme. Under the hood, the fresh 6NZ motor was painted metallic blue with orange valve covers and accents and includes custom air and water tubes – some are painted, and some are polished. The final touch was the name. When asked what she thought it should be called, Teresa said, “All I see is dollar signs when I look at this truck!” So, Brian named the truck $$$ and had graphics made to cover the stock Peterbilt emblems.
We met up with Brian and Teresa at the Top Gun Largecar Shootout in Rantoul, IL and shot the truck there. Working hard to get the truck cleaned up, the couple got lots of help from two of their granddaughters – Hailey (12) and Isla (11) – who did all the fancy tire lettering. Their efforts were rewarded when they got the Best of Show trophy in the “Over the Top Combo” class. With five daughters – the first four are grown and in their 30s, while the last one is still in high school – it isn’t hard to imagine Brian driving a colorful (even pink) truck. Back when the girls were younger, they loved going to the shows and helping dad clean his truck – it has always been a family affair, for sure.
In addition to trucking, which Brian still loves, he enjoys riding snowmobiles in the winter, taking his boat out in the summer and golfing all year long. Brian and Teresa both love to golf and do it several times a week in the warmer months. When they take vacations, they always bring their golf clubs along, as well. However, Brian is not interested in golfing just for fun. Being a very competitive person – in golf and everything else – he loves to bet. “If there isn’t any money on the line, it just isn’t as fun,” he said.
Not wanting to get any larger, Brian and Teresa Dreher are happy with the size of their operation. In fact, as their older drivers begin to retire (some have been with them for over 20 years), they may not replace them and instead remove their truck from the fleet. Brian and Teresa have a great bunch of guys working for them, and trucking has been very good to their family. And after all these years, most of the time, Brian still can’t wait to get out on the road and go trucking. This fun couple works hard to play hard, and sometimes, they play harder than they work. But one thing is for sure – there is never a dull moment at Brian Dreher Trucking!