The state of Missouri is known for many things including the starting point for the famed Pony Express, the tallest man-made national monument in the United States dubbed “The Gateway to the West” and many trucking companies. Of the many trucking companies, there is one located outside of St. Louis, MO rich with family ties and memories of trucking days gone by.
Huellinghoff Bros., Inc. out of Union, MO was established in 1959 by Tony Huellinghoff who remained the president of the company until he passed from pancreatic cancer in 2003. In 2005, four of Tony’s five children finalized their partnership in taking the company over. Tony’s wife, Davelene, remains a formidable part of the operations with the weekly payroll, and at 77 years old, nothing is slowing her down. The oldest child, Mike is the current president, and he also drives full time. Kenny is a full-time carpenter in St. Louis, but he can also be found at the shop on weekends occasionally helping with odds and ends. He also runs the farming side of the outfit, Huellinghoff Farms, Inc. Nancy is the company secretary who takes care of the office operations. The youngest, John, is Vice President of the company, handling shop maintenance, dispatch relief, fill-in driver (regular driver during the busy season) and is the one who set up and drives the pictured W900. The land their shop is located on was purchased in 2009, and the building of the shop was completed in 2014.
As a child, John was hooked on trucks, so there was never a doubt of what he would be when he grew up. He rode with his dad whenever he could and obtained lots of memories. John’s dad usually drove between Missouri and Illinois, and he recalled a couple moments that stuck out in his head. Tony (John’s dad) had a routine he followed, which included regular stopping points and listening to AM55 in the morning, to the comical Frank Opinion.
On one trip with his dad, John experienced his first thundersnow on one New Year’s Eve in the 80s when there was thunder, lightning and it was snowing like crazy. The roads quickly became slick and they approached a one-lane bridge with a car coming in the opposite direction. John recalled his dad saying he hoped the car would stop because he didn’t know if he could, but the car maintained its course. Looking in the mirror, John saw the trailer starting to come around, but his dad smoothly recovered without any problems.
A favorite past time with his dad was stopping at the Tri County Truck Stop in Villa Ridge, MO (where the night shots were taken), which was a regular stop for his dad for food and fuel. Back in the day, this was a very popular truck stop where you would walk through the door, past the fuel desk and back to the north side of the building where the restaurant was located. It was the type of place where everyone knew everyone else. It was unfortunate, as with most of the mom and pop truck stops across these United States, they closed their doors in the late 1980s, and it has remained abandoned ever since, even with reports of it being haunted.
John started his working career doing field maintenance (throwing bales, rock picking, weed pulling, etc.). The family did a lot of custom hay baling, so his summer vacations were spent working, with the exception of the time spent every evening of the Washington Fair in Washington, MO. Whenever possible, he would ride with his dad or his brother Mike. When he got his CDL and started driving in 1995, he said it was like a vacation compared to farming. Previous to his dad just cutting him loose to drive on his own, John would do ride alongs with the new hires to show them the ropes of the company operations, along with operating the truck.
The truck is a 2020 Kenworth W900L with a 605 Cummins X15, a 13-speed transmission, 3:55 rears and a 285” wheelbase. The truck was ordered from Central Illinois Trucks in Fenton, MO and the stripe was designed by John’s oldest son, Andrew. This W900 sports an 18”-20” tapered Valley Chrome bumper from 4 State Trucks, 7” factory exhaust with etched guards, fiberglass fenders from Bad Ass Customs, RLK Services visor, RoadWorks light panels, RLK Services center panel for the rear bumper and Trux Accessories headlamp assemblies. Polishing services for the company are provided by Morgan Pryor and his crew at Midwest Fabricating LLC out of Strafford, MO.
John said the things he remembers from his dad and brother, as far as what they taught him, was to always be careful driving, watch your surroundings, don’t be in a hurry and take your time doing the job so you do it right. The company hauls anhydrous ammonia, propane, butane, steel, grain, landscape products, diesel fuel, gasoline and hay, so it is important that they do things right. The hay is bought from producers in Kansas and hauled back to Missouri to the old homestead where the shop used to be until the new building was built. Along with the trucking operations, with Kenny managing, they also row crop around 1,300 acres, with 500-600 acres of hay harvested every year.
Today, Huellinghoff Bros., Inc runs 17 company owned trucks, 40 trailers and has eight leased owner-operators. John’s truck has been on the road since 4/11/19 and is anticipating the arrival of its new trailer, a 2020 Countryside tank trailer, due to take delivery in October. It is definitely a family affair with the third generation of drivers quickly taking their seats behind the wheel, starting with Kenny’s son Ryan. Nancy’s daughter helps with bookkeeping, and her son just got his CDL and started driving locally. John’s sons Cody (16) and Andrew (18) work in the shop doing maintenance, with Andrew looking to start driving in the very near future.
When I asked John if there were any obstacles working together with his siblings, he stated they are a well-oiled machine and the only obstacles they face are business related, such as commercial truck regulations and driver recruiting, but their combined hard work and total dedication to making this company a success far surpasses any hurdles they may encounter along the way.
Special thanks to Morgan Pryor of Midwest Fabricating LLC for making the introduction and to John Huellinghoff for his time and communication in making this all come together. It was enjoyable to shoot a truck in my current home state and get a little more history on Missouri. Keep a lookout for this sweet truck and all the other trucks Huellinghoff owns running around the Illinois, Missouri, Kansas and Oklahoma areas. And, as always, to all the drivers out there doing the deal, truck safe.