Like it or not, struggles are just part of life. Some of us have endured more strife than others, but we all have had our fair share of hardships to overcome. Surviving through many struggles together, including a tough divorce and an even tougher medical situation, Jason Alt (50) of Lafayette, IN and his classic Peterbilt “Cabbie” (with help from lots of great friends) are both still going strong – and better than ever!
Born and raised in Lafayette, IN and still living within five miles of the home he grew up in, Jason Alt has not strayed far from his beginnings. His father, Richard Alt, was an owner operator that pulled a tanker for most of his trucking life, hauling corn syrup and other sweeteners to local breweries and processing plants. Jason loved to go trucking with his dad in the summer and would often sleep in his dad’s pickup truck so as not to be left behind early the next morning when he would drive into town to get his truck.
All through high school, Jason had several trucking-related jobs. After graduating in 1987, two pivotal things occurred the following year: his dad passed away from cancer and Jason bought his first truck. Jason’s dad was his trucking hero and a huge influence on the life he would choose and losing him at such a young age was one of the toughest things he ever had to deal with.
After buying that first truck – an all blue 1981 Peterbilt 359 with a double bunk – Jason began hauling grain locally. His dad, Richard Carl Alt, always had “RC Alt” on the doors of his trucks, so Jason (Jason Carl Alt) followed in his footsteps and put “JC Alt” on his truck. From that day forward, many people started calling him JC, and for some, the nickname stuck.
Driving that 1981 Peterbilt 359 for about seven years, hauling mostly ag commodities and machinery throughout the Midwest, Jason loves pulling a tanker more than anything (probably because that is what his dad did). Late in 1995 he bought his next truck – a long hood 1986 Peterbilt 359 with a 425 Cat, 3:70 rears, a 265” wheelbase and a factory 6+4 set of sticks. With a factory “swoop” paint scheme done in two shades of blue, mauve, maroon and gold, this was a really cool truck that got Jason interested in competing at truck shows.
The following year, Jason went to his first truck show – the 1996 Mid-America Trucking Show (MATS) in Louisville, KY – and he was hooked! A few years later, he bought a new 2000 Timpte hopper trailer and had it painted with the “swoop” scheme to match the tractor. Hooked together, this nearly unbeatable combo looked amazing and won a lot of awards over the next few years.
Over the years, Jason met a lot of great people at the truck shows, and many of them are still close friends today. One of the people he met early on was Jerry Jeffries of Double JJ Enterprises. The other “J” of Double JJ was Jerry’s daughter Jody. Walking the MATS show lot, she approached Jason and asked why he didn’t have any of her dad’s stuff on his truck. Jason asked, “Who is your dad?” Her reply was, “Jerry Jeffries of Double JJ.” Surprised at her forwardness, Jason said, “Well, I’m just getting started and that stuff is kinda expensive.” Later, Jerry and his wife Gayle met Jason and Jerry told him that he wanted to sponsor his truck. Not believing it, Jason gave him his address, and a week later boxes were delivered to Jason filled with every item Double JJ sold. And from there a sponsorship (and friendship) was born.
Over the years following, Jason and Jerry became great friends, and Jerry would spend a week with Jason every summer at his house in Lafayette. The two would go golfing and swap trucking stories for the entire week – Jason loved it! We met Jason through Jerry and Double JJ, as well. In 2003, we went to MATS for the first time and Jerry and Gayle were gracious enough to let us share their booth space with them. Back then, Jason would help Jerry set up their booth and take it down at the end of the show, so we met him that first year we went to MATS in 2003. One memorable night during that show, four of us from 10-4, along with Jerry and Gayle, Jason and his friend “Tanker Dave” Marcotte, all drove to a riverboat casino for dinner and to do some gambling and had a blast. Unfortunately, our friend Jerry Jeffries passed away in 2015.
After that first show in 1996, Jason took his “swoop” truck to the Shell SuperRigs show, held in Walcott, IA later that same year, and earned a spot on their 1997 calendar. In those days, it was the pinnacle of success for a trucker to make the Shell Rotella calendar – and Jason couldn’t have been prouder. Several years later, after losing some hauls, he sold the truck and trailer in 2003 and then began driving a sharp lavender-colored quad-axle 1996 Peterbilt dump truck for Derek Byers (a local outfit).
Not having a truck to show but wanting to stay connected to the truck show scene, Jason began helping Bud Farquhar at Stars & Stripes run the PKY Truck Beauty Championships at MATS each year, parking trucks and judging, and later Bryan Martin at 4 State Trucks at his Guilty By Association Truck Show (GBATS) in Joplin, MO. To this day, he still enjoys doing this, and loves hanging out with his truck show friends.
In 2007, Jason got married and then went to work for Art at AJ Wendt Trucking out of Francisville, IN. Driving a really nice 1997 Kenworth W900L with a Seminole paint scheme, Jason once again began hauling ag commodities and machinery. A few years later, around 2010, Jason switched over to Hoffman Transportation in Channahon, IL and began hauling a lot of over-the-road tanker freight.
Being on the road, away from home, for long periods of time was not good for Jason’s marriage and it began to fall apart. This stress, coupled with worrying about his mother’s now deteriorating health and not feeling in control of his working situation, all contributed to him suffering a stroke in 2011 which caused him to almost bleed to death. Thankfully, there were no long-term negative effects from his stroke, and after six months of recovery at home, he was ready to get back on the road.
Going back to Hoffman for another year, in 2013 he went back to AJ Wendt Trucking for a short stint. While back at AJ Wendt, Jason purchased the 1985 Peterbilt 362 cabover seen here from a guy in Jamestown, IN who had some trucks. Nobody wanted to drive the old cabover anymore, so it had been sitting in his barn for a few years. When Jason bought it in 2013, he had no intention of ever actually working it – he just bought it for fun and maybe some shows. The double-bunk truck, which has a 400 Cat and a 13-speed, still had its original paint and Buckskin interior – and still does today.
Unfortunately, the following year, Jason got a divorce and fell upon hard times. Soon thereafter, Jason got an opportunity to secure a great haul with his cabover that was too good to pass up, so he left AJ Wendt, leased-on with Dave Friend Transport out of Rossville, IN and got a tanker trailer from his friend Randy Stroup at First Class Services and started running the cabover. For the next three years, he just put his head down and ran that COE hard every day, and it never let him down. Jason “borrowed” that tanker – a 1982 Brenner – for almost four years until Randy finally agreed to sell it to him. Out of respect for Randy’s generosity and friendship, Jason left Randy’s company name (First Class Services) on the trailer, where it remains today.
It is amazing how hard work and time will fix lots of problems, and for Jason, things did get better. In 2017, Jason got married to the love of his life, Debbie. These two had met years ago, back when they were both competing at truck shows (Debbie and her first husband Earl had a flashy magenta and purple Peterbilt called “Kersplat” back then), but it wasn’t until they were both divorced that they finally got together, thanks to some prodding from a mutual friend. In 2017, Jason was also given the opportunity to buy a 1995 Peterbilt 379 from a neighbor – a truck he had known for years and had even driven several times – and he took it. At that point, he retired the cabover from daily use and began running the 379 (and still is today).
When Jason first got the Pete 362 cabover, he immediately stretched out the frame to 247 inches, which was about three feet longer, and then repainted the frame brown. From there, he added the painted WTI fiberglass full fenders on the back, painted the fuel tanks and had Darin Bean of Owensboro, KY add pinstripes to both the exterior and interior. Once he actually began working it, the upgrades continued.
Always a fan of that old-school 359 look from the 70s and 80s, many of the rig’s features are heavily influenced by that era. These days, the cabover has 6” pipes, a custom stainless steel visor made by RoadWorks to look like a stock visor, old-school cab lights and horns on the roof, a “boomerang” antenna on the roof of the sleeper and tons of old Panelite “Millennium” oval LED lights. Living just down the street from the RoadWorks manufacturing facility, Jason always had a good relationship with them and Mike Horan (who no longer works there), so much of his custom stuff was made by them.
Up front, the cabover features a Valley Chrome bumper with an old-school swing plate, complete with a “Bingo” card covered with old stickers/permits from 1985 (many of which were his dads that he never used). Like on every other truck Jason has owned, he installed tinted “bus glass” (upside-down) windshields on the cabover. Behind the sleeper, Mike Horan made a custom stainless rear grill to cover the engine hole, along with a custom raised stainless deck plate, lined with more of those Panelite oval LEDs, and trimmed down the middle, from front to back, with three hood strips from a Pete 359, painted cream to match. Jason got some heat from his friends for this feature, because he had to destroy three 359 hoods to do it!
More things added to the rear portion of the truck include a painted and pinstriped I-panel between the fuel tanks, a set of Nathan train horns with three large trumpets facing back and two facing forward, custom “362” flap weights made by Bryan Martin at 4 State Trucks, and all of the rear-facing round amber lights were carefully drilled in the middle by Jason himself and then fitted with a small blue dot (something that was popular back in the day). Some final touches added to the back of the sleeper include the name of the truck (“Tiltin’ Hilton”) and the acronym KABAM, which represents the first letter of the names of Jason and Debbie’s grandkids: Kealie, Abi, Brittley, Audrey and Mila. Actually, they now have a new grandson named Saier, so Jason is in the process of having new vinyl cut that will say SKABAM.
Moving inside, as previously mentioned, the truck still has most of its original Buckskin brown leather interior, with exception to some pieces that were recovered with ostrich to fix a few water-damaged areas. Jason installed a wood floor, old-style gauge labels, glitter knobs and switch extension (given to him by our mutual friend and past cover trucker Jake Bast), and a cream-colored steering wheel with “Tiltin’ Hilton” in the center. The cab also features a Pioneer CD/DVD player and six speakers with painted (cream) covers, fuzzy dice, stock dash fans and a special plaque remembering Jason’s friend Bob “Cowpoke” Martin, who passed away many years ago. The truck has a cabinet affixed to the back wall of the sleeper, which was always an option, but not many wanted to pay for it, so it is kind of rare to see. Jason added “Tiltin’ Hilton” to the doors of this cabinet, as well.
A funny thing you will find inside the cab of Jason’s COE is a ton of leather-scented air freshener trees. These brown cardboard trees are everywhere, and he never throws the old ones away – he just keeps adding more! The trees have now become a funny conversation piece, so he just keeps them, joking that he is part of the “save the trees” foundation.
These days, his faded blue 1995 Peterbilt 379 is his daily driver. Customized to mimic a 359, this double bunk rig, which he bought from a neighbor, features a 475 Cat, a 15-speed and a 265” wheelbase. The paint is original, and has taken on a neat patina look, so Jason does not want to repaint it. With a 359 center hood strip, 359 dual square headlights, a 359 factory step under the front bumper, old-style breathers and lids, a blue bug shield and “Rookie Sticks” (which he gets teased about but doesn’t care), this truck definitely has a 359 flair. Often hooked to his Brenner tanker as seen here, he also pulls a lot of Dave Friend’s ag trailers, too.
A neat thing worth mentioning would be Jason and Debbie’s property on the outskirts of Lafayette, IN that features a large metal building that doesn’t look like much from the outside but is amazing inside! This all-inclusive building includes their home in the front, a 3-bay shop with a lounge area and an upstairs game room in part of the back, along with several nice horse stables and hay storage – all under one roof. The shop and game room are filled with Peterbilt memorabilia, which includes a very unique wall hanging that is the front of an actual Peterbilt 352 cabover! This truck front, acquired from Bryan Martin at 4 State Trucks, sticks out about a foot from the wall, is completely wired with lights, and is capped off with an old “porch light” above it (which also lights up) donated by his friend Randy “Hump” Humphries.
The outside of their home has another cool feature – a 45’ tall windmill! With a large 10’ diameter, this windmill looks right at home on their ranch, and includes their “Rockin’ J Bar D” brand on the tail. Taking many of our pictures in the alfalfa field outside their house with this windmill in the background, things were going great until it started pouring rain. Thanks also to Perdue Farms, Jason’s neighbors, for allowing us to take some of the pictures next to the pond on their property. We truly enjoyed our time with Jason, as he gave us a tour of the local sights and all the places he lived and worked while growing up, while we were searching for photo shoot locations in and around Lafayette, IN.
Jason has no idea of the mileage on the cabover but suspects it may be anywhere from 1 to 3 million miles. The mileage on his 379 is still under a million (920K), so it has lots of life left in it. Jason is happy and comfortable with his current trucking situation – having just two trucks and no drivers – and being leased to his buddy Dave Friend (A.K.A. Friendly). Wanting to thank many people for helping him to get where he is today, Jason has a long list. For this reason, we won’t say exactly what each person did for Jason, but the people listed here will know.
Thanks to Dave & Sandy Collier, Frey Farms, Todd Blacker Trucking, Farmers Oil, First Class Services, Paul Marcotte Farms, RD Excavating & Hauling, Chrome Shop Mafia, 4 State Trucks, Kevin Hoffman, Ron Baird, everyone at Double JJ Enterprises, Art Wendt, Derek Byers, Bailey Trucking, Mike Horan, RoadWorks, Adam Gray, Fish (A.K.A. MacGyver), Mason McCain, Darin Bean, Dave & Jackie Friend, Randy & Mary Ann Humphries and everyone else who helped out silently. Special thanks to his family, his parents, RC and Jean Alt (sadly Jason’s mom passed away in 2012), his wife Debbie and her three girls, their six grandkids and their little dog “Smoke” for all the help, support and love.
Life doesn’t always go the way we hope or plan, and sometimes survival is all we can focus on. Jason has seen some dark times, but he and “Cabbie” got through them together because they are both survivors. With perseverance and hard work, things did get better. And these days, as Jason himself put it (quoting his grandfather), “I’m doin’ better than I deserve.” With a great family, cool friends and a couple awesome rides, Jason “JC” Alt is a classy guy and we are happy to not only feature him on our cover this month, but proud to call him a friend, as well.