Some guys claim to be the real deal, but I am here to tell you – Gus Hulstein (33) is the real deal. Not only is he a third-generation trucker, taught by his dad, who was taught by his dad, but he drives an old-school Peterbilt 379 every day, as well. He also loves old trucks, and between he and his dad, they have a backyard full of them. Gus had been on our radar for several years as a possible cover trucker, but it wasn’t until two of our trusted contributors, just a few months apart, both called me specifically to recommend Gus and his truck as a possible feature or cover. And when these guys talk, I listen. Thank you, Trevor Hardwick and Bryan Welsh, for always looking out for us here at 10-4 Magazine.
After immigrating to the U.S. from Holland in the early 1900s, Gus’ great grandparents settled in Iowa, where they had a dairy farm. Gus’ grandfather Gerrit was born in Iowa, but he moved to Southern California in 1941. Shortly thereafter he was drafted into World War II, and upon his return in 1945, he bought his first truck and trailer – a 1938 Ford with a “straight 8” Buick engine and a plywood sleeper – and began hauling hay under his new company, Hulstein Transportation. Over the years, this company has remained in existence, even though there were times when nobody was using it.
Hauling hay for the dairy industry, which was booming in Southern California back then, Gerrit would run over the pass known as the Grapevine, heading to Bakersfield, on a regular basis. That old Ford, when fully loaded, would chug along up that steep grade at a whopping 3 mph. Gus told me a story about how his grandmother Annette would ride with Gerrit, and when he fell asleep with his foot on the gas pedal, she would just take the wheel and steer while he napped, and they would continue to putter up the hill. After about a year, Gerrit and Annette got married and started a chicken farm, and Gerrit began driving for other people, hauling hay and various dairy supplies. Gus’ dad Jeff was born in Bellflower in 1957, and he was a truck nut from day one.
In 1968, Gerrit got his second truck – a brand-new wide-hood Peterbilt – and started pulling bottom dumps in Southern California. The suburbs were growing at a blistering pace, and several freeways were either being expanded or built new, so there was plenty of business. At only 11 years old, young Jeff already had his finger on the pulse of what was cool in trucking, so his dad Gerrit, who’s CB handle was Mr. Clean, would ask his 11-year-old son for advice on how to fix his truck up. One of the examples Gus told me were chrome flap weights – Jeff told his dad he should put them on his truck, and he did. But surprisingly, this was a relatively new thing, and not everyone liked them.
Growing up, Jeff would ride with his dad whenever he could, and when he couldn’t ride with dad, he’d find someone else to ride with. He also got a job at a local truck repair shop called Jepsen’s at the age of 15, and started washing trucks on the side, as well. One of the trucks he would wash was a sweet 1972 Peterbilt transfer owned by Les Johnson. After he finished washing it, Jeff would deliver the rig to Les in person, even though he did not have a license yet. At 17 years old, and still with no license, Jeff started driving a 1957 Kenworth for Rob Hilarides (this truck was featured on our December 2008 cover) hauling tomatoes. After spilling tomato juice all over the freeway, Jeff had to take a month off of trucking until he could turn 18 and get his license. After that, he went right back to driving for Rob.
In 1976, wanting to get out of Los Angeles, the Hulstein family moved to Klamath Falls, OR. For a short time, Gerrit, Jeff, and his brother Gary all started hauling cattle together, but that did not last long. Jeff didn’t like hauling cattle because he couldn’t keep his truck clean, so he bought a new 1977 Freightliner cabover and started pulling reefer trailers for Bud Trogdon up and down Interstate 5, living the dream, on that super slab between Seattle and Los Angeles. A year later, grandpa Gerrit bought a brand-new 1978 Freightliner cabover truck and trailer, but the following year (1979) he got into a terrible wreck and almost died. The truck was totaled, and grandpa Gerrit never really drove full-time ever again. From there, everyone in the family kind of went their separate ways.
Later that year, Jeff bought a brand-new 1979 Peterbilt 359 glider kit and fitted it with the drivetrain out of his dad’s wrecked truck, then sold his 1977 cabover to his brother Gary, who converted it into a car hauler, and then started moving cars. Jeff used his 359 to pull reefer trailers for several years and then switched to tankers, running all over the Pacific Northwest and California. On one of his trips to California, through his friend Walt Armas, Jeff met Chris, who worked at the fuel desk at a truck stop in Redding, CA. The two hit it off and ended up getting married in 1987, then moved to their new home in Terrebonne, OR.
After moving to central Oregon, Gus was born the following year. And you thought we forgot about Gus! Born in 1988 in Redmond, OR, Gus (who’s actual name is Gerrit like his grandfather) grew up surrounded by trucks and trucking – and he loved it! When Gus about three years old, his dad Jeff sold his 359 Peterbilt and started driving for other people, running locally. Throughout most of his years in school, Gus’ dad drove a transfer, and Gus would ride with him every chance he could. Always a hard worker, Gus had several jobs while still in high school, including bucking hay, milking cows, farming, and working on irrigation. Basically, he took any job that afforded him the opportunity to drive a truck or a tractor. Gus hated school and couldn’t wait to get out of there and go trucking.
The day Gus turned 18 years old in 2006 was the day he took the test for his CDL – in a complete A-model Kenworth transfer unit! The guy giving him the test was blown away at Gus’ skills, and he passed the test with ease. Gus immediately got a job driving a 1985 Mack Superliner transfer after just one round of training (apparently, his dad had taught him well). Running a lot with his dad, they were paving, stockpiling material, and spreading rock, and Gus was loving it. Unfortunately, that was about the time our economy started to crash, and the construction industry tanked.
Looking for work, Gus got a job hauling maxi loads of hay with a set of 40-foot and 24-foot doubles. With a drom on the back of the truck, these loads of big blocks were around 105,000 pounds, and Gus was running over every snowy pass Oregon had to offer. Throwing chains on a regular basis, at just 19 years old, Gus learned a lot. He did this for about a year, then did a short stint of transfer driving for Knife River, before getting laid off again in 2009.
Around this same time, Gus got married, too. Having met his wife Natalie in high school, the two were just friends. He never even thought about being with her, because, in his eyes, she was out of his league. But not long after high school, the two got together and really hit it off. They got married in 2009, and the two couldn’t be happier. So, when Gus got laid off and work was scarce, the two of them moved to Albany, OR and Gus started driving for George Van Dyke (GVD), hauling lumber. For some reason, while everyone else was struggling to stay in business or closing their doors, GVD was thriving. Gus stayed with them for three years, but really wanted to move back home, so in 2013 he took a job with Terry Stafek (Stafek Trucking), where his dad worked, pulling a flatbed.
Working again with his dad at Stafek, Gus was running California, Oregon, Nevada, and Washington. After finding out that Natalie was pregnant, Gus decided to take a local transfer driving job to be near home, but that did not work out. Around this same time, one of Gus’ best friends, Dan Williams, was tragically killed in a log truck accident. All these things, combined with his son Gerrit (yes, another Gerrit) being born in 2014, Gus decided it was finally time to drive his own truck and go out on his own. Looking for a log truck, he found the 1996 Peterbilt 379 you see on the pages here, and on our cover and centerfold this month, but it obviously did not look like what you see here now – it was painted the same teal color, but it was a daycab with black logging gear. After putting Hulstein Transportation on the door, Gus began hauling logs in the spring of 2015 with the same outfit his fallen friend Dan had worked with.
After running in the spring and summer that year, the engine in Gus’ Peterbilt basically died. Buying a 14-liter Detroit Diesel Series 60 engine, Gus dropped the truck off at the Stafek Trucking shop where one of the mechanics there worked on it at night and on weekends. In the meantime, Gus pulled out one of the “old” trucks that were now collecting in his backyard and drove it while the 379 was getting its new engine. This truck just happened to be his dad’s old 1979 Pete 359 glider kit, which Gus had later found and bought back. Gus used this truck for about four months, from August 2015 until November 2015, pulling a flatbed for Sunburst Trucking out of Redmond, OR.
After getting the 379 back, Gus removed the logging gear and continued pulling a 53-foot flatbed, as an owner operator, for Sunburst. Early the next year (2016), Gus decided to make things easier on himself and became a leased operator at Sunburst, running under their authority, and letting them handle all the paperwork. Also, that year, their daughter Grae was born, and Gus bought the 2015 Western curtain van seen here, as well. At that point Gus was running pretty hard, throughout Oregon and Washington, and clear up to the Canadian border, and came to the realization that he needed a sleeper.
Wanting an old-school Double Eagle bunk, he found one in Tillamook, OR and bought it. But after painting it the same color as the truck, that new paint just didn’t look good with the faded paint on the truck, so he decided to paint the whole rig – and do some other stuff, too. Since this now “road” truck was formerly a log truck, it was equipped with a lot of heavy-duty stuff Gus no longer needed. With that in mind, he cut the frame and replaced the rear clip with a LowAir system, giving it a 285-inch wheelbase, and making it much more highway savvy. After mounting the 64-inch sleeper in 2017, he had the entire rig repainted the teal color, and then added a dark grey vinyl stripe with a light grey outline, to match the dark grey frame.
For the next four years, Gus used the 379 to do a dedicated LTL haul, typically with many drops, between central Oregon and Portland. As simple as it seemed, this run had him up and out of the house before the kids woke up and brought him home, most nights, after they went to bed. And with small children at home, this was tough. But, since Gus has always been the kind of guy that does what he needs to do to provide for his family, he made do. In 2021 he got the opportunity to secure a different everyday run between central Oregon and Portland, but this one was basically terminal to terminal, with an occasional one or two extra drops. Now, he is home more with his family, and he loves it.
Since installing the sleeper in 2017, Gus has slowly but steadily worked to improve his truck, starting with the interior, because that is what he could afford to do at the time. The Peterbilt’s American Class Interior came with classic-looking wood grain dash panels, which he kept, but he stripped much of the excess plastic chrome pieces, opting for a simpler look. He also added a VIP steering wheel, glitter shift knob, and a Kenwood stereo, mounted on the overhead console, with the center of a stainless flap weight as the base plate. Pulling out the old carpet, he replaced it with a factory black rubber floor, and then had his door panels reupholstered to match the interior of the sleeper.
Some exterior improvements and changes he has made over the past few years include a Pickett visor, 5-inch Dynaflex exhaust with heat shields from one of Terry Stafek’s V12-powered 359s, Hogebuilt quarter fenders, diamond plate deck plate, and double round headlights, on factory 359 brackets, that were mounted lower to mimic a 359 Peterbilt. A few other 359-inspired changes include blinkers atop the front fenders and on the outside edges, dual spotlights, a swan hood ornament, five cab lights and dual horns, and Signal Stat “double bubble” lights down the sides of the sleeper and along the back. These older-style lights were gutted and rebuilt with new Maxxima LED lights inside.
A special shout-out goes to Ray Lucas at Valley Chrome in Clovis, CA and Schott Parts and Accessories out of Salem, OR (where Gus gets all his stuff). The front bumper on Gus’ truck was in bad shape, and he wanted to get it replaced before the photo shoot, but due to material and worker shortages, it was not going to be done in time. Thankfully, after explaining the situation to Ray, he personally made sure the tapered bumper was built and delivered to Schott in time for Gus to get it mounted. Thank you, Ray, and everyone at Valley Chrome, for always taking great care of your customers.
As mentioned previously, Gus and his dad started collecting old trucks many years ago, and today they have a bunch of cool old stuff in the backyard. The first truck they purchased together was a really nice 1973 Peterbilt cabover they bought from Troy Larsen. Gus was still in high school when they bought this COE, and he wasn’t even licensed to drive it, so he registered it as an antique, which allowed him to drive it with just a regular car license. Treating this green and yellow cabover like a car, Gus would drive it to school, through the drive-thru at fast food joints, and anywhere else he wanted or needed to go. This would be the beginning of an addiction that continues today.
Many of the trucks in their backyard (Gus and his family still live in the house his mom and dad bought when they moved to Terrebonne after getting married) are owned by Gus, some belong to his dad Jeff, and a few of them they bought together. Currently, they have Jeff’s old 1979 Peterbilt 359 (the glider he built using the drivetrain from grandpa’s wrecked Freightliner), a 1965 Emeryville cabover, a 1967 International conventional, a 1978 Powerliner cabover fitted with a V8 Detroit, a 1981 Freightliner FLC, a 1966 Freightliner cabover, a narrow-nose 1966 Kenworth, and a 1953 Peterbilt “Bubblenose” cabover. They also have the 1972 Peterbilt 359 transfer that Jeff used to wash (and drive), when he was 16 years old, in Southern California.
Their most recent acquisition is a beautiful 1972 Peterbilt 359 long hood they purchased from a man in Idaho named Dennis Detweiler. Dennis bought this truck new and ran it for almost 50 years! The truck runs well and drives nice. Gus even drove it down from Oregon to the show in Red Bluff, CA last August. He mostly just wants to preserve this classic but would like to work it a bit in the summer, as well. All the trucks in their “backyard museum” are roadworthy, except for the Bubblenose (Gus has a new engine for it but hasn’t been able to install it yet). In addition to all the old trucks, there are also four Mercury sleepers, cattle trailers, and more.
As much as Gus loves his old trucks, he loves his family even more. His wife Natalie is a stay-at-home mom, and she takes care of the kids and everything else at home. Their son Gerrit (7) is a certified truck fanatic. Currently, he believes that everything in his life is just in the way of him driving trucks. He is ready, willing, and able to do it right now, and probably could. Their daughter Grae (5) loves riding in the truck, but she has lots of other activities to keep her busy. Gerrit, however, is laser-focused on trucks and everything truck-related.
Taking care of his truck himself, Gus does all his own work on the 379. Unless a problem is deep in the motor or inside the transmission, Gus will fix it himself, right there in his backyard, laying in the gravel, in the rain, snow, or freezing cold. He loves to teach his kids through example what it means to take pride in your work and love what you do. Besides “playing” with his old trucks, he also plays drums in a band that formed back in high school. Writing and performing original rock songs, “The Old Revival” plays gigs when they can. Since the pandemic began, they have not been able to do much, but they look forward to getting back out there soon. Playing live music is a great way to have fun, relax, and connect with people. To find some of their music, search for the band on Spotify and iTunes.
Jeff and Chris, Gus’ parents, are technically still married, but they have been separated since Gus was in high school – almost 20 years! It seems strange, but it works for them. They still get along great, and both enjoy spending time together with their grandkids.
Gus loves the freedom of being a single truck owner operator and has a lot of pride in what he does. Providing for his family and taking care of them is his number one job, and he is going to keep doing what he does (and having fun doing it) until someone says he can’t. He has no interest in buying a new truck and would leave Oregon if they forced him to do so. “We need to stop rolling over and start fighting for what we believe in, while we still can,” he said.
When I asked Gus if there were particular people or companies he wanted to thank, he said, “I want to start by thanking God for all that he has blessed me with, along with the veterans, both the heroes who’ve lost their lives and the active-duty men and women who are currently protecting our country and freedoms. Also, I’d like to thank my dad and mom for always supporting my love for trucking and wanting to continue the family tradition, along with Terry Stafek, for being like a grandfather to me since the age of two. Anytime I need advice about maintaining equipment correctly, he always has the answers I need. Then there’s Dick Dyer for his 60+ years of mechanical knowledge, Lance Shinkle with Sunburst Trucking for keeping the truck loaded, Blair Ashley for selling me the sleeper, and anyone else I may have forgot.”
But, most of all, he wanted to send special thanks to his wife Natalie for not only putting up with all this trucking nonsense, but helping him with it, as well. She handles everything at home while he is out trucking, does tons of stuff for the kids, cooks and cleans, manages the bills, and even holds the flashlight for Gus or hands him the tools he needs when he is forced to work on the truck outside, at night, in the dark. She takes good care of Gus and the entire family, and for that, he is forever grateful.
We had a great time shooting the pictures of Gus and his truck (and his family) after the show in Brooks, OR. What makes Gus the real deal? He comes from an old-school trucking family, he was taught how to truck by his dad, the family had – and in some cases still has – some of the coolest trucks ever made, he works on his own stuff, he drives his 25-year-old truck every day, he loves God and his family and is not embarrassed to talk about it, he works hard, and he is genuinely a really nice guy. Yes, Gus Hulstein is the real deal, and we are proud to welcome him into the 10-4 family!