Living in today’s busy and fast-paced world, it’s easy to lose sight of what’s really important. Sometimes, it takes a tragic event to make us realize we are not truly enjoying the things life has to offer or appreciating what (or who) we have. Just “getting by” day to day is not living, and not stopping to smell the roses will eventually take its toll. Bruce and Kellie Cone of Redding, CA are a husband and wife duo that each run their own truck, and their moniker in life is to “be present” every day – in fact, every moment.
We met these folks in 2022 at a truck show in Red Bluff, CA. Their two matching but opposite Peterbilts (one is dark gray with red stripes and the other is red with brushed black stripes) were parked in front of our booth at that event, and over the course of the weekend, we got to know them. Kellie shared some of their story with us, and it was quite interesting. Coming from similar but different backgrounds, these two found each other later in life, and are now inseparable. Bruce has been trucking for decades, but Kellie just got her CDL a couple years ago, and now they run together and love it.
Born and raised in Redding, Bruce (61) is a third generation trucker. His grandfather Chuck started hauling logs in 1952, and his father, also Chuck but known as Bud, started hauling logs with Mack trucks as soon as he was old enough to do so. At 14 years old, Bruce started driving around the yard and out on the landings, in the woods, where they picked up the logs. Later, his dad switched to hauling lumber on flatbeds, and then spent the majority of his career running to Southern California. While still in high school, Bruce went with his dad down south a lot, even driving as a team, before he was old enough to get his CDL. His dad drove until he was 83 years old, finally retiring just two years ago.
Not long after graduating from high school in 1980, Bruce moved to Southern California, in search of work. He ended up getting a job at a company loading fly ash (a concrete additive) in trucks. After a couple years, he landed a driving job at one of the companies that Bruce often loaded. Not having his CDL yet, the company, Material and Transport (MAT), helped him get his license. Driving a transfer, Bruce stayed there for four years. With business picking up at home, Bruce moved back to Redding in 1988 and began driving for Ray Nelson Trucking, hauling asphalt in belly dumps. In 1990 he switched to McMillan Trucking, running a transfer, and hauling flatbed freight, as well. He stayed there for six years.
In 1996, after leaving McMillan, Bruce went into business with his twin brother Chuck, along with their mom and dad, and Cone Trucking was born. Hauling lumber on flatbeds, they started out with four trucks – one for each of them plus a spare. Bruce began in a Peterbilt 378, and then bought a new 2000 Pete 379. Three years later, the partnership ended. Bruce bought his truck and trailer from the company and then formed Bruce Cone Trucking, and away he went (his brother did the same thing). In 2014, Bruce bought a used viper red 2010 Peterbilt 389. He ran that truck until he ordered the legendary gray 2020 Peterbilt 389 seen on these pages.
Born in Ohio, Kellie (59) moved to Fort Jones, CA when she was just three years old. A tiny town of about 500 people, Fort Jones is about 100 miles north of Redding in the Siskiyou Mountains. Raised in an ag environment, with livestock and such, Kellie grew up as a farm girl. Moving to the coast for a few years, Kellie eventually ended up in Redding, CA in 1985. Kellie has been married twice before – her first marriage lasted 20 years and her second one for 15 years. Bruce was also married for 18 years before getting together with Kellie, but neither of them had any children of their own (they each have one grown stepdaughter).
Getting a good education, Kellie attended Chico State University, where she received a Bachelor’s Degree and then a Master’s Degree in Business. While living in Redding and married to her second husband, she began working at Shasta College in the Economic and Workforce Development Department, creating budgets and such. Her husband at the time was an ag mechanic instructor at Shasta Union High School. In 2013, he was diagnosed with a rare disease called Progressive Supranuclear Palsy, which is a brain disorder that causes problems with walking, balance, eye movements, and later swallowing. When he got too sick to work and take care of himself, after 16 years of working there, Kellie quit her job at the college to take care of him. He died in 2017.
Watching her husband’s body deteriorate was excruciating, but what made it worse was that his mind was still intact, and he was fully aware of his situation right up until his last day. This death had a profound effect on Kellie’s outlook on life. Suddenly, she became painfully aware of how precious life was, and how quickly it could all end. Feeling like a lost soul for a few years, Kellie traveled and really took some time to ponder her future. Then, in 2019, she met Bruce, and things began to fall back into place. Funny thing was, they realized they had a lot of mutual friends, and it was strange that they had never actually met. But it wouldn’t have been the right time, so it didn’t happen. When it was the right time – God’s time – it finally happened, and now they couldn’t be happier.
When they were first dating, Kellie went out trucking with Bruce often and really enjoyed it. And she was always asking questions – partly because she’s inquisitive, and partly because she was secretly thinking about becoming a truck driver. Eventually, she enrolled in truck driving school without telling Bruce, and then started asking him if he would want to sell his truck. She claimed she had a close friend that was really interested in it, but this friend wanted the best deal possible. Bruce was flabbergasted because his truck wasn’t even for sale! At some point he threw out a number, and that is when Kellie confessed that she would be the buyer.
After getting her CDL (despite the “bicycle” incident during her driving test), the two started running as a team, and Bruce ordered his new truck – a 2020 Peterbilt 389 painted legendary gray with a viper red frame. The truck, which is powered by a Cummins X15 with 750-hp, hooked to an 18-speed and 3.25 rears, with a 295” wheelbase, arrived in February of 2020 and was immediately taken to Stuart Loewen at Nor Cal Customs in Corning, CA to be customized.
The truck spent about a month at Nor Cal Customs where it was fitted with air ride on the front, double-round headlights on Double JJ brackets, custom light bars, die-cast cab lights, and painted tanks. It also got air cleaner lights, a painted visor, drop panels, 8” pipes, an 18” VCP bumper, painted rear half-fenders on custom hidden brackets, new step box covers with billet step plates, a painted deck plate and shock box cover, and a real 3-bell Nathan train horn off a locomotive. To finish it off, viper red vinyl stripes, done by Wonderland Signs in Redding, were applied to the truck’s exterior.
Once Bruce’s “Legend” truck was ready to roll, Kellie went out on her own in Bruce’s old truck – which was now her truck – along with a 2000 East 45×96 spread-axle flatbed (which she proclaimed was included in the truck purchase). This truck was Bruce’s viper red 2010 Peterbilt 389 mentioned before, which Kellie affectionately called “Clifford the Big Red Truck” or “Clifford” for short. Since Kellie’s latest truck is known as C2 (Clifford 2), they now refer to the first red truck as C1 (Clifford 1). Now, they were trucking together, but in separate trucks! Kellie drove C1 for about a year, and once it was established that she wanted to continue this trucking thing, they ordered her a new truck in 2021.
Searching high and low for a new truck with an old-style dash, they did not want one with the new digital display. Eventually, they found a dealer in Nebraska that had a few “build slots” available, so they ordered the truck through that place. For those of you who don’t know what a “build slot” is, it’s when you buy a truck before its even built. The factory allocates a certain number of trucks to each dealership, and each of those trucks is basically a reserved “slot” in production at the plant. Those slots are sold, and then the customer can (usually) make some modifications to the actual build to get what they want. But without a slot, you got nothin! So, 75 changes later, Kellie’s truck was on its way.
Arriving in July of 2022, the viper red Peterbilt 389 with a black frame came equipped with a 565-hp X15 Cummins with 2,050 torque, an 18-speed, Low Low AirLeaf suspension, a car-hauler front axle, a flat cab, a 63” flat top sleeper, and a 280” wheelbase. After getting the truck home from Nebraska, some of the work was done by Brent McGrath of Brent’s Custom Trucks in White City, OR, but a lot of the work was done by Bruce and Kellie themselves. While at Brent’s, the breathers were chopped, the steps and drop panels were installed, breather lights were added, along with a custom rear light bar, a new grill, and custom billet step plates, made by Brent. He also made the red “Clifford” dog that is mounted in the lower corner of the grill.
Some of the things that Bruce and Kellie did themselves included swapping the headlights to double-rounds on Double JJ brackets, installing (and painting) the rear half-fenders on hidden brackets from Nor Cal Customs, Bruce mounted the factory heated/power mirrors on painted 12 Ga. Customs mirror brackets, and an 18” VCP bumper was added. They also painted and installed the one piece deck plate, converted the sliding fifth wheel to a fixed unit that is lower, wrapped the DEF tank in chrome, and mounted 8” Lincoln pipes. A polished visor with painted edges (done by Kellie) was installed, along with matching window chops, and then the back of the visor was covered in a mural painted by a friend that features all of Kellie’s past dogs.
Proud of her work, Kellie painted all the nut covers on her frame red, which was not an easy job. She also installed clear beehive-style lenses on all her lights, and to give them a more “smokey” look, she painted the back of each light (inside) black. A few final touches behind the sleeper included nine load lights, a painted shock box cover, and a 50-pound cast iron train bell, mounted under the frame. Like Bruce’s truck, Wonderland Signs made and applied two brushed black stripes with silver metal flake outlines and thin light pink accents.
Both of the trucks are fairly stock inside, but they are both loaded up with all the good stuff. Bruce’s truck has a wood steering wheel and an upgraded Pioneer stereo, complete with extra speakers in the overhead console, and a subwoofer in the sleeper. Kellie’s cab features a few added pieces of chrome, along with a wood steering wheel, and a CB mounted above in a rosewood box. Painted on the inside of her window chops in delicate script lettering it says “p.s. you got this” as a reminder of her resilience. These two are always teasing each other about who’s truck is better (well, mostly it’s Kellie teasing Bruce). She jokes about how more people flock to her red truck and take pictures in front of it than his. Also, her stacks are two inches taller than Bruce’s, and she will never let him forget that! But it’s all in good fun.
On vacation in Mexico, at a nice dinner, Bruce had a marriage proposal all planned, but after Kellie jokingly told the waiter it was their anniversary (in hopes of getting a free bottle of champagne), Bruce could not go through with it. However, after dinner, on the beach, he popped the question, and once she realized what had happened, she said, “Yes!” Based on how he was speaking and what he was saying, she thought he was breaking up with her at first!! The two were married in May 2021, and now live an amazing life together. Kellie is very aware of her blessings and takes nothing for granted. On several occasions during the two days and three nights we spent with them, Kellie stopped, looked Bruce in his eyes, and asked, “Are you present?” She doesn’t want either of them to miss a thing, so “being present” is a big deal to them.
The trucks have been done for about a year now, and although they never thought they would do truck shows, they have been to a few, and really enjoy it. Happy with how things are, they both like being single-truck operators, and are now both running under the Cone Trucking name. Not sure of their future, they recently bought land in Tennessee, and are considering retiring there – when that time comes. But for now, they love running together when they can, and currently haul lumber from a dedicated customer in Southern Oregon to delivery points in Northern and Central California. Bruce pulls a 2020 MAC 48’ flatbed with spread axles and is currently “fixing it up” to match his truck.
Always a dog lover, as proven by the mural on the back of her visor, Kellie also started a nonprofit charity called Communities for Police Canines (C4PK9s). This organization promotes awareness and raises funds for the purchase, training, and veterinary care of active and retired law enforcement canines in Redding. Through this organization, Kellie has been able to buy several K9s for the police department. Also, Kellie and Bruce currently have a Frenchie dog named “Madden” (AKA Maddie). Maddie loves to ride in the truck. She came along on one day of the photo shoot and had a great time!
Wanting to recognize a few people, Bruce wants to thank his entire family, especially his father and brother, Kellie (of course), Stuart at Nor Cal Customs, and everyone else who helped with his truck. Kellie wants to thank all the companies that supplied parts for her truck, along with Brent at Brent’s Custom Trucks, Corwin Koehn at Platte River Sales, and Bruce (of course). Both Bruce and Kellie would also like to say “thank you” to the folks at Allweather Wood in White City, OR. They have always been great people to work with.
We at 10-4 would like to thank Bruce and Kellie for allowing us to “take over their life” for about a week. When we are on a mission to get the perfect shots, we don’t quit until we get ‘em! We would also like to thank Kristy Coughlin at Sierra Pacific Industries. We spent the better part of a day at their mill in Shasta Lake, CA, and they took great care of us. The cool thing about this location is the fact that Bruce is the third generation to haul either in or out of this facility. His grandfather and father hauled logs into this mill, and he and his dad (and Kellie, too) have all hauled finished lumber out of this location. Because of that, it seemed like a fitting place to start taking our pictures (see cover). The other location was a popular turnout near Shasta Dam, which overlooks Shasta Lake, with Mount Shasta looming in the distance (see centerfold).
The death of a loved one can change your perspective – in fact, it can change everything. It’s a hard lesson, but maybe one that people should go through, because it gets you focused on what really matters, which is life itself. Death is a harsh reality of life, and we never know when it will happen. So, live every day like it might be your last, tell people you love them often, and realize your job is not everything. Bruce and Kellie Cone work hard to balance their lives. They have learned to enjoy every moment, to be present every day, and to not take anything for granted – and you should, too.