Murphy’s law is based on the idea that whatever can go wrong, will go wrong. The outcome can be positive or negative, but it all depends on your view, thoughts, or efforts. Pushing through the bad times and getting to the good times can sometimes be difficult, but as long as we succeed in our dreams or goals in the end, it is all worth it. What matters most is our attitude in thoughts and efforts, and Brandon Carpenter is the type of guy that never gives up. His tenacity shows in his latest truck, which had its problems to get through, but it all worked out in the end.
Falling in love with trucks at an early age, Brandon Carpenter (35) of Ashland, Ohio, was that kid who stared out the window at school and dreamed about driving a truck. Like most of us back in grade school, when asked to draw whatever he wanted, Brandon would always draw trucks, especially cabovers, and a lot of those pictures that he drew back then he still has (his mother has kept a lot of them, as well).
As a teenager, when it was time to start thinking about a career choice after high school, Brandon knew it would be something related to trucks/trucking. His high school had a vocational school, so Brandon enrolled in their Industrial Diesel program. The class he enrolled in focused on heavy equipment and semis but ended up being more focused on the semi side of things. So, he was able to go to school for half a day then to his job the other half of the day. He had become good friends with the instructor that was teaching the course (they were both Civil War enthusiasts), and this teacher lined Brandon up with his first paying gig at K&P Trucking of Willard, Ohio.
Working for K&P as a mechanic, Brandon began building his knowledge base and getting tools. K&P offered their mechanics a sweet deal by buying their first toolbox and set of tools, and if they stayed for a year, the tools were theirs to keep, absolutely free. And we are talking about 800-1000 pieces of Craftsman tools – that was a big deal, especially for a 17-year-old kid. He was learning a lot there, but also realizing that this trucking company didn’t want to put money into their trucks – just fix them and get them back out there as fast and cheaply as possible.
A fan of everything cool, Brandon wanted to do more than just “fix” trucks. He wanted to take things a step further while working on things, which often included painting pieces or rerouting things to look better. But that was not his job – his job was to just fix broken stuff, and that was frustrating to him.
Brandon was the guy who had the super clean pickup truck in high school, and he really wanted to build nice trucks that reflected that style and attitude. While working at K&P, he met one of their leased on owner operators who had a new Kenworth W900 that was parked in the yard on the weekends, along with all the fleet-style Freightliners. Brandon loved working on that Kenworth, and he eventually began doing some of his own work on the side.
For a short time, at around 20 years old, Brandon left trucking for a bit and landed himself a county job. He already had been a mechanic for a few years, but when the recession hit in 2008, the county job would provide a steady paycheck. Working for a smaller sized company, he didn’t know if they would survive. Doing building maintenance for the county, Brandon learned quickly that this government job was not for him, and after only one year, he quit.
With the economy finally starting to improve, Brandon was attending an auction on a Saturday and started talking with a friend, telling him how he wanted to get back into the truck stuff. A guy standing behind the two heard their conversation and offered Brandon a job starting on Monday! This man had a crop spraying business, and Brandon’s job was to maintain the equipment and drive the trucks. Brandon told the man he could drive, but he didn’t have a CDL. The man explained how he didn’t need a CDL because it was ag hauling. He stayed there for a year, operating the equipment and driving trucks, which were mostly 4300 Internationals.
Mark, Brandon’s father, had lost his job in the recession when the pump factory he was working at closed its doors. The State of Ohio gave Mark a chance to go to school to retrain for another field, so Mark attended truck driving school and the state paid for it. After that, Mark sat down and talked with Brandon, explaining to him why he should go to school and get his CDL, because everything that he wanted to do involved trucks. Brandon had some experience driving, but he didn’t know all the rules and regulations, so he signed up for truck driving school.
After successfully finishing truck driving school, with the ink barely dry on his CDL, Brandon and Mark leased on with a company to haul containers in 2009. Brandon bought a 2002 Peterbilt 379 with a 63” flat top sleeper, a 550-hp 6NZ CAT, an 18-speed, and 3.55 rears, and Mark bought a newer blue Freightliner Columbia with a 430-hp Detroit, hooked to a 10-speed, that had about 500,000 miles on the clock. Brandon’s Peterbilt was a diamond in the rough, and it looked like a million bucks after he worked on it a bit. Unfortunately, the container hauling gig only lasted for about two weeks. As it turned out, it just was not worth all the aggravation and all the deadheading back and forth to Cleveland from Ashland every day.
Calling a few places to talk about getting leased on there, once Brandon told them how fresh his CDL was, the conversations pretty much ended there. So, Brandon decided that he and his dad didn’t need to lease on with anybody and instead applied to get their own authority. Brandon and his mother (Tina) filed the paperwork online (she had some legal background experience, so they didn’t have to hire someone to help). While trying to find the right name, Brandon and his mom heard a song on the radio called Holler Back, by the American country music group The Lost Trailers, and from there the name Haul’er Back was born. Having that artistic creativity previously mentioned, Mark drew up the logo, and they were good to go.
A neighbor named Joe Stewart drove by their house and saw the trucks sitting there and asked if they were able to haul hay. There was a drought in Virginia, and the farmers needed hay to feed their livestock. The Mennonites in Ashland County were in contact with the Mennonites in Virginia, so they started sending hay from Ashland. Brandon and Mark teamed up and drove Brandon’s Peterbilt. Brandon sold everything he didn’t need so they could buy a flatbed, tarps, and plates. Joe Stewart bought their first tank of fuel to get them started, and away they went.
Fast forward to 2017. Brandon was going down to Wheeling, WV on a daily basis, to a warehouse there, when he saw this A-model Kenworth sitting there. Brandon was intrigued by this old KW. Every time Brandon backed in the dock at this warehouse he saw that A-model and thought it was the coolest truck. The running joke with Brandon and Bob, the guy who owned the truck and ran the warehouse, was about Bob selling the truck. Brandon hounded Bob for about five years and, finally, after Bob began having some health issues, he agreed to sell it to Brandon. With moss growing on it, Brandon got it running and brought it back home. Never being in an A-model before, he loved how it looked and felt going home.
After getting the truck cleaned up and ready for its first trip, he loaded out of Majestic Steel in Bedford, OH, and then headed for Columbus, OH. As he was driving, he began to smell exhaust, so he pulled the truck over and checked the dipstick on the Big Cam and noticed the oil was milky. Figuring that the motor was cooked, he made his delivery and then headed back home empty. After that, Brandon and a friend spent the next month performing an out-of-frame repair on the truck.
On the second trip, once again he loaded up out of Majestic Steel and then headed down to Columbus. While attempting to back into the customer’s dock, Brandon crossed a set of railroad tracks and the wish bone on the rear suspension broke. It became a running joke that every trip the truck went out on, something would break. After literally fixing or replacing everything that could break on the truck, from the front to the back, stuff would still break. That’s how the Kenworth got its name “Murphy” (referring to that infamous Murphy’s Law definition stated previously).
I met Brandon in June 2020 at the Vintage Truck Covid Convoy, which was featured in the August 2020 edition of 10-4. At that event, Brandon’s 1981 W900A, painted in the Seminole scheme in blue and white with red stripes, really stood out for me. I had asked what he had for a motor in the KW, and he told me it had a Detroit. At the time he didn’t have it running like he wanted, but a few months later he got it tuned by Brent Wallentine, and now she runs great.
The 1981 W900A is equipped with a 2003 HK 14.0-liter 60 Series Detroit Diesel engine backed by a 13 double overdrive transmission, with 3.55 rears, a Freightliner Airliner rear suspension, and a 245” wheelbase. The interior was done by his Amish neighbor, and a Pete Unibilt ring was installed between the cab and sleeper. Brandon is a hardcore Kenworth lover! There is just something about that A-model and the flat glass that just “fits” him. He enjoys other brands, but Kenworth is Brandon’s favorite, and he really loves the hood design with the “V” on the top. In his eyes, Kenworth trucks just have a little more style.
Finally making his dream come true, in July of 2022 Brandon opened Carpenter Custom Trucks. This is what he has always wanted to do – build fancy trucks. His first customer, Gary Jones, who had a famous truck called Excessive Behavior 2 (AKA EB2), was completely changed, and is now called EZ Money. This truck made its debut at MATS (the Mid-America Trucking Show), held in Louisville, KY at the end of March.
Looking to give a few special mentions, Brandon would like to thank Mike Ramsey for giving him his first ride in a big truck (a 1992 black 379), along with his sister, Cristin Carpenter, and his beautiful girlfriend Cheyenne Johnson. He would also like to thank Majestic Steel in Bedford, OH, Hedstrom Plastics and Coburn Inc., both in Ashland, OH, as they were all some of his very first customers. Today, he still has a great business relationship with all of them. This truck may have given Brandon Carpenter a lot of reasons to throw in the towel and quit, but his perseverance paid off, and he now has a reliable and cool truck that defies Murphy’s Law!