In the United States the trucking industry is much like farming, which continues from generation to generation, in many cases. Sometimes, the next generation doesn’t immediately follow in the footsteps of the previous. This is the case for Austin Kiser (27) from Rosedale, VA. Austin’s original plan was to continue playing baseball as a pitcher, but life had other plans and threw him some curve balls, which put him on the course to be a trucker.
Virginia has deep roots in bluegrass music and the coal mining industry. Coal mining in the area is something most have experienced (or had relatives who did). Although Austin’s family weren’t or aren’t coal miners, their heavy involvement in trucking within the coal industry has led to their trucks being a common sight on the roads in the area.
Gary Kiser (Austin’s grandfather), the first generation to get into trucking, started Gary Kiser Trucking, Inc. in 1968 with dump trucks, and then bought his first tractor in 1978. In 1992, his son Greg bought his first truck and started Greg Kiser Trucking, LLC. As the years went on, Papaw Gary (as he is called)bought out Keene Carriers from a friend of his, and he and Greg leased all their trucks to that parent company.
The only child of Melissa and Greg Kiser, Austin grew up around trucking, but his passion was something different, without even a thought of trucking. Baseball was that passion, and from the time he was little, he wanted to make a career out of it. Playing through high school, he earned himself a full ride scholarship to play baseball at East Tennessee State University. This was a big deal, considering it is a Division 1 school, that he would be pitching for. However, in the back of his mind, Austin always thought he might get into trucking if he didn’t play baseball past college.
They say, “What’s meant to be will always find a way,” and that seemed to be the case, because an injury ended up changing Austin’s direction to where he hadn’t expected. His freshman year in 2014, he hurt his shoulder, which put him out of commission to play. This wasn’t going to allow him to pitch anymore, so it was decided between Austin and his parents that he would transfer to Emory & Henry College to be closer to home and be a position player, not a pitcher, on their baseball team.
Learning to drive truck when he was 18, Austin was taught by his dad, while also working in the shop and moving trucks around. Little did Austin know, but this trucking education would definitely come in handy sooner than he anticipated. College life started to get the better of Austin, and his dad Greg found out about it. Calling Austin, his dad told him, “Pack your stuff – you’re coming home and going to work.” And that “work” wasn’t “gravy” or “because you’re the owner’s son” work, this was “start at the bottom” kind of work!
What Austin didn’t immediately understand was that Greg was actually helping him in the long run. Respect is earned, not given, and if the others who worked for Greg were going to respect Austin, he had to work from the bottom up, learning all the ropes along the way, proving that he was all-in, and just as hard of a worker as the rest of them.
In early 2021, Greg came across a 379 on one of the Peterbilt sales pages on Facebook, and it sounded almost too good to be true. The ad read that the truck had 260,000 original miles so, out of curiosity, Greg called the owner. After coming to an agreement on the price, Greg told the owner he would send someone up to look at the truck, and if it checked out, he would buy it. And, upon further inspection, the truck checked out! Bringing it back to Virginia, the truck was taken straight to Richard Green, who painted it Indigo Blue, changing it from the original Hunter Green that it was.
That Indigo Blue 379 is what Austin started driving after the 2022 Mid-America Trucking Show, and the truck Greg later agreed to sell Austin in January of this year – and the truck you see pictured here today. The same time Austin made the purchase of this 379, he also started his company, following suit with Greg and his Papaw, forming Austin Kiser Trucking, LLC. He had dubbed the truck “Just Gettin By” because it has to earn its keep and work every day.
The Peterbilt is a 2002 model boasting a Caterpillar 6NZ, a 13-speed transmission, 3.36 rears, and a 280-inch wheelbase. Typically, you will probably find it hooked to a frameless aluminum 2020 Trailstar spread axle dump trailer. The unique color (as seen in the pictures) tends to change colors, depending on the lighting. The truck sports 7-inch Lincoln Chrome stacks and WTI fenders.
If you’ve met Austin or Greg at a show, chances are you’ve also seen the stunning show truck that Greg owns (also pictured here). I saw this truck for the first time at the first annual Mayberry Truck Show in Mt. Airy, NC, where it was also awarded a calendar spot in their 2022 show calendar. From purchase, this truck, which is a lighter shade of blue, is what Austin ran full time when he started trucking. It is a 2018 Peterbilt 389 powered by a Caterpillar 6NZ, an 18-speed transmission, 3.55 rears, and a 305-inch wheelbase. It is usually hooked to a 2020 Trailstar dump trailer.
This Peterbilt 389 was purchased in early 2019 as a glider and then outfitted with the previously mentioned 6NZ. All the custom work was done in-house, including all the interior work, as well as the painted engine, which was completed by Greg himself. Elijah Leonard of Leonard Automotive was a big help with the paint work, which was done at the Kiser shop. This was also the first truck Greg and Austin entered to compete in a show (MATS 2019), where it placed 2nd in the “New Truck Bobtail” class.
This truck has a habit of working full time right up to the very last moment before she gets shut down to get dialed in for a big show. That is definitely what happened for the 2022 Mid-America Trucking Show last year, when they ran it up until about four days prior to leaving their shop, before the show. Greg said there was no way they would have it cleaned up in time, but they did. Everyone worked their butts off to get the truck ready and it paid off. They honestly thought with all the big dogs at the show, they wouldn’t stand a chance. They ended up going home with 1st place in the “Working Engine” and “Working Interior Cab Only” classes.
I asked Austin what his favorite truck show is, and he said, hands down, their own show, which he and his family started in 2021. They have all worked so hard to put it together, and even though they don’t enter their trucks in the competition, they still bring trucks to the event. The event is called the Southwest Virginia Big Rig Showdown. It’s being held on July 28-29 this year in Lebanon, VA, at the Russell County Government Center (visit www.bigrigshowdown.com for more info). The show is hosted by the Greg Kiser Trucking family, and proceeds benefit two local organizations to support and grow the community.
Austin’s biggest influences in life are his father Greg and Papaw Gary, because without them, he wouldn’t have had the opportunities he had. He has a good life, and though some may think it was all handed to him, he worked hard towards everything he accomplished. Both, as company owners still today, they are great men, businessmen, and have done everything right. They taught him the ins and outs of life and trucking, bringing Austin to do what he does to provide a good life for his family. I had a chance to speak to Melissa (Austin’s mom) over lunch, and she simply stated, “He is the best we have, and he works just as hard as Greg does.”
Most every driver out there has trucking memories that stick in their minds, from both coming up as a kid, to driving a truck of their own. Austin remembers his dad swinging by the house on his fifth birthday just long enough to give Austin his birthday present – a pair of Georgia Giant lace-up boots. Now a father, Austin said his favorite memory since he has been driving was the first time taking his son Creed trucking.
Special thanks from Austin to his parents and grandparents on both sides for their unwavering support throughout his life and helping to shape him into the man he is today. A shoutout to Dalton Snead and Jason Wade in their shop for all the hard work on the show truck, right along with Austin and Greg. To his wife Taylor (married July 11, 2021) a heartfelt thank you from Austin for her continued support and the excellent job she does on the home front. She works full time as an eighth-grade science teacher at Honaker High School. She didn’t come from a trucking background but has done an amazing job adjusting to the life of a trucker’s wife. Taylor has never doubted Austin’s capabilities as a husband, father, provider, and now a business owner, when he wanted to purchase his own truck and start his company.
Today, Austin, Taylor, and Creed reside next door to Austin’s parents, Greg and Melissa. When not trucking, there are horses to be ridden, visits to his Papaw Gary’s farm, attending shows for Greg’s Tennessee Walkers (breed of gaited horses), and a favorite time of playing cornhole almost every Friday night at church with about 80 people.
Austin may have his own truck and company, mainly hauling coal and gravel, but he remains heavily involved with Greg’s company, doing whatever needs to be done, as all the trucks are running under the same parent company. The companies run locally and regionally, mostly on the east coast. Collectively, they run Peterbilts and Kenworths, and remain hauling the same commodities as they have always hauled, which includes livestock, dump trailers, and pneumatic tank trailers. Gary owns 20 trucks, Greg owns 16 trucks (including the pictured black 2020 Peterbilt 389 with purple stripes hooked to the livestock trailer), and Austin has his, and all the company equipment is maintained in-house. The engines will get torn down at the shop, and then they will have their motor guy come in, because they have so much other truck work and maintenance to do.
Thanks go out to Austin, Taylor, Greg, and Melissa for the warm welcome. I had a great time with all of them and left the area feeling like I was able to make some long-term friendships. One of the highlights of this trip for me was being able to take a four-generation photo of Papaw Gary, Greg, Austin, and his son Creed. Even though it was during winter, that area was beautiful, and provided the amazing photographic locations we had (and Mother Nature did not ruin our plans for once).
Life has a funny way of carving out the paths we are all supposed to take. Austin may have had a dream of being a baseball pitcher, but after life threw him some curve balls (pun intended), he is now living out the dream he was meant to obtain all along – being a trucker. As always, to all the drivers out there doing the deal, truck safe.