We’ve all heard trucking company owners talk about how drivers used to be – they took care of the equipment, had a high level of professionalism, passion for the industry, and pride in the trucks they drove. Today, although it seems to be rare, those individuals still exist, and one of them is Tom Betten (46). Tom is a driver that operates a Peterbilt 389 owned by V-Max Transportation, Inc. out of Zeeland, MI, and a guy who has a lot of pride and passion for his job.
Growing up in Hudsonville, MI, Tom is a third generation trucker. Tom’s grandfather John started in the industry in 1939, and his father Cal began in 1966. Tom realized that trucking was truly in his blood and that would be his career path while on an over-the-road trip with his dad to Texas when he was about seven years old. By his early teens, his father started teaching him the ropes of driving a truck.
Starting locally, Tom ran for his parents within the state of Michigan, but he couldn’t wait to hit the road and haul out of the state. In 1998, literally the day before he turned 21, he loaded the truck, and on his 21st birthday he made his way to Lincolnton, NC with a load of office furniture. In 2001, Tom spent some time in the construction field, pulling gravel trains and 8-axle live-bottom trailers, continuing in this part of the industry until 2015, when he started at V-Max.
Once at V-Max, there was no doubt, when talking to Tom, that he feels at home with this company. Owner Dave Van Haitsma is a man Tom looks up to, admiring Dave’s faith, family values, and work ethic. As Tom stated, “Dave is the Rick Hendrick of trucking because he gives his drivers what they need,” which includes great pay and amazing equipment. Dave empowers his drivers to be the best, and he offers them the opportunity for a great living, supporting their families, through hard work.
The pictured white with maroon frame truck is a 2016 Peterbilt 389 glider with a 36-inch sleeper, a CAT 2WS under the hood, a 13-speed transmission, 3.70 rears, and a 280-inch wheelbase. This sleek truck is accessorized to make it look clean and classy without being overdone. It sports an 8-inch exhaust, a Lincoln Chrome visor, and a 20-inch bumper with a 12 Ga. Customs lift. Also, adding to the sleek look, are Shift Products half fenders, color matched Fibertech 6-inch body drop panels, and a complete interior showcasing all Rockwood products.
Taking delivery of the truck in spring of 2016 as a rolling glider, V-Max Transportation put the truck into service in July of 2016. Tom has been driving this truck since it was a year old, and it can normally be seen pulling a Utility 53-foot dry van. A typical work week is usually Monday through Friday hauling “finished” office furniture out and raw materials back to the plants. As with all the company trucks, all the service and maintenance are done in-house.
Truck shows became a thing in Tom’s life starting in 1995 when he went with his dad to the Michigan Kenworth Trucker Appreciation Day in Grand Rapids, MI, with his dad’s 1995 KW W900L, which took first place in the Best Kenworth class. Tom got a taste of a big show in 2004 when he took a 1999 Kenworth W900L and a set of 2004 Benson gravel trains to the Mid-America Trucking Show and earned first place in the First Show class, along with the Horizon Award. Over the years at V-Max, Tom has shown his truck, as well as helped with showing the company show truck, a maroon and white 1995 Kenworth W900L pulling a matching 2016 Utility spread-axle dry van.
If you haven’t seen it, there is an inscription on the back of the sleeper that says “Washed In The Blood” which is an important line for Tom. It simply states his faith, being saved by grace, and in his heart, he knows Jesus is his savior.
I had the opportunity to meet Dave Van Haitsma in May of 2017 at SuperRigs in Tulsa, OK after he did an interview with Big Rig Videos. The interview discussed plenty, including the previously mentioned W900L company show truck. Since meeting Dave, I’ve always looked up to him and admired him for his integrity and professionalism, but more so as someone who has always been kind to me. I had a chance to speak with him recently to get a little background on V-Max. Since August of 2000, the company has exceeded Dave’s initial plans for a 17 truck fleet, as it will be running about 52 trucks, after taking delivery of five more this September.
V-Max Transportation is a very family-oriented company, with three generations involved, including Dave’s wife Shelby, who handles the accounting, and is assisted part time by their daughter Kami. Kami’s husband Zach works in dispatch on the highway side, and their other daughter Erin (who works as a dental hygienist) is married to Lucas, who is a mechanic in the shop. Dave and Shelby’s son Ryan is in charge of the back building, where the truck sales and service take place. The third generation is represented by Lucas and Erin’s sons, Case (15) and Caden (13), who work at the company in the wash bay.
As a company owner, Dave took the time to explain the importance of having and maintaining quality drivers and how critical it is to find the right individuals who you don’t have to worry about. These individuals not only do their jobs well, but they have a lot of knowledge, take care of their equipment, and have pride in what they operate (even if they don’t own it). He said, as a whole, he is blessed to have the drivers the company has who not only do a great job, but also keep the company image up with the way they take care of their trucks. Tom is included in this, with the dedication, pride, and loyalty he exudes.
When growing up, family vacations for Tom were almost always in a truck. During summer vacations and Christmas breaks, Tom rode with his dad in the truck whenever he could. A highlight memory since he has been trucking was the chance to haul a load of new furniture to Brainstorm 2019 (a meeting of CEOs from Fortune 500 companies) in Aspen, CO. It was a trip he and another driver made with Dave and Ryan Van Haitsma, unloading in an area of Colorado where trucks don’t usually go. They all hung out for three days and saw some amazing scenery, and did some hiking, too. Once the meeting was over, they reloaded and hauled the furniture to California to be sold as used furniture.
I admire Tom for not only being passionate about life, but also his passion for trucking’s past, which includes past and present Michigan trucks. Something positive Tom promotes is a charity truck show that started to help a mutual friend who was battling cancer. This show, Great Lakes Pride & Shine, which is held in Hudsonville, MI, was formed by Tom, Jake Honderds, Ryan Van Haitsma, Reid Stroven, and Bobbi Jo Hill. Sadly, they lost their friend on February 27, 2022, but continued the show, having their 4th annual event in June of this year. Proceeds went to benefit “92 for 22” out of west Michigan, a non-profit organization that helps raise awareness for PTSD, veteran suicide, and aids veterans in need. Mark your calendars for their 2024 show, which will be held June 7-8, 2024.
I met Tom and Katie (they got married in December 2003) for the first time at the 2018 Richard Crane Memorial Truck Show in St. Ignace, MI. Today, Tom and Katie reside in a more rural area of Holland, MI with their three children, daughter Jamie (14), daughter Korie (13), and son Jace (10). The oldest, Jamie, is the one that a passerby would most likely see in the passenger seat, as she loves riding with her dad in the truck.
Special thanks from Tom to the most influential person in his life, his father, for being an amazing role model in showing him what it means to be a professional driver, how to conduct himself out on the road, gave him his solid work ethic, and taught him how important attention to detail is. Tom appreciates his dad for believing in him, all the support, and patience through all his mistakes and learning curves in the industry. Also, thank you from Tom to Dave Van Haitsma for the opportunities, the beautiful truck he gets to drive, the friendship, and for being a great boss.
Big thanks to the backbone of Tom’s family, his wife Katie, who is the glue that holds the family together and keeps Tom grounded. Her heart, passion, kindness, and understanding seem to be unending. She is an amazing mother, and, with a smile, Tom said, “There is no better wife. How do you even put it into words when someone asks about your wife, when she makes every single day of your life better!”
Thank you to Tom and Katie for the friendship over the years and welcoming me into your home. Thank you, Dave Van Haitsma, for enabling this opportunity, for all your time, and for being a role model. Shout out to Dave and Sandy Helder and Jeff and Tammy Siegers for the use of your properties to photograph the truck. We all search for a work environment we can take pride in and be passionate about – and Tom has found that! As always, to all the drivers out there doing the deal, truck safe.