Trucking companies usually have a particular truck that will catch my attention, but what happens when there is more than one truck and the whole company has a great story? You take a different approach, get the history of the company, and include photos of not just one truck, but a handful of them. This is the story of Tramcor Corporation, a handful of their trucks, and why this third-generation company continues to be strong to this day.
I went to visit Tramcor in Ogden, UT back in June to photograph one of their 389s along with some of their other trucks prior to heading to Wyoming to photograph another truck. I spoke with Derek Esplin, one of the current owners, prior to my arrival, and the little bit of insight into the company I received had me interested in learning more.
Tramcor Corporation started out in 1970 as Wayne Braegger Trucking out of Willard, UT. Wayne and his wife Merlene started this company out of their home with their few trucks parked in the backyard of their property. Their first truck was a 1971 Peterbilt that, after Wayne drove, a few of his sons took turns behind the wheel of it, as well.
One of their regular customers, Amcor, was what most would call their bread and butter. It was a regular haul of aggregate from Brigham City, UT to a precast plant in Ogden, UT. Wayne Braegger Trucking saw a name change in 1974 when they became Tramcor (utilizing letters from transportation for Amcor) Corporation. Over the years, the company’s growth proved the location in Willard was no longer accommodating, so parking and operations was moved to Farr West (with an Ogden, UT mailing address) in 1995, where the company remains based today.
For most companies, not all the children step up to the plate to carry on a company that their parents started, but Wayne and Merlene’s children did just that. With the unfortunate passing of Wayne Braegger in 1996, their three sons and daughter stepped up and bought out their mother so they could carry on the legacy. The second generation to take over was Duane Braegger, Lynn Braegger, Mike Braegger, and Kathleen Garza. Everyone had their roles, which was only fitting with the strengths they each brought to the table.
Duane Braegger started driving for the company in the fall of 1972 just after high school. He had been around trucks his whole life, so he didn’t give it any thought to what he would be doing for the rest of his life. He drove full time until 1986 when he came into the office to dispatch the 10-12 trucks they ran at that time. One by one, as the company grew, the siblings all ended up coming into the office or shop, taking on the new roles they would remain in. Duane became the president of the company when he and his siblings bought it.
About five years ago, Duane sat down with his two sons and three of his nephews as it had come to the point that either the third generation was going to carry the torch of the company or look to a different option. In the discussion, there wasn’t another option but for the five cousins to take over! The five cousins consisted of Duane’s sons Luke and Shelby Braegger, Mike’s son Riley Braegger, Lynn’s son Josh Braegger, and Kathleen’s son Derek Esplin.
As the process of buyout started, the brothers were the first to eventually retire while Kathleen still works for the company today. Duane retired last year on December 30, 2022, however, with trucking in his blood, he will still fill in driving at the company when they have a heavy week of transport.
I spoke with Luke Braegger, Duane’s youngest son, about his role in the company and how it came to be. Like how all the family members involved in the company started, Luke started out around six or seven years old, coming to the shop every Saturday, doing whatever he was capable of doing. He came on board full time in the shop as a mechanic in 1997. Around 2000, Luke spent two years serving on a mission trip in Tucson, AZ and as soon as he returned, he was behind the wheel driving. Two years later, he came into the office and began dispatching with his uncle Mike. He was being groomed by his father and learning the ins and outs of the various aspects, including the Safety Department. Luke mirrored his father in the office and would take on the position of president upon his father’s retirement.
Luke explained that each of the current co-owners has their role because it is what their strength is and what they excel at. Derek oversees the equipment, shop, and equipment purchases with his attention to detail and expenses. Luke, as mentioned, is the current president as well as fill in driver when there is a need. His older brother Shelby heads up the logistics and brokerage company, Blue Thunder Transportation. Riley, Mike Braegger’s son, is in charge of recruiting and retention manager, and Josh, Lynn Braegger’s son, is operations manager of their forklift division.
Today, Tramcor is looking forward to celebrating its 50th anniversary next year in 2024. Seeing things firsthand, the operations of the company move smoothly, with everyone having their part in making that happen. A multi-bay shop houses a pull-in wash bay that can accommodate multiple trucks at a time, as well as the service bays. Merlene is a delightful woman, a spry 91-year-old, and beloved mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother. I would never have guessed she was 91 as she moves about amazingly and tends to her garden.
Something that is pretty amazing is the fact that the company isn’t just three generations strong, but already includes two members of the fourth generation behind the wheel, as well. Josh’s sons Logan and Jensen both drive, and like those before them, they started out from the bottom and worked their way into driving. I was able to meet Logan the second day of photographing the trucks, and I was impressed by his driving skills, pride in his truck, and the respectful manners he possesses. According to Derek, he started working in the shop after getting out of school each day and today he “drives his butt off” every day. Currently he runs #337 (pictured) for the forklift division with his father and takes great care of his truck.
As you can tell, the company has many different facets, currently running a fleet of 78 company trucks and 32 owner operators. Their equipment allows them to be diverse and meet all the needs of their customers. Their pneumatic trailers haul cement and fly ash to redi-mix and cement plants. They have belly dumps for hauling aggregate, forklift trucks for hauling block, brick, and stone, as well as several flatbeds and conestoga trailers. As you can see in some of the photos, they recently added a 2024 Trout River belt trailer, which has plenty of shiny on it! Their trucks run local, regional, and over the road (48 states and Canada).
Derek was pivotal in bringing all the pieces of this article together and, like all of the others, he started early on at the company. His father drove for Tramcor, so Derek rode with his dad plenty, along with his cousin Josh, too. He drove right out of high school and was driving up until 2014, when he went into the shop, where he remains today.
All I can say is if I was residing in or around Ogden, UT, I would be proud to work for Tramcor Corporation. I was welcomed in like we were all longtime friends and was able to hear about the company from everyone. According to Duane, driver retention is important to the company because the drivers are an important part of their team and their family. They do see more turnover with younger drivers, but the ones who don’t leave end up retiring from the company! Tramcor places great importance on commending their drivers for doing a good job, showing them appreciation, understanding them, and maintaining open communication with them.
I originally saw truck #359 (the two-tone blue 389) and #321 (light blue 379 with stripes) at the 2022 Great Salt Lake Truck Show in Lehi, UT and had the chance to briefly talk with Derek at that time. He explained that the two-tone 389 was put together especially for one of their longtime drivers, Kody Braegger (his grandfather and Derek’s grandfather were second cousins).
Kody has been with Tramcor since he started washing trucks around 14 or 15 years old. He picked out the colors of his truck and then the company added custom parts to it as a surprise to show their appreciation for the great driver he is. As Derek told me, Kody never calls with problems, he works hard, washes his truck at the end of every week, and takes a lot of pride in what he does. And the company isn’t just made up of a multi-generation of owners, but multi-generational drivers, as well. Kody’s father Kirk drove for Tramcor for 32 years, and today it isn’t just Kody, but his brother Kirby is a driver, as well.
We spoke more after the show and managed to coordinate schedules for the trip out earlier this year. Big thanks go out to Derek for all the communication and making the photography a breeze with finding great locations, along with moving trucks around to all the locations with help from Al Bisel, Aaron Struble, Nate Gabler, Logan Braegger, and David Rodriguez. Definitely not forgotten, thanks to Duane and Luke for your time, as well as Kathleen for the conversation and dinner with Derek at my favorite type of restaurant – Mexican.
I photographed a total of six trucks in five different locations, including downtown Brigham City. The trucks I photographed were truck numbers 359 (two-tone blue 2022 Peterbilt 389), 321 (a 2003 Pete 379 with light blue stripes), 400 (2022 Peterbilt 579 that is light blue with dark blue stripes hooked to a 2024 Trout River belt trailer), 362 (two-tone blue 2022 Peterbilt 567 daycab), 320 (blue 2021 Peterbilt 389 daycab), and 337 (light blue with dark stripe 2015 Peterbilt 389 flatbed straight truck).
Truck #321 holds a special place in Luke’s heart. Jim “Buck” Stanger drove for Tramcor for many years but had gotten sick and had to leave trucking. He and Luke were very close, and Luke had the truck rebuilt (which is also the truck he drives when he does) and had “Truckin’ for Buck” put on the back of the sleeper as a tribute to Jim.
The beauty of Utah never ceases to amaze me and every year I look forward to going out there. I saw more of Utah during that trip, including my favorite, the majestic mountain ranges. I couldn’t have asked for better backgrounds or weather for these trucks. With the trucks dialed in, I knew this article would show not just one but all of the six trucks I shot. As always, to all the drivers out there doing the deal, truck safe.