New-school classics

The March issue of American Trucker is headed to our booth at the Mid-America Trucking Show, so we decided to alter our editorial calendar a bit. Rather than a planned feature on maintenance (critical, but not very sexy), the cover story this month looks into the future and asks, basically, whether cool trucks are on the way out.

In this age of uniformly aerodynamic and efficient rigs, how is a successful independent expected to stand out in the mega-fleet crowd? 

The good news—and this isn’t a surprise to our readers—is the owner-operator segment is alive and well, and truck makers are paying attention.

As readers will see for themselves, new trucks are being built to offer the best in both efficiency and style. The choices are many, and it’s up to the buyer to know what he or she needs—and likes—and has always dreamed about.

Of course, the equipment evolution doesn’t mean old-school custom trucks are dinosaurs. This month’s cover features a 2001 Pete 379. We spotted it on a truck stop parking lot recently—how could we not? 

Turns out the truck is one of 20 highly customized rigs in the fleet of JDT Logistics, a family-run general and specialty freight hauler out of Medford, OR. And our cover model isn’t even one of the fanciest in the fleet. 

Owner Jim Davis tells us that all but one of his tractors are 379 “longheads” running 550-hp. Caterpillar engines with 13-speed transmissions. A fleet made up of similar trucks makes life in the shop much simpler.

He’s had “a tough go ’round” in deciding when to make the leap to new equipment. Davis says he’d be inclined to stick with the classic style, a new 389—although he might consider an aero truck, such as a 587 “slammed to the ground.” 

But he’s in no rush. A one-truck owner-op for 15 years, customers always admired his classic rigs and encouraged him to expand his fleet. Three years ago, opportunities arose that allowed him to do so and his business has taken off.

He has a waiting list of drivers hoping to get on with JDT. “We go for that clean-cut, well-spoken, good-with-the-customers kind of driver,” Davis said. “Our trucks give them a sense of pride, and customers appreciate it.” 

It’s a good time to be an American trucker.

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