Dreams of the son…
OOIDA Member Mike Landis brings his childhood dreams to old school reality

By Jeff Barker, contributing writer

While many people had childhood dreams of being a trucker, some worked hard to make it happen – and a few do it in style with a truck that they remember from their youth.

Mike Landis, who is 27 years old and an OOIDA member from Lititz, PA, grew up in a multigenerational trucking family. He knew he wanted to become a trucker when he grew up and got his start driving for a local feed company.

He decided to take it a step further by becoming the first owner-operator in his family. With some financial help from his grandfather, who saw his strong work ethic, Mike purchased a 1988 Peterbilt 362 cabover at the age of 21. He had also purchased a newer truck but after growing tired of frequent breakdowns while supporting his wife and children and making truck payments, he decided to ditch that one and put the cabover back on the road.

It’s no secret that with the all too common reliability issues of many late-model trucks, some owner-operators like Mike are taking a step back in time in terms of what they drive. Because there are fewer parts that can fail, a well-maintained older truck can be more reliable.

Mike had an inframe rebuild done on the engine in November 2011, but otherwise his truck has been running well for him since he put it back on the road just over a year ago. As with many who own older trucks, Mike carries some spare parts with him so he can get his truck back on the road in a hurry in case anything goes wrong.

“With this truck, I may need some tools to fix it, but thankfully no expensive code scanners or software,” he said with a laugh.

Mike, a flatbedder who travels an average of 120,000 miles annually, runs all 48 states and has even recently made trips to the Pacific Northwest with the old cabover. With a Cummins Big Cam IV engine, an Eaton-Fuller Performance 9-speed Overdrive transmission (which will eventually be replaced by a 13-speed), and 3:90 ratio rears, he claims an average of 6-7 miles per gallon.

“Between better fuel mileage, no more truck payments, and a lot fewer breakdowns, I`m finding myself in a much more favorable financial situation these days,” he said.

Mike’s a hard-working young man who is supporting his family, and his wife and children are very proud. In fact, his 2-year-old son loves to hit the starter button and hear the engine roar to life whenever he gets ready to leave the house.

“One day recently, he came walking out with an item from his truck sticker book. It was a decal of a red cabover with a white stripe that he placed on the dash. I left it there. … The memory of him doing that means a lot to me,” said Mike. “My son is absolutely nuts about cabovers and is already spotting them before I do.”

It’s obvious that Mike has the old-school way of trucking in his blood and will see to it that his ethics will be passed on to his children. In fact, I’m willing to bet that in the years ahead they will be cruising around in some cool old rides of their own and showing a strong sense of pride through their own hard work. LL