Carrying on a legacy
Dependable mechanic engines and a diverse fleet keep this owner-operator family on the move

By Jeff Barker, contributing writer

OOIDA Member Jim Johnson of Clark, S.D., keeps the legacy of a family business rolling and does it in vintage style.

It’s rare that we hear about businesses being carried on through generations these days, especially in the trucking business. Jim Johnson and his brother Dennis Johnson (who was featured in the March/April 2012 issue of Land Line Magazine with his clean, hard-working 1985 International 9670 cabover), along with their families, have been working hard to keep the business their father started alive and well.

They pride themselves on sticking to the same old school way of doing things they learned from their father.

Jim and Dennis share a shop where they do a lot of their own maintenance and repairs on the trucks and trailers. They also share a great bond and work well together, often traveling to and from the same places where their cargo needs to go.

Jim works under his own operating authority and owns two Freightliner trucks. He really enjoys driving this 1983 FLB9664T cabover and it definitely turns heads, even as the original paint job is covered in dirt while on the job. Like Dennis, he has embraced the idea of being diversified and stays busy year-round thanks to a variety of equipment, including a cattle trailer, grain hopper, belly dump, and a belt floor trailer.

“I bought this truck two and a half years ago and one of the selling points was the very low mileage,” Jim said. “The original owner, who was also from South Dakota, had this truck on a team run hauling meat to the West Coast. By the time this truck was three years old, it already had over 900,000 miles on it. Then a farmer bought it for doing some local hauling before I eventually found it for sale.”

The truck currently has only 1.2 million miles on it and runs strong.

Jim’s truck is powered by a Caterpillar 3406B mechanical engine with 350 horsepower and is backed by a 15-speed and Rockwell 3:55 rears on the Reyco four-spring suspension, which was common on trucks built during the 1980s. The ride is smoothed out by a Link CabMate cab air ride kit.

The truck averages 5.5 miles per gallon, which is not bad considering he often hauls agriculture-related loads that have him grossing a legal permitted weight of 90,000 pounds with a triple-axle trailer. His truck also sees a lot of idle time when pulling his belt floor trailer that requires the PTO to run the hydraulics.

“We have to stay on top of our equipment up here as the winter is long. When we’re hauling livestock and the temperatures drop, breakdowns need to be avoided so we don’t lose the animals while in transit,” he said. “The simple nature of these mechanical engines we have in our trucks gives us a lot more peace of mind as there’s very little that can go wrong with them.”

I believe these two are a prime example that others will hopefully strive to follow as they carry on in the memory of their hard-working father who is proudly watching over them from above. LL