OOIDA members top at GATS

The Great American Trucking Show in Dallas has a lot in common with the Olympics. Both are filled with challenges and opportunities. Both bring different cultures and ideas together. Both recognize folks at the top of their game. And both put on a head-turning spectacle to be enjoyed by many. From the opening ceremonies to the closing celebration, GATS was filled with products, vendors, seminars, toe-tapping concerts and amazing trucks.

While Michael Phelps was earning Olympic gold in Beijing, Brad Caton was quietly compiling a few records of his own. At GATS Caton won his fourth Best of Show – Working Combo trophy in 2008, along with four class trophies, bringing his combined medal total for 2008 to 21 gold and silver medals. Not bad for a sand and gravel hauler from Hampton, MN.

Caton’s classy, flashy 2007 blue and silver Peterbilt 379 and 2007 Mac end dump are a bright reflection of his dedication to his job with Eilen & Sons Trucking. All the Eilen trucks look good all the time; it’s a requirement.

“This was a really tough competition,” Caton said. “There were a lot of great trucks – really clean and detailed.”

Gold medal rides come in all different wrappers and Jerry Kissinger’s 1991 Mack Superliner and 2006 Great Dane reefer is worth a close look.  

Under the hood is Mack’s E9 V8 engine, which was discontinued in 1996. It wouldn’t meet emissions standards even then. Tweaked and tuned, it puts more than 800 horsepower to the ground.

“I couldn’t really run it in California without seriously de-rating it,” Kissinger said. “And if I did that, I’d get passed going up a hill by a kid on a bicycle.”

Kissinger spends a lot of time and effort raising money to support kids through the Make-A-Wish and Special Olympics organizations. He’s received his ninth “star” from Make-A-Wish.

A second-generation owner-operator from Cottage Grove, WI, Kissinger owns seven trucks, 11 trailers and has another 14 owner-operators hauling for him.

He said his trip to Dallas was more fun than he ever imagined. In his first Pride & Polish contest, he struck gold, Best of Show – Limited Mileage Combo and two class trophies.

“I still don’t believe it,” he said. “I couldn’t wait to call my wife and share it with her.”

There’s a new kid on the block, and at the end of the day he gets to take a nap.

Braydon Moore, age 3, was excited to sign up for his own OOIDA membership at GATS. He’s been trucking since he was 6 months old.

“He just loves trucks,” said Justin Moore, Braydon’s proud dad. “He helps me clean and polish the truck every week when I get home. He’ll wake me up on Saturday morning around 6 a.m. and say, ‘Come on, Daddy, this truck has bugs on it. We gotta go clean it.’ ”

The Moores proudly showed their 2008 purple Peterbilt 389 and 2009 Western curtain-side trailer. Their company, Milk Moovers, out of Ontario, CA, started with a one-truck milk route in Chino. Moore and his partner have expanded the business since 2004 and have added an additional five trucks, two drop deck trailers and two milk tankers.

“My mom is the dispatcher; my wife, Shelly, is the bookkeeper; and we just had a baby girl, Brylie, about a month ago,” Moore said. “People see me with the Milk Moovers name on my truck and the curtainside trailer, and they ask how I haul milk with it. I just tell ’em ‘it’s boxed milk.’ ”

Well, the Moores must have “mooved” the judges in the right direction, because they won a first place trophy in their class.

If there was ever an all-around champion, it would be the Sandvik Trucking fleet. This time Bill and Marie Sandvik along with driver Isaac Aguilar took their 1992 burgundy Peterbilt 379 to GATS to collect Best of Show – Working Bobtail along with a couple of first-place class trophies.

Renamed and revamped earlier this year, the Sandviks’ “Still Deliriouz” has been hard at work, hauling across the West out of Valley Center, CA. They decided to take the truck back to competition quality in May, performing a total overhaul in 28 days. From the gleaming paint to the blindingly brilliant stainless and chrome, edgy interior and immaculately dressed engine, this truck is a head-turning winner.

“I just can’t believe it,” exclaimed Marie Sandvik. “The guys worked so hard on this truck, and I’m thrilled for them.”

Wayne Baker and Darlene Swift came with two trucks – his ’n’ hers. His is a striking 2002 gray and black Peterbilt 379 pulling a 2007 Great Dane reefer. Hers is a 2000 orange and black Freightliner, which rose to fame with a fabulous makeover in the inaugural season of “Trick My Truck” on cable television.

They hail from the Quad Cities and run wherever the freight takes them – especially when they can do it together. They haul farm tractor products in containers for overseas shipment in the fall and winter. Running to northern North Dakota and Minnesota in winter can be tough.

“Sometimes just keeping the trucks on the road is hard,” explained Swift.

Collectively Baker and Swift earned six trophies, including special recognition for Swift’s “Most Technologically Advanced Cab.”

“I’ve got so many remote controls, it took me a while to figure them all out,” Swift said with a laugh.

From new kids on the block to seasoned champions in just one year’s time, Alex and Andy Gobel, along with Nic Gillan and Jon Gill and their blood-red 2001 Peterbilt 379, “Dead Man’s Hand,” absolutely wowed the crowds and judges alike. Featuring their unique blend of street rod, rat rod and hot truck that’s grown into an expanding business, Outlaw Customs, in Henderson, CO, these young men made a great journey to earn Best of Show – Limited Mileage Bobtail.

“Last year we were racing just to get the truck to Dallas. Now we’re getting ready to introduce more products, and it’s been just amazing,” Alex said.

The sweet smell of success, like freshly waxed paint and polished aluminum, perfumed the air. All the hard work, sweat and effort paid off in the form of compliments and awards. They really are the champions. LL

Suzanne Stempinski can be reached at wheelz624@aol.com.

2008 Pride & Polish sponsors include OOIDA; 10-4 Magazine; The 75-Chrome Shop; Alcoa Wheels Division; Arvin Meritor; Caterpillar; Firestone; Freightliner Trucks; Howes Lubricator Products; International Truck and Engine Corporation; Mobil Delvac; Overdrive’s Custom Rigs Magazine; Panelite; Peterbilt; PPG; Randall Reilly Publishing; Rockwood Products; Roadworks Manufacturing; SAF Holland; Transcraft; Truk Rodz by Jones Performance; United Pacific; and Volvo Trucks North America