My son, Dean, at about nine years old, and I pose next to a Mack, one of many trucks I drove during my truckin’ days. C1979
I drove big rigs for about ten years, pretty much during the decade of the 1970s. So, while traveling the highways and byways of the country I have a great time watching for unusual trucks of all kinds. The bigger the better, as long as I’m not being held up! There are some real monsters to be seen on the highways.
To properly view this huge rig, click on the photo to enlarge; click again for even larger.
In Norfolk, Nebraska, while parked for the night at Walmart on US275, this monster drove by. Wow! It is the base of a huge wind turbine. What a rig! According to what I could find on the ‘net about these monsters, the payload here is somewhere north of 100,000 lbs. That would explain the 12 axles plus the tractor’s front axle. This type trailer is called a Schnabel. It requires no trailer below the load, permitting the load to be carried very low to avoid overhead wires, overpasses, etc.
Here’s a YouTube video of a similar rig negotiating a tight corner:
Large mining dump trucks are so big that they must be shipped in pieces to the site they’ll work, and are assembled there. Here, its weight and length spread over 13 axles(!), the front of one (note grill and headlights) heads east on I-80 in Wyoming. (June 2017)
On the same trip but heading west on I-80, we encountered this super sized mining truck dump bed that blocked two lanes of traffic and was accompanied by several pilot cars and even the highway patrol – and another identical load.
As a school kid back in the 50s I would get into trouble for drawing trucks in class. I loved ’em even as a kid and from those days I always wanted to be a truck driver. Then in the 60s, after I was out of high school I could find no way to learn the trade. There were no truck driving schools back then, at least none I knew about.
I worked a number of other jobs until I was 28 years old when I met a veteran log hauler in Red Bluff, CA at the truck company’s yard that was in my neighborhood. I was selling Fuller Brush products door to door at the time, and did Ok doing that, but I still wanted to drive trucks for a living.
Here’s the rig I learned on and identical to the one I drove waaay back in the 70s. The logging trucks of today are much improved but still have about the same appearance as this old timer. This logger had walking beam suspensions that rode like a tractor. They were powered by Cummins 335 engines and had the old 5X4 main/Brownie transmissions.
That fine fellow, Paul Fox, put up with me for three months as he taught me how to drive a 1960s era Peterbilt logging truck. It had a Cummins 335 and two transmissions; the main which was five speeds and the Brownie which was four speeds. I learned how to shift the old “main and Brownie” twin sticks in the woods and mountains, and we shifted gears virtually all day long. If we weren’t driving off road, we were driving along mountain highways. It was “old skool” truckin’ and it was hard, dirty work – sometimes so muddy our trucks would bog down in mud and have to be pulled out with large log skidders. We drove many miles off road to and from the landings where the logs awaited loading, then we hauled them to the saw mills.
After the three months of learning, I was hired on, and that first load I hauled on my own made for a mighty proud moment. I stayed with log hauling for that year, including winter, and drove on mud, ice and snow. Conditions could be downright miserable hauling logs, so…
I looked forward to a highway job to get away from the mud and slop of log hauling, and I eventually learned the ropes of hauling lumber. I hauled lumber and plywood from saw mills in Northern California to the lumber yards in Southern California. Pavement beat mud, and I preferred highway driving!
Once on the highway full time I drove for a few different companies which included hauling lumber, plywood, sheet rock, sugar and molasses, soda ash, and ag products such as rice, tomatoes, and bulk milk.
Pictured here are some of the rigs I used to drive…
Old #34 when I hauled lime from Ridgecrest, California near Death Valley. This load was likely heading to Salinas, CA.
After hauling logs I learned to haul lumber and considered it a much better job simply because I was off the rough old logging roads and full time on the highways.
A Mack conventional that I dearly loved to drive. It had the Maxidyne and a very slick 5 speed transmission. With its airbag under the back of the cab, it was one of the nicest riding trucks I ever drove.
The old milk tanks I pulled with a Freightliner powered by a Detroit 318 with 4X4 transmissions. Here I’m unloading at the old, long ago closed Carnation canned milk plant in Gustine, Calif.
I loved this Freightliner, old #34. She was my assigned tractor when my employer hauled sugar and molasses for Spreckels Sugar and also chemicals from near Death Valley. This was one of my favorite rides; she had a Cummins 350 and a 13 speed Roadranger transmission.
Another truck I drove during the sugar and chemical hauling days. This old “Jimmy” Astro was a good looking truck and the interior was awesome.
The very cool interior of a GMC Astro tractor similar to the one above. Even these many years later I think it’s futuristic looking, but alas, GMC quit the big rig business decades ago.
My last trucking job, near the town of Stockton, CA, for Sunrise Transportation (they closed many years ago), included hauling molasses in tanks to and from Spreckels Sugar mills scattered all over the Central Valley and also bulk chemicals from near Death Valley to the various sugar mills. I also hauled granulated sugar from the sugar mills to the L.A. area – mostly to the Coca-Cola plant. I loved that job but eventually, after five years with that company, I wanted a life outside the cab of a truck.
In 1980 I started a landscape maintenance business and my trucking employer allowed me to drive gradually fewer days each week ’til I built up a sufficient number of gardening customers to be full time. I’ll always be thankful for their cooperation!
Once in my own business I never went back to trucking, but I’ve always said that trucking was my true calling and my favorite job of any I ever had – there was just too darn much of it! During my trucking years there were times that I literally lived in the cab of a truck. It’s too bad it can’t be just an eight hour a day job, but it sure isn’t.
Having the truck history I have, I am always admiring the big rigs of today with whom I share the highways when I RV around the country. So, instead of posting a photo of an interesting truck on each travelogue to get lost and forgotten over time, I will now also post them to this page so they will all be available on one page. I hope like minded truckers and those interested in trucks will find this page entertaining. Enjoy!
June, 2017: You know you’ve been passed right properly when one of these huge Utah rigs, up to 105 feet and 129,000 pounds, passes you! This rig cruised by us along I-80 as we crossed the salt flats of Utah.
More truck photos from my travels during 2017:
- Also in June, 2017 this fleet of bottom dumpers waited in line during a construction project on Utah’s salt flats on I-80.
- June, 2017: We saw four or five of these Brad Paisley rigs heading west for his next concert.
- May, 2017 in Montana: Another monster load to photograph.
- I believe this was South Dakota in May, 2017: A monster set of doubles! Imagine the allowable weight with all those axles! I don’t know what that load is.
- This is a very similar rig that was going in the other direction. My guess is that this one was hauling tomatoes, or some other ag product.
- A few miles later, I believe still in South Dakota, this monster was sitting at the top of an off ramp. I cut off a portion of the trailer axles in the photo, but count those axles and check that length!
- Same rig from behind. I had no idea what this big cylinder was, but I learned from the second photo from the top of this page, in 2019, that this is a base for a huge wind turbine, attached to a Schnabel trailer.
More trucks that caught my eye on the June, 2017 trip to Denver and home:
Along I-80 in Nevada as we drove to Denver and Beyond (clear to Minnesota!), we parked Dale’s Diner for breakfast at a rest area next to this monster 34 wheel, 10 axle, 129,000 lb., 105 ft long rig. The driver was a very friendly fellow and I had a short chat with him about the monster he drove. He hauls lime in those pneumatic tanks. I hauled lime back in the day when I drove; I loaded it near Death Valley and hauled it to Manteca’s Spreckles Sugar plant which is now long gone.
Driving home from a kokanee fishing trip on New Melones Lake on Highway 49, this logger pulled over to check his load. Having been a log truck driver back in the 70s, I pulled over to check out his splendid rig because it looks to me like nothing has changed about logging truck design. Sure enough, the geometry and layout seem identical to the rigs I drove. This incredible rig is a ’91 Kenworth with a new Cat 600 HP engine installed four years ago. Although this beauty has over 1,000,000 miles, it looks new! The owner keeps the entire rig – even places you cannot see – polished and looking great. His name is Larry Thomas and he’s my kind of trucker!