It‘s one of the perks of my job to meet a lot of good people in the business of trucking, especially at the Mid America Trucking Show going on this week in Louisville, KY - folks that own some pretty slick iron, too. That‘s the case of Rick Hitchcock out of Webberville, MI, who drives for his family‘s company, MBH Trucking, hauling molasses and liquid fertilizer, to grain elevators across the Upper Midwest and into Canada.
I met Rick and his lovely wife Jennifer in 2007 - barely married one year back then - as a judge for the National Association of Show Trucks (NAST) contest. Rick didn‘t win the top slot, but he‘s back for another try this year.
Rick‘s dad, Matthew Brian Hitchcock, is the owner of MBH Trucking (Just in case you missed it ... ‘MBH‘ are his initials) and he runs about 11 trucks hauling just about everything -- he even has a hazmat division, too. But this isn‘t a cushy job for Rick, let me tell you: it‘s his hard earned dollars and sweat (and not a little from his brothers) that have made his 2005 Peterbilt 379 - dubbed ‘The Slammed Pete” - and instant modern-day classic.
Sporting a sharp white and red two-tone paint design, the 292-inch wheelbase of Rick‘s rig hugs the ground, with the big wheel covers on the rear tires making his piece of rolling stock look more like hot rod straight out of a ZZ Top music video. Rick‘s truck sports a 625-hp Caterpillar engine - painted white and red just like his truck‘s exterior - and an 18-speed Eaton Fuller manual. He‘s living proof that youngsters (he‘s only in his mid-20s) can still learn to the work the gears as well as any veteran.
It took Rick six months of work to bring the Slammed Pete to life, but only six seconds for a distracted driver to put it back in the shop. Late last year a motorist hit his truck head on, in broad daylight, smashing the hood and front axle of Rick‘s Pete all to hell. Fortunately, no one got hurt and as the other driver was at fault, Rick got an $18,000 check to help restore his rig back to greatness.
Rick used the money to put a new hood and front grill on his Pete - which, along with the axle and fender repairs, took two months to complete. All the road salt from this year‘s harsh winter also turned his engine‘s paint job to a murky brown, so he pulled the motor to giving it fresh colors - work he had to do himself, with what little downtime he could squeeze into the day.
What‘s cool about Rick‘s ride, though is that it‘s an honest working truck, with hydraulic cylinders installed on the chassis to give it more ground clearance where needed - even one to swing up the front bumper so it doesn‘t get dinged when making deliveries. “I showed up at a farm this year and the guy told me, ‘You can‘t drive that truck in here - it‘s a show truck - it‘ll get dirty,‘” Rick told me. “But my truck is used to the work.”
He even enlisted his wife Jennifer‘s help polishing up the Slammed Pete for the show this year - including putting a new coat of wax on its wooden floors. “I told him I thought they looked just fine,” Jennifer told me. “But he wanted it to be perfect, so wax them we did.”
As I said in a story about Rick and his family last year, the Hitchcocks demonstrate -- to me, anyway -- that pride is still alive and doing very well in trucking, thank you very much. That‘s going to be very important, I think, in the years ahead as the younger generation decides whether to stay in this business or not. And why not take a little pride in choosing trucking as a career? The eye-catching low-riding design of Rick‘s Slammed Pete may not be to everyone‘s liking, but it tells everyone he likes what he does for a living. And you can‘t ask for more than that.