Truckin’ For Tacos

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Some people are motivated by money, some by power, and some by fame… but for trucker Everett Ford of Reeds Spring, MO, it’s tacos!  Running to California has always been Everett’s favorite destination for many reasons including the cool west coast style trucks, his favorite truck wash and polisher is there, the nice weather and scenery, and, of course, the taco trucks!  But this story isn’t about reviewing the best tacos the state has to offer (but Everett does have an opinion on that) – it’s about Everett’s trucking journey, and how he finally found a home at Fleenor Bros. out of Carthage, MO.

Born in Davenport, Iowa in 1969, Everett Ford (52) spent his first ten years of life in Walcott, Iowa, just south of the famed “World’s Largest” truck stop there.  Back then, his dad (Everett Sr.) hauled grain, but after an extremely cold winter in 1979, he moved the family to North Carolina, where his wife Mary Sue had grown up (her family still lived there).  Everett’s grandpa on his mom’s side (James Brown) was a farmer and a diesel mechanic, so there were always trucks around.  When Everett was little, he would go out with his dad whenever he could, and he loved watching all those trucking TV shows and movies from the 1970s and 80s.

At about 12 or 13 years old, Everett began moving trucks around the yard, but he had to put both feet on the clutch because he couldn’t push it in with just one.  At 18 years old he got his Chauffeur’s license, which was the precursor to today’s CDL, but his mom and dad didn’t really want him to drive, and his grandpa wanted him to become a mechanic like him.  After graduating from high school, Everett began working at a welding supply company, driving a route truck, making deliveries in a conventional International.  When he was 22 years old, he decided to join the Navy and spent the next four years as an aircraft mechanic stationed on Whidbey Island in the state of Washington (1991-1994).

After getting out of the Navy, Everett went back to work at the welding supply business, working on the dock at their gas plant, filling cylinders and loading trucks.  Wanting to drive again, they put him in a Kenworth K100 cabover and sent him out to do deliveries throughout North Carolina.  But he really wanted to be an over-the-road driver, so he left and went to L.G. DeWitt Trucking out of Ellerbe, NC and began hauling refrigerated freight in a Freightliner FLD with a Detroit up and down the east coast.  After two years, he switched to TMC Transportation, pulling a flatbed with a black Kenworth T600, running the Midwest and South.

Not one to stay anywhere for too long, Everett eventually left TMC and got a new gig delivering and setting up mobile homes for a while, before switching to hauling grain, rice, cotton seed, and other commodities OTR in hopper bottoms.  Again, running up and down the east coast, he did this for several different companies over the next four or five years.  While doing this, when not trucking, he was also a volunteer firefighter.  In January 2000, he decided to get off the road and took a paid position as a firefighter for the city of Lumberton, NC.

After moving the family to North Carolina in 1979, Everett’s dad quit trucking and went into the welding supply business, opening his own place.  He never got back into trucking, but he loved being a part of Everett’s trucking life.  Eventually he got bought out but continued to work in the business, and later became a branch manager.  Sadly, in February 2000, a month after Everett got off the road, his dad died of a sudden and massive heart attack at just 56 years old.  This was a devastating loss to Everett and the entire family – so much so, he decided he did not want to be a firefighter anymore because answering those life-and-death calls became too much.  Taking a job at a towing outfit, he drove and operated a 65-ton rotator and a 30-ton straight wrecker for a year.  But, that itch to get back on the road started flaring up again.

Over the next several years Everett worked for various companies including ATS out of St. Cloud, MN and Barlow Transportation of Faucett, MO.  He also did more wrecker driving and some sand and gravel hauling with an end dump, as well.  His stint at ATS ended when he cut half his finger off while unloading a piece of heavy equipment, which ended up requiring a few surgeries, and resulted in him having to leave that job.  Just for fun, after it was healed, he had a “fingernail” tattooed on the end of the nub!

In 2009, after two previous divorces, he got back together with his high school sweetheart Tammy, and the two got married in 2010.  Tammy lived in Missouri, so Everett packed up his stuff and left North Carolina.  After moving to Missouri, Everett attended the “Guilty By Association Truck Show” at 4 State Trucks in Joplin, MO and got to meet “Bossman” Bryan Martin.  After making friends with everyone, he ended up getting a part time job working in the install shop, and the first truck he ever worked on was Randy and Jona Rebillard’s “Tired Iron” Peterbilt (that truck is still special to him).  He eventually went full time and worked there for over a year, driving 101 miles each way – every day – and he loved it.  But, again, that itch to get on the road reared its head and he had to scratch it.

Over the next five or six years, Everett drove for several companies including BTI out of Des Moines, IA, First Class Services in Lewisport, KY, Steelman Transportation from Springfield, MO, and Atlantic Carriers out of Atlantic, IA.  While at Atlantic Carriers, he got the opportunity to buy his first truck – a cool black 1986 Peterbilt 359 with blue stripes, a 63” flattop sleeper, and a 306” wheelbase – and drove it as an owner operator leased to Atlantic Carriers for about a year, hauling grain in a hopper bottom.  But, as many know, running old iron like that is a lot of work and can be stressful, so Everett eventually parked it after the air compressor went out.

After the 359 sat for a bit, Everett sold it to a guy named Luis in Arizona, but after paying for it, he never came and picked it up.  Eventually, a year later, Luis sold it to Jake Bast, and he did come and get it from Everett.  And, for those of you who remember, this 359 ended up on our July 2019 cover when Jake still owned it (he has since sold it).  I’m sure it was hard to see his previous truck on the cover with a different owner, as Everett has always been a huge fan of 10-4 Magazine, so let’s consider this cover feature his (or maybe our) redemption.

Leaving Atlantic Carriers in 2018, Everett went to work at Reinsfelder Trucking out of Zelienople, PA.  Driving a clean copper and cream KW W900L, he stayed there for about a year before finding his current home at Fleenor Bros. of Carthage, MO in April 2019.  Everett thinks he has finally found his trucking “home” and hopes to stay at Fleenor for a long time.

Before getting his current truck (the one featured here and on our cover and centerfold this month), Everett drove some other stellar rigs for Fleenor including “Chicken Little” (a two-tone slammed blue Kenworth W990 that nearly broke the internet when pics of it were first posted), “The Duke” (a cream and brown Kenworth built as a tribute to John Wayne), and “Ace in the Hole” (an amazing over-the-top black Kenworth with maroon and gold stripes).

Taking delivery of this 2020 Kenworth W900L with a 565-hp X15 Cummins hooked to an 18-speed and 3.36 rears in August 2019, it spent about a month at the dealership in Joplin, MO and at the Fleenor shop being customized, before hitting the road on October 3, 2019.  Since then, Everett has spun over 234,000 miles on the truck, hauling frozen food and produce between the Midwest and California, with a matching 2021 Great Dane reefer trailer.  Painted cream with a factory “Tacoma” paint scheme featuring dark saddle brown and orange stripes, the colors looked “retro” and reminded Fleenor’s owner Kyle “KC” Cousins of a leisure suit from the 1970s, prompting him to name the truck “Business Casual” because it looks like a leisure suit, but it’s all business!

Before leaving the dealership, the truck, which has a 72” standup sleeper and a 285” wheelbase, had a few things done to it, including shaving everything off the roof and then painting the DEF tank, door sill panels and dash panels.  Once it got to the Fleenor shop, Jimmy and Jarrek went to work, fitting it with (9) bullet cab lights with glass lenses, a 12 Ga. visor, a 20” Valley Chrome stainless bumper, and Hogebuilt 36” stainless steel quarter fenders.  Originally, they dropped the truck by simply pulling the blocks, but it was eventually bagged by Mike and Jeff at Fletcher’s Diesel Repair in Lancaster, CA.

Other exterior modifications include (6) 4” LEDs on the back of the sleeper, a painted Merritt deck plate with polished aluminum trim, a stainless air line box, 7” AK Lite exhaust kit and boxes from Dynaflex with billet step plates, breather light panels from RLK Services, and (2) billet frame light brackets on each side from Roll On Customs that feature one LED pointing out and one pointing down for an “underglow” affect.  A few more items include chopped breather screens, a polished rear light panel from RLK Services, vinyl “Krooked K” emblem covers from Thunder Grafix in Joplin, MO, and a ton of pinstriping, inside and out, done by the famous Danny Alvarado of Danny A Pinstriping in Los Angeles, CA.

Under the hood, the red 565-hp 100th anniversary edition X15 Cummins features a full air intake kit from Dynaflex.  These new complete kits, which include chrome plated tubing, gloss black heat resistant silicone boots, and cleaner clamps, are brand new to the trucking industry and can take your stock motor to another level.  Being an everyday work truck that gets run hard, not much more has been done to the engine compartment of Everett’s clean KW.

Moving inside the truck, much has been done to the interior, which started out with a beautiful diamond tuck “Seattle Package” from Two Bee’s Upholstery, done in black with cream-colored buttons.  As mentioned before, the dash panels were painted, a Forever Sharp steering wheel was added, along with jeweled rocker switches and switch extensions, lots of pinstriping (including the “Truckin’ For Tacos” phrase above the CB), and a “hula girl” from Ron Jon Surf Shop in Florida is stuck up on the dash (which takes Everett back to his days of growing up on the North Carolina shore).

However, the coolest things in Everett’s cab are the brand-new Lexan plastic custom knobs made by “Num Nob” in San Diego, CA.  Although not on the truck when we took our pictures, Everett waited a year for these custom shifter and brake valve knobs to be made, and they turned out awesome (see pictures he provided).  This guy does a lot of custom work for the lowrider community and is very well known for his creativity and craftsmanship.  After making flat sheets of custom-colored Lexan plastic himself, he then stacks and bonds them together, basically building a cube.  Then, he mills it down into whatever shape he wants (in this case round), and then polishes it to perfection.

As of December 4, 2020, Everett signed the papers and officially assumed ownership of this rig.  Although it will be several years before it is paid off, he is excited about owning his own truck and being an owner operator at Fleenor Bros.  He wanted to thank the guys in the shop, Jimmy and Jarrek, for their help putting the truck together, and his good friend (and ours) Tony Huttenstine, for his mentorship and moral support, regarding being an owner operator.  Of course, none of this would have been possible without the help of KC and the entire crew at Fleenor Bros., so a big “thank you” goes out to all of them, as well.  Everett only wishes his dad was still around to see the truck – he would have loved it and been so proud!  Thanks to his mom, too, who never remarried after Everett’s dad died.  She recently retired from a long career at Ellery Homestyles in Fayetteville, NC after working there for most of her life.

Fleenor Bros. has an interesting story, too.  Originally formed in 1983 by the Fleenor brothers as a hazmat dry van operation servicing the commercial explosive industry in Western Canada and the United States, the company was sold in 1986 to Darcy and Janice Cousins.  In 1994, the business was moved from Vancouver, Canada, to Carthage, MO.  In 2007, their son KC joined the company after getting out of college – at that point, the company had about 15 trucks.  In 2019, KC and his wife Sara took over the operation, which now has over 50 trucks, several owner operators, and even more trailers.  Along with many reefers (and more on the way), the company also has flatbeds, step decks, RGNs, pneumatics, liquid tankers, dry vans and more.

When not trucking, Everett enjoys building custom 1/24th and 1/25th scale model trucks.  He has been doing it since he was a kid and can remember his dad helping him with the first one when he was about seven or eight years old – it was the Movin’ On Kenworth!  Since then, he has built hundreds of them, competed at many events, and won many awards.  Starting with a simple boxed model, he then embellishes it by adding custom pieces and paint.  Most of the models he has built he has either lost, given away or sold, so he only has a handful left.  He wishes he had more time to do it these days, because it is a great way to unwind and decompress, but trucking as hard as he does, there isn’t much time left for hobbies.

Happy to own (sort of) one truck, Everett has no aspirations of ever owning a fleet of them.  He was hoping that some of his boys might catch the trucking bug, too, but so far none of them have.  His four sons are Everett III (28), Chase (23), Christopher (19), and RJ (9).  There might be hope for young RJ, who doesn’t like the loud sounds those big rigs make, but, oddly enough, Everett didn’t like it when he was a kid either, and used to run away from them.  He doesn’t get home as often as he’d like to see his wife and boys, but he sure does love them (such is the life of an over-the-road trucker).

Even though things have changed a lot over the years, Everett still loves trucking and hanging out in California.  He spends a lot of time at Little Sister’s Truck Wash in Barstow, getting his truck cleaned and polished by one of the best in the business – Henry Duarte – on a regular basis.  In fact, when I interviewed him on the phone for this article, he was sitting in their parking lot.  And, regarding those tacos, the best ones, in Everett’s opinion, are the carne asada tacos from the taco truck in Oxnard, CA.  And, when you’re the guy with “Truckin’ For Tacos” painted on your truck, I suppose you’d know!

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