Mike’s “Miss BeeHaving” KW

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Some people are easy going and some like to cause trouble – and then there are those who are a little bit of both.  Mike Wilkinson (46), an owner operator from Canada, is a pretty relaxed and “go with the flow” kind of guy, but when he feels a little ornery, he starts misbehaving, a bit.  When building and then naming his truck, which is the bright yellow and black Kenworth T680 seen here, he drew on both his personality style and the bumble bee comments he heard all the time about his truck, eventually ending with the fitting “Miss BeeHaving” name.

Born during an unseasonably late blizzard on April 15, 1975, in Fergus, Ontario (Canada), Mike’s parents thought this might be a bad omen.  Back then, Mike’s dad, Paul Wilkinson, hauled milk for Neilson’s Dairy.  Mike loved to ride with his dad in the truck whenever possible.  His parents had a 50-acre hobby farm where they raised cattle and hogs.  They also rented 150 acres of land from a neighboring farm in Belwood.  Mike’s grandparents had a dairy farm, and eventually sold it to a Dutch family who now run a large, fully automated dairy operation.

Always drawn to the mechanical trades, after graduating from high school in Fergus, Mike headed to a local community college to study mechanics.  While attending college, he worked as a mechanic’s apprentice at Canadian Tire Auto Service Centre.  After completing his first term in college, while still working at the tire and repair shop, he also enrolled in truck driving school, as a side gig.  After securing his CDL, he asked his boss about becoming a mechanic or a driver and was told there were no positions available.  Mike was disappointed, so he left the garage, quit school, and got a job in the trucking industry.

Starting out at McBurney Transportation in Hagersville, loading and moving trailers, after just three months, the company was in a jam, so they asked Mike to haul a load – his first run ever – which was a van loaded with explosives going to Louisville, KY.  Mike worked for them for about three years, from 1996-1999, pulling a van hauling dry freight.  Later on, he moved into hauling hazmat and explosive loads, while still occasionally pulling flatbed loads.  He prefers pulling flatbed and step deck trailers, particularly loaded with oversize and heavy loads.

In 1999, Mike left McBurney Transportation to be closer to home.  This became a recurring theme in his life – go over the road for a while, and then take a local job to be closer to home.  Working at a local construction company as a driver, Mike did this for about a year and then took a job driving for an owner operator who was leased to Blue Sky Carriers out of Guelph, ON.  He worked for this owner operator for about two years, driving a Freightliner conventional with a flattop sleeper, a Detroit Diesel engine, and a 13-speed transmission.  This was one of his favorite trucks he ever drove, pulling a flatbed, all over Canada and the United States.

Around 2001, Mike started driving for TASK Carriers out of Guelph, ON.  Over the next 12 years, Mike would work off and on at TASK, leaving every few years to take a local job, then going back.  Over that span he drove several trucks for TASK, but his favorite was a 1999 B-Model W900 with a Studio Sleeper and a 244” wheelbase.  Powered by a 3406 mechanical CAT engine hooked to a 13-speed, “Miss Daisy” (as everyone called it) was painted maroon with brown stripes.  Back then, he hauled a lot of steel to mills in Gary, IN and Chicago, IL.

In 2013, Mike was hired on as a company driver at Floyd Gibbons Trucking in Brunner, ON, a company that specializes in legal and over dimensional, open deck, cross border freight.  Mike worked at Floyd Gibbons for about a year, and then a friend, who had just purchased a second truck, convinced him to leave them and drive for him.  Unfortunately, he only drove for this friend for about three months, who then had to sell his trucks and business because of health issues.  After he was let go by his friend, Mike talked to his wife about finally buying his own truck and becoming an owner operator.  This was something he had always wanted to do and felt like this was the right time to do it.

After Mike’s wife agreed that buying his own truck was a good idea, he purchased a yellow 2005 Peterbilt 379 with a 255” wheelbase, a CAT Acert engine with twin turbos, and a 63” standup sleeper.  This truck was somewhat customized when Mike bought it, and even had suicide doors.  Continuing where the previous owner had left off, Mike swapped out the stock front fenders for custom front fenders, installed a front bumper with a 12 Ga. flip kit, upgraded the grille, and then customized the entire cab interior.

Running as an owner operator now, Mike leased on with Syvret Transportation, where he stayed for about a year, until he could get leased back on at Floyd Gibbons Trucking, where he remains today.  As a family-owned business, 85-90% of the freight Floyd Gibbons Trucking hauls is farm equipment they load on step deck trailers.  The farm equipment they mostly move is planters, cultivators, tillage and tractors.  They primarily haul John Deere and Case IH equipment, doing a lot of dealer trades.  He also occasionally hauls snow blowers, snow blades, Horst head attachments and other implements.

Pulling a 2019 MAC 48’ aluminum step deck trailer, which Mike ordered new in 2018, he was able to travel to the plant where his trailer was being built and watch it happen.  The trailer now has 70 “Dual Revolution” LED lights from Trux that change colors (from legal color to green) at the flip of a switch.  He really likes his MAC trailer and says the MAC folks are great to work with.

After customizing his yellow Peterbilt, Mike started attending truck shows, and that’s where he met Evan Steger from Wisconsin, Kaleb and Gaylon Hammett from Texas, and Randy Manning out of Virginia.  Becoming great friends with all of them, Mike loves his trucking family, and has learned a lot from them.  When his Peterbilt got to the point of needing to be replaced, he pondered what to order next.

Originally, Mike was planning to order an aero-style 386 Peterbilt and trick it out, but at the last minute, he changed his mind and ordered a Kenworth T680 aero truck.  Ordering an aero truck, from a business standpoint, was a logical decision that made the most sense.  He liked the fact that not many people have customized a T680 and was excited to do so – and he also wanted to maximize his fuel economy.

Ordered late in 2018 with a 510-hp PACCAR MX13 engine, an 18-speed transmission and 3.55 rear gears, the 2020 T680, painted bright yellow, was delivered in March of 2019.  The truck was then immediately taken to 12 Ga. Customs for all the exterior work, including a stainless visor, a painted flush mount deck plate with hidden air box, and a custom rear light bar, plumbed with California-style air lines out the back.  12 Ga. also installed painted aluminum full fenders over the drive tires and, with the help of Jim “Higgs” Higgins, the black vinyl stripes with lime green outlines were designed and applied.

In addition to the exterior work done by 12 Ga. Customs, Mike also had a local company called Trison Tarps design and manufacture a custom yellow headache rack, complete with five enclosed compartments and polished doors.  The 20” front bumper was custom made by ATA (Aranda Truck Accessories) out of California, and Panelite made the stainless cab and sleeper drop panels, which include 23 small LED lights on each side.  Panelite also built the painted differential cover, fitted with five watermelon LEDs, mounted underneath in front of the drive axles.  Like his trailer, the truck is covered with lots of “Dual Revolution” LEDs from Trux – 120 of them – that change colors, from amber or red to green.

Putting the truck on the road in April of 2019, most of the interior work was completed later, while Mike was running the truck.  Stitch Interiors in Wisconsin made custom yellow and black leather seat covers and door panels with honeycomb stitching, and then embroidered the truck’s name on the seats.  Using the carpet as a template for an aluminum floor, Mike had Summit Laser cut it out.  After having it painted yellow and adding the vinyl graphics to match the truck’s exterior stripes, Mike installed the floor himself.  Over the next several months, while working the truck full time, Mike continued to work on the Kenworth’s interior.

Ordered with a premium sound system and navigation, Mike eventually yanked these out because they were not good and replaced them with a Pioneer unit with a flip-up screen, then added (8) JL Audio speakers and (1) 12” sub, in a custom enclosure, made by Ed Hoffarth.  The sound system also includes two amps – (1) 1,000-watt and (1) 600-watt – mounted inside a closet in the sleeper.  A big thank you goes to Evan Steger for helping Mike install the stereo.

All the plastic interior parts were pulled out and painted yellow or black.  J. Richards Auto Interiors did most of the work in the sleeper, covering everything in black and yellow leather with more honeycomb stitching, and also changed the headliner to black suede in both the cab and sleeper.  Mike also changed the seat belts from black to yellow, added a painted (yellow) steering wheel from Steering Creations, billet foot pedals, custom engraved billet aluminum air brake knobs from Roll On Customs, and a custom shift knob, featuring a cartoon-style wolf in a top hat.

Planning to attend several truck shows in 2020, most of those events were canceled because of Covid.  Trying to do more in 2021, starting with the 75 Chrome Shop truck show in Wildwood, Florida in April, this is where we met Mike and did the photo shoot – but that almost didn’t happen, after Mike had an unfortunate “incident” a few weeks prior to the show.

While parked at a truck stop in Michigan near the border, waiting for his load to clear so he could get back into Canada, someone pulled the fifth wheel lock and disengaged it, so when Mike went to leave, the trailer immediately slipped out of the fifth wheel and slammed down on his deck plate and rear fenders, causing about $10,000 damage.  Mind you, this was just two weeks before our scheduled photo shoot in Florida, so Mike was under the gun to get it fixed fast.  Thankfully, with help from Brodie at Gibson Garage and Summit Laser, everything was fixed in time and the shoot went as planned.

Mike loves his truck, and he loves trucking, but he loves his family even more.  Mike met his wife Sabrina (Bree) during his senior year of high school, and the two were married in 1996.  Their daughter Sierra was born that same year, and their son Austin was born in 1999.  Now, the couple has two grandkids from their daughter and son-in-law – two boys, Matteo (5) and Leo (16 months).  Mike admitted that his grandsons are his pride and joy, and jokingly said that if he knew how awesome it would be to have grandkids, he would have had them first!  His son Austin is engaged to his fiancé Hannah, and the two currently live with Mike and Bree as they prepare for their upcoming wedding.

Owning a camper, Mike and his family enjoy spending time in the summer at Lake Bellwood.  Some of Mike’s “toys” include an 800cc Suzuki Volusia street bike, appointed with some Harley Davidson accessories, and a Sea-Doo jet ski, that he enjoys riding on with his grandson Matteo.  Working hard to provide for his family is what drives Mike each and every day.  However, he would like to get to a point soon where he can slow down and enjoy life a little more.  He would also like to build one more truck before he retires and hopes that he can continue working for Floyd Gibbons Trucking until that day when he finally hangs up his keys for good.

Wanting to acknowledge a few people who have helped Mike along the way and been a positive influence in his life, the names that came to his mind were Evan and Tammy Steger, his father Paul Wilkinson, his stepfather Darrell and mother Ruthann O’Donnell, Tim Cody, Randy Manning, Kaleb and Gaylon Hammett, and his wife Bree, along with the rest of his family.  He also received a lot of help and direction from many of the companies mentioned in this story including 12 Ga. Customs, Panelite, Summit Laser, Evan’s Detailing & Polishing, Trison Tarps, Time 2 Shine Polish Products, Natural Sound, J. Richards Auto Interiors and Gibson Garage.

Running back and forth between the United States and Canada has some unique challenges.  When crossing the border, Mike never knows what he might encounter.  Each time he crosses, the person there might do something different from the last one, or they might not.  He just never knows.  Mike likes to travel all over the US and Canada and meet great people, but he dislikes being away from home (especially being away from his grandsons), the new regulations, dealing with customs and, lately, dealing with all the ever-changing Covid restrictions.

We thoroughly enjoyed our time with Mike Wilkinson in Florida, and at a few other shows since then, and really dig what he’s doing with his truck.  These aerodynamic trucks might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but with the right changes, some of them can be made to look pretty cool.  And even though he is a kind and respectful person, every now again Mike gets caught “Miss BeeHaving” and is reminded by those around him why his truck is called that.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Special thanks go out to our very own Eric Hill for originally finding Mike and his truck, and for helping to collect all the information from him for this story.

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