A nod to “Old School”

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It’s really hard to beat the look of black and silver.” –Kirby Martin, an owner-operator out of Gettysburg, PA, and the 2010 grand champion of American Trucker’s “Reader’s Rig” contest

One of the many “other hats” I wear in this business is that of editor of American Trucker magazine; a publication dedicated to those fleets and independents that rely on used equipment to get their respective jobs done.

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Perhaps the best part of this particular job is putting together a special section every month called Reader’s Rigs, which shows of photos of all manner of trucks sent in by readers from all over the country.

I also do some of my own “shutterbugging” for this section, too, when I’m out at truck shows and such, as there’s an awful lot of fine-looking hard working iron out there that rarely gets to grace the pages of a magazine, much less the digital halls of the Internet.

One such truck caught my eye at Shell’s “SuperRigs” contest back in June: a sharp yet subtle black-and-silver 2003 Peterbilt 379 tractor, owned and operated by Kirby Martin out of York’s Springs PA; a little town that’s but a stone’s throw from the site of one of the greatest battlefields in American history – Gettysburg.

I took some snaps of Martin’s rig, chatted with him for a while, and then we went our separate ways. Yet a few months later, while sifting through all the photos of trucks displayed in our Reader’s Rigs section, my eye kept returning to Martin’s truck – a truck appropriately named “Old School.”

So when it came time to vote on a “grand champion” from all the participants in our Reader’s Rigs section, Martin’s truck is the one that ended up alone in the winner’s circle.

His tractor follows classic lines that are rapidly vanishing from this industry – a past he highlighted by installing an old-style 46-inch all-aluminum sleeper bunk on the back of his cab.

All the “silver” is aluminum, except for the Hogebuilt half-fenders on the rear tandem axles, which are stainless steel, he told me during the photo shoot we put together for the winner of our annual contest. “In fact, I had the frame painted electric blue to help the black and silver stand out more, Martin said.

Yet Martin’s rig is no show truck, as it’s got 790,200 miles on the odometer from long years spent hauling horse feed and other agricultural goods across Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware and New Jersey.

[PPG Commercial Coatings, which sponsors Reader Rigs, had territory manager Dale Taylor present Martin with his championship plaque -- and even HE could not believe how sharp Martin's truck looked after all those miles!]

Martin himself is “old school” in many ways himself, learning to drive a truck the old fashioned way – on a farm. His family operated a few trucks hauling grain and feed for fellow sod pushers and Martin told me he just couldn’t get enough time behind the wheel.

When he began driving on his own as a career, he started out with an old cabover Peterbilt, then went on to purchase a 1983 model Kenworth W900 from a friend and fellow driver. “I knew the guy who owned it and how well he took care of it, so I knew I was getting a good truck,” Martin explained. “I ran that truck a long time, too.”

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Yet Martin also knew he wanted to own truck one day dressed and spec’d out his way. So, after saving and scrimping, he settled on a Peterbilt 379, powered by a 550 hp Caterpillar C-15 engine and married to a manual 18-speed Eaton Fuller gearbox. He also plans to keep this truck a while longer, too – until it passes 1 million miles, actually.

Martin gets about 5.5 to 5.75 miles per gallon with “Old School,” which suits him just fine. “I know a lot of folks that are getting 7 to 8 mpg but that are also going broke,” he told me. His racks up about 90,000 to 100,000 miles a year but the best part is that he’s home almost every night – something his wife really likes, as they’ve got a family of three boys underfoot. “They keep us on our toes,” Martin told me.

He still holds to “farmer’s hours” as the saying goes in his neck of the world – up at 3 a.m. and on the asphalt before the sun even thinks to make an appearance. “I’ve been getting up at that hour since forever,” Martin told me. “I love trucking but I love being home with my kids, too. This way I get the best of both worlds.”

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