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Episode 11: Delivering the Capitol Christmas Tree with Tim Dean, Jesus Davila, Steve and Gina Jones

Brent – 00:00:01:

Welcome to Freight Nation: A Trucking Podcast, where we explore the fascinating world of trucking and freight management. We dive deep into the freight industry and uncover why the trucking industry is more crucial to our country now than ever before. Stay tuned to uncover the driving forces behind successful trucking businesses and hear from the hardworking truckers and leaders who keep the world moving. Let’s hit the road. All right. Well, welcome to Freight Nation, a podcast by truckstop.com. It is our special holiday edition. I love it. The office is decorated. We got a super special topic today to talk about. What I think in my 26 plus years of the industry, one of the coolest things that trucking public or the truck driving public gets to do is to represent our industry so well and get to represent stuff that’s obviously iconic for just America in general. We’re going to talk today about the four great drivers who delivered the Capitol Christmas Tree all the way from where it was cut down the forest all the way to Little Old Washington, D.C. to the Capitol Lawn. So I really appreciate you joining us today and joining us for what we’re talking about on Freight Nation. So we got four of the coolest truck drivers in all of America joining us today from a great company from Werner Transportation. Joining us on the call today are Jesus Davila, Mr. Tim Dean, and team Steve and Gina Jones, we usually only have about one person on the podcast, but today we got a company, a chorus of great drivers. So, you know, one of the greatest things about our industry is that, and for most people that don’t know this, there was a piece of research done by the American Trucking Association a couple of years ago. And a lot of people think that the actual consumer public doesn’t think well of truck drivers, like they’re not safe on the road. But research says different. Over 80% of people that drive on the road, those little four wheelers that go down the road, think that truck drivers are the safest drivers on the road. So whatever you see in the news and whatever you see elsewhere, the car driving public loves truck drivers because they know they help keep the road safe and they’re the safest drivers on the road. And so today with the great chorus we have on a drivers today, we’re going to hear their stories. We’re going to hear a little bit about the great company that they work with because they obviously are there for a reason. And then we’re going to talk about the really cool thing that they got to experience in their career. And then we’ll have some things smattered in there to talk about, they’re kind of unique. So super excited to be on today. We’re going to always defer to our ladies in the audience. So Steve and Gina, we want to hear your story first. Then we’ll go to Jesus. Then we’ll go to Tim. So because everybody always wants to know how you got into trucking. Steve and Gina, how did this happen for you?

Steve – 00:02:39:

Well, for me, it’s probably a pretty familiar story. It’s transitioned out of the military and was wandering around looking for a job to do. And I’ve always liked to drive and saw these trucks going up and down the highway where the button. And I figured I can do that. And that’s never looked back.

Brent – 00:02:55:

So what part of the military were you in, Steve?

Steve – 00:02:57:

I was in the United States Army.

Brent – 00:02:58:

Man, fantastic. Thank you so much for your service and protecting my freedom. So how long were you in?

Steve – 00:03:03:

I was in for seven years.

Brent – 00:03:05:

Seven years. That’s fantastic, man. That’s fantastic. So Gina, is your story a little different on how you got to get in the truck and how everything worked out?

Gina – 00:03:12:

Well, Steve had asked me to join him to be team driver with them, to sit in that driver’s seat as well. My youngest son was leaving for the Army, and it was the opportunity for me to get on board with him. This is my second career. I worked in retail for 28 years. So it was a little difficult for me to make that decision on leaving the company that I did work for, that I did love. But you know what? This has been an amazing opportunity for me, so I took advantage of it. And Steve was lonely, so I wanted to make sure he was happy.

Brent – 00:03:46:

I’m sure he’s not lonely anymore.

Gina – 00:03:48:

No.

Brent – 00:03:50:

So you were in retail for, did you say 28 years?

Gina – 00:03:52:

Yeah, 28 years. I started when I was young, 1984.

Brent – 00:03:56:

At the age of one, you started driving?

Gina – 00:03:59:

Five zero, fifty.

Brent – 00:04:00:

Fifty? Wow.

Gina – 00:04:02:

I just want to let all the women out there know it’s never too late to start a second career, third career. Whatever you want to do and get out there. It’s been the best opportunity for me. I’m 61 right now. I’ve been driving for 11 and a half years and I love it.

Brent – 00:04:16:

That is fantastic to hear. That’s fantastic. I love talking to teams because they always have a very unique situation that created this team driver. The couple that hauled the tree last year, they got into it as a second career as well. So super cool. And their story is super neat how they got in. So, all right, Jesus, Mr. Jesus Davila , tell us a little bit about how you got into trucking and what was your journey?

Jesus – 00:04:39:

I enlisted in the United States Marine Corps right out of high school. I enlisted at the age of 17 and left before even walking the stage in high school. Basically spent most of my twenties overseas. Ultimate was wounded in Afghanistan, retired medically 2014 and went to college for a little bit, got bored and decided to join this industry and been in this industry since 2018 and haven’t looked back and it’s been an incredible journey.

Brent – 00:05:06:

Well, that’s fantastic. Well, thank you for your service as well to our country. And again, thank you for protecting my freedom. I like to put that second part in there because I want to make sure that all of our military knows that I do appreciate that my freedom is ensured by your bravery. And so thank you so much for that. So 2018, you got into the truck, right? So you got in like right before the COVID period, right before all that. What was it like sort of going through that as a driver that started that late in your career?

Jesus – 00:05:34:

I’ve been with Werner Enterprises the entire time. I started on a dedicated account that profited a lot from COVID. So we were really busy. We were running a lot of loads and it’s been jam packed going across the country, coast to coast, doing different DCs and California all the way up into Pennsylvania, making dollar account deliveries.

Brent – 00:05:54:

Fantastic. You were in the Marines. So you guys are the tough guys, right?

Jesus – 00:05:59:

You guys are the guys that get after it.

Brent – 00:06:00:

So what was your specialty in the Marines?

Jesus – 00:06:03:

So I was an infantryman. So I was a scout sniper and infantry rifleman. And I did a lot of cool things. You know, I’ve deployed seven times. So it was a good time in my life. I look back and miss those moments. But I’m happy to be home with my family and be with the kids and watch them grow older.

Brent – 00:06:19:

Super cool. Super cool. So thank you so much again for your service and again, protecting things. That’s awesome. All right. So Tim, let’s move to you, Mr. Tim Dean. When I talked to Tim earlier, one thing I appreciate about Tim is he brings the perspective of history into this. He’s been around a long time. So Tim, tell us a little bit about your historic run in trucking.

Tim – 00:06:38:

Well, when I started driving, Jesus was three. So therefore, 1988, worked for my uncle delivering tree rock and thought, you know, there’s got to be easier way to make a living. And you see semis going down our nation’s highways and always thinking, where are they going? So I joined the trucking industry in ‘88, accumulated over 5 million miles, and I still haven’t figured out where all them trucks are going. But I can tell you one thing. They’re delivering everything that we need, and they’re providing a service to the country. So I didn’t go in the military, but I’ve been serving the country, delivering the goods for 35 years.

Brent – 00:07:20:

Yeah. So 5 million miles. So do you have any favorite miles in there that you ran?

Tim – 00:07:26:

Been married for 39 years. So the ones I got to take my wife with, those were probably some of the good. We’re able to take passengers. So as my kids were growing up, they would spend the summers taking turns riding with me. So, you know, going around the country and seeing different sites. Today I run a set run, so I’m home every other day and still turning some good miles, but keeping everything moving.

Brent – 00:07:54:

Yeah. So at home every other day, that’s really unique. And my guess is that you’ve earned that, that right to have that flexible of a schedule. And that’s my guess. I want to say, Jesus just turned his head a little bit and said, I’m not sure about that. Jesus, any comments there?

Jesus – 00:08:08:

We’ll get to that section once we get to the Christmas Tree delivery. I got some stories.

Brent – 00:08:13:

I love it. I love it. So we’ll be talking about this in a minute, but on this great journey, when they delivered the Capitol Christmas Tree, Tim and Jesus were the ones hauling the tree. And then Steve and Gina were hauling all the ornaments and all the other things that go with the tree. It takes a small army to get this thing all the way to the Capitol because it has multiple stops. I think this year it stopped 15 times. We’ll get to that in a minute. All right. So here’s something that I always like to bring out. So Tim, you hit on it. You’ve had 5 million accident-free miles. That’s a great accomplishment. That’s an incredible accomplishment. Steve and Gina, you guys have had, tell me how many miles you guys have got in.

Gina – 00:08:49:

I have 1.2 and I did it in eight and a half years and I beat Steve.

Brent – 00:08:55:

Oh, wait, is it a competition?

Gina – 00:08:57:

Well, I was going to be in the trucking industry. I had to have some goals and that was what I was shooting at. And I achieved it. And it was like one of the most exciting things in my whole life that I could do out there is to be safe on the road, have my aisles. And Steve was my trainer. So he did a good job.

Brent – 00:09:17:

Steve, on number of miles you’ve driven?

Steve -00:09:18:

1.1 million.

Brent – 00:09:19:

1.1. Oh, wow. This is a tight competition. And Jesus, I know that since you just started in 2018, yours are building and everything. I think you’re somewhere north of half a million so far or something?

Jesus – 00:09:30:

Yes.

Brent – 00:09:30:

Yes, I remember either. So you guys got a lot of miles.

Jesus – 00:09:33:

Well, I have more safe miles in an automatic truck than Tim does.

Brent – 00:09:37:

Oh, I see.

Jesus – 00:09:38:

That’s what mattered the most on that trip.

Brent – 00:09:41:

Hey, look, a long as there’s a good, healthy competition going on here. So the reason I brought up the thing about safety is that I always want to make sure that whenever we have somebody that’s actually operating the vehicle on, that we talk a little bit about that. Because I’d love to hear Jesus from you and from Steve and Gina, about why is that so important to you as a person? Jesus, tell me a little bit, why? I mean, you’ve been doing this since 2018. Why is it so important to you as a person that this safety thing is top of mind?

Jesus – 00:10:07:

So safety is just not a priority for yourself. It’s the safety of yourself and others on the road. You’re not just worried about you’re driving and what you’re doing on the road. You’re also focused on everybody else. And if everybody else chips in and contributes to the safety, the safety thoughts, you know, it becomes a safer highway, safer roadway system across America. You’ve got families that are traveling, especially right now during the holiday season on the road in some winter conditions. And distracted driving is a common issue that goes on day in, day out. And, you know, taking your eyes off the road for just a second to look inside your vehicle or look at her phone or do something. That’s not paying attention to the road. It can cause a severe accident and prevent a family from getting home to one of their loved ones for the holidays. So you just think about that. And I preach that to all the drivers. Think about that’s a brother, a sister, a mother, a father, a son, a daughter that’s out there next to you that could be somebody’s family that’s trying to get home. Just pay attention to what you’re doing and always be safe.

Brent – 00:11:04:

Yeah, man. Well put. Well put. Steve, for you and Gina, obviously there’s two of you that in the rig together. Now, are y’all always together or did you just team up for this haul?

Steve – 00:11:14:

Yeah. Oh, we’re always together.

Brent – 00:11:15:

All right. Fantastic. I know you said you both had independent miles. I’m just making sure.

Steve – 00:11:20:

She jokes and says that she’s got to take me home. She’s got to take me on vacation and she never gets a break from me.

Brent – 00:11:27:

Right. I got it. Never gets a break from you.

Gina – 00:11:30:

If you can do this for almost 12 years together, it’s making that two spouses can be in a small area for a long period of time. Just make sure we respect each other’s space and you have to do that. And talk it out. But we have the same problems as a married couple that are home together for a short time.

Brent – 00:11:51:

I am sure. I am sure. I know that I experienced a little bit of that with COVID because I travel a lot for my job. And when I was home for two straight years, my wife was like, why are you weighing in on this? I’m like, well, because I’m here. So Steve and Gina, so when you guys think about safety, what first comes to mind for you guys and why do you insure it?

Gina – 00:12:07:

Well, it starts from when you get in that driver’s seat and you put that seatbelt on and you’re planning your day out. You want to look all around you because there is so much distraction out on the road. Tim, Jesus, and myself are ATA America’s Road Team captains, so we do the public. We all want to go home to our families. You know, we all have families out there, friends out there. So distracted driving is probably one of the worst that we see out on the road. So it’s nice when we can educate and tell the young kids to put those phones down, the ones that are out there driving new drivers. So it’s very important to us because we want to come home.

Brent – 00:12:44:

Yeah, I appreciate that. You said something I want to make sure you guys talk for a second about this because I remembered reading this in the bios about you guys being road team captains for the ATA, the American Trucking Association. That’s a high honor to be able to do this. So Jesus and Tim and Steve, talk a little bit about that.

Tim – 00:12:59:

As far as America’s Road Team, it’s just another outreach program that Werner participates in. Being a captain, getting to go out and share the message of sharing the roads and talking about how great the trucking industry is. It has been a blessing. I was on 0910 and like say Jesus and Gina are finishing up their second year. And it just, it’s Werner giving their drivers opportunity to go out and participate in this program. We’re only three of, off the top of my head, I think we’ve had nine America’s Road Team captains over the years. So, you know, it’s just another Werner wanting to be positive and stepping forward.

Brent – 00:13:44:

Fantastic. Jesus, any perspectives for you on that?

Jesus – 00:13:47:

It’s been eye-opening for me being able to go across the country and speak with governors and different lawmakers and help the Department of Labor with programs that come out for transitioning service members. It’s been an incredible journey and I’ve been humbled and honored to be on it and help as many people as I can understand what the industry is and what it’s about and bring more people into the industry as well. Right.

Brent – 00:14:11:

Well, I know that every time I go to the American Trucking Association annual event, it’s always a source of pride for me to see those American Road Team captains lined up on that stage. All of you guys lined up on the stage. I think I remember seeing Gina’s red hair up there, but lined up on that stage makes me feel very proud to be in this industry. And I appreciate everything that Chris Spear, the CEO of the ATA, is doing to really support and defend trucking really, really well to the public out there and to all the government agencies. So they’re just doing a great job. But you guys all mentioned, talking about your bio, about working for Werner Transportation. There’s a handful of companies inside transportation, inside of freight transportation, that really, you just think of the name, you see the truck going down the road, and you think, that’s trucking. And Werner’s one of them. I appreciate it. And have appreciated your company for a long time. Have a really fun, great friendship relationship with your CEO, Derek Leathers. And I know how much he loves drivers. And so tell me a little bit about, just because we’re not trying to have an advertisement for Werner, but this is who you work for and who supported this. So tell a little bit about what’s unique about working for this great company.

Tim – 00:15:17:

Well, the biggest thing, even for me, when I started, I had a second cousin that worked in the office. Kind of helped me pick out Werner as the company to go to. And why bring that up? When I talk about when I started as family. In the earlier days, C.L. Werner, his sons, the whole family, grandkids, a lot of family involvement in the company. And obviously, as a driver, we have always been recognized as the main reason why Werner is there. So the company takes that family atmosphere of bringing the drivers in to be a part of that family. Just as we all get older and everything. Derek Leathers was an up and coming superstar and C.L. and him had the same mindset and C.L.’s sons wanted to retire. So it was a perfect time for Derek to step up. And his biggest thing is, you know, when I look at companies over the years, recognizing drivers, we’ve been recognizing safe drivers since I started. I remember getting little hat pins saying one year safe, the next year getting that next year. Then once you get up to the million mile ceremonies, multi-million milers, Werner’s always been that company and recognizing the drivers for their accomplishments. So to me, they’ve been part of my family and I enjoy being a part of theirs. The road team is just another part of the family atmosphere where we all get to take our knowledge and share it with other drivers that come in to the company so they can succeed as well.

Brent – 00:16:58:

That’s well said. So, Gina, I want to ask you a quick question about Werner. I know that you guys have an incredible percentage of female drivers. I don’t know if it’s a lot more than the norm for our industry. Love for you to be the one to say what percentage that is of your, I think, is it about 10,000 drivers somewhere in that? How many drivers at Werner? I don’t remember exactly, but so talk about that for a second and why that’s important.

Gina – 00:17:20:

Well, when I started in 2012, there was 6% of female drivers. And my goal was also to talk to female drivers and bring them more on board, let them know that they can be safe out there and support them, promote more female drivers, just to mentor them. And I think by them seeing so many more female drivers at Werner Enterprises, they thought, wow, let’s go try out Werner to see how we can all group together and all help each other out and support one another.

Brent – 00:17:53:

Yeah. So what’s that percentage today, in Werner?

Gina – 00:17:56:

I wanted to say it was 14 to 15%.

Brent – 00:17:59:

I think it’s around 15 to 16%. Yeah. Which is amazing. That’s more than double, a lot more than double than the industry average, which is unique, right?

Gina – 00:18:06:

Yes.

Brent – 00:18:07:

Because this isn’t the easiest job in the world and you got to want it. You got to want to do it.

Gina – 00:18:12:

Didn’t realize how many women drivers were out there until I started. You know, like you buy a car, you buy that model, you see that model because you have that kind of model. Well, I started seeing a lot of females and I started meeting them in the restrooms at the truck stops and talking with them and just telling them my story and going to being a road team captain as well, going to schools and our Werner experience talking with the drivers coming on board. We add out our business cards. We let them know to contact us if they need anything that they want to ask questions. So we’re drivers helping drivers.

Brent – 00:18:48:

Fantastic. So thank you, Gina, for that. So Jesus, to you and to Steve, being ex-military, I know that 18% of Werners drivers are ex-military, which is, I think, super cool. So talk a little bit about how that’s unique for you being ex-military, retired military, how that’s unique for you. And so Jesus, we’ll start with you.

Jesus – 00:19:05:

Transitioning from the military to the industry, you have a lot of similarities as far as like attention to detail, situational awareness, the safety aspect of everything that you do while firing a weapon and handling explosives and stuff like that. It’s the same thing with basically a commercial vehicle. There’s a pre-trip inspection going through and finding anything that’s wrong with any of your equipment and getting it fixed before you take it out on the road and operate it. You know, you wouldn’t take a faulty weapon on patrol to protect yourself and protect the others. So obviously you wouldn’t take a truck that’s messed up. And take it down the road and be in unsafe conditions. So it’s been an awesome transition. And I speak to a lot of service members at different events and tell them that transitioning from the military, taking the uniform on and putting the uniform of a professional driver on is basically almost the same aspect of having your own captain of your ship and running your own things. And it’s a good job to have to transition out of the military.

Brent – 00:19:59:

Wow, that’s cool. Thank you, Jesus. All right. So, Steve, how does it make you feel that 18% of your fellow Werner’s truck drivers are ex-military?

Steve – 00:20:07:

I believe military members can bring a safety aspect, as Jesus brought up, is the attention to detail. I come from the Army Aviation side of things where we’re working on helicopters. So I can translate that into this because you’ve got to make sure your equipment’s working right and you have the discipline and the self-motivation. Along with Jesus, Gina and I go to military recruiting events and try to bring more transitioning soldiers on board. Because as our CEO, Derek Leathers has said, anybody that’s put on a uniform deserves to have a job when they transition out. So we like to focus on that and make sure veterans are taken care of.

Brent – 00:20:48:

Amen to that. That’s super cool, man. I appreciate you guys giving the perspective on that, about how unique the company you work for Werner Transportation, is for looking at every opportunity to create opportunity for others. That’s super. One of the things I dearly love about trucking is it’s just full of incredibly wonderful humble people that just do a great job in serving the American public and serving the companies and serving their families. All right. So on to the big topic, the thing that we’re here to talk about. So you guys talked about how great experience you guys have had and how safe you’ve been and how you’ve just represented this industry well and you represented your company well. And you got to do something really, really, really cool for your career. You got to be a part of delivering the Capitol Christmas Tree, the 2023 Capitol Christmas Tree all the way to the Capitol Lawn, man. It’s super, super cool what you got to do, but I’m sure that was a piece of cake and nothing crazy happened. Yeah, right. So as I mentioned that Jesus and Tim were the ones that transported the Tree and I want you to talk about that. And then, Steve and Gina, I want you to talk about being the other Transportation vehicle with all the ornaments and all of the supporting materials that go into it. So Tim and Jesus, tell us about the morning that you picked. Well, first off, you got to get the trailer. I know about that. Tell us about what went into that and then getting the tree and what all went into first picking up the tree.

Tim – 00:22:14:

Well, a couple of months prior to the harvest, we did fly into West Virginia and took a trip up to the mountains. And they showed us what the Tree was. And first thing is trying to figure out a piece of equipment that we could bring that tree out of the mountain. Because there was pretty tight curves. And, you know, when you’re up there and it’s 75, 80 degrees, it was not that November 1st. Being professionally trained and being in the industry like we both have, you know, we make adjustments if the weather was to be bad. And there’s no freight worth risking life or limb over. So we got a nice W990 Kenworth with a small bunk and a 53-foot trailers tandem so we could slide the wheels up to kind of get them a little shorter wheelbase to be able to bring the tree. It hung over the back of the tree about eight foot. But bring it down to Beverly, West Virginia to one of the sponsors there. And we transferred that tree to a 80-foot stretched out hail trailer. And at that point, just like everything, either one of us could have drove it out of the mountain. But I got to be first to do it, I guess, just because seniority maybe. It was quite the adventure going down the mountain because we were going around curves where it was starting to get a little dark out. And having the second set of eyes of a professional driver like Jesus let me know that I was clear going around to the right. And, you know, we got it down there with a lot of escort of law enforcement and national force. They’re law enforcement. We had four of their officers with us the whole trip. They actually probably could be pretty good truck drivers now today after riding in front of us and behind us and learning about what it takes to maneuver a 80-foot trailer. But we got it transferred down there. And the first event we did, which a little more challenging, Jesus drove into Elkins, West Virginia, where you couldn’t imagine the amount of people that showed up to see this tree. It just, it was phenomenal. And again, law enforcement had to help us get there because there were so many people wanting to check it out.

Brent – 00:24:43:

Yeah. So, Jesus, you brought it into the first location. So, tell us a little bit about that. So, for everybody on the call for Freight Nation, it stopped. The tree is picked up. It is a unique experience the way they harvest it and get it onto the trailer. And you put it on a regular trailer to get it down the mountain. How tall was the tree, Jesus?

Jesus – 00:24:59:

It was a 63 foot Norway spruce.

Brent – 00:25:03:

63 feet. Can anybody imagine that? So you got to put it on a regular trailer to get it down out of the curvy roads and then it gets transferred onto a really cool. And I think it’s a custom made trailer right for the tree made by, you said hail trailers?

Jesus – 00:25:16:

Hail trailers.

Brent – 00:25:17:

Oh, that’s fantastic. So you got to deliver the first location. Keep it going, man.

Jesus – 00:25:20:

So I drove the first couple of days, strong arm Tim and I let me just drive the first couple of days. So the first event was basically learning how the truck and the trailer maneuvered. We got it in the small town of Elkins and the first obstacle that we had was making a right hand turn right in front of the train station. It was tight, but we were able to get everything in where it needed to be set up. And the reception that we had from that city in Elkins, West Virginia was awesome. A lot of people came out to see the tree, sign it, and it’s from the Monongahela National Forest. So that’s the forest that’s in their backyard and they grew up around and they just wanted to see an awesome event. So-

Brent – 00:25:56:

Yeah. Fantastic. So Steve and Gina, where did y’all pick up? Do you start at that first location? Where do you guys pick up on the trip?

Steve – 00:26:03:

So we picked up the week that they delivered in Washington, DC. We picked up about three days before that and we picked the ornaments, 10,000 plus handmade ornaments by the people of West Virginia. And, the Monongahela Forest Service office at Elkins, West Virginia. We went up to a quarter pine tree grower. They’re based out of Bruceton Mills, West Virginia, but he train’s location is to get the truck and trailer in to Springfield, Pennsylvania to pick up 84 companion trees ranging from 12 foot to eight foot and one 25 foot Christmas Tree also.

Brent – 00:26:37:

Wow. A 25 footer. Wow. I didn’t know there was more than just the Capitol . So we had multiple trees. That’s super cool. All right. So 10,000 ornaments. That’s a lot more than the normal family puts on their tree. So that’s a lot. And so I imagine a 63 foot tree would need 10,000 ornaments. And I imagine it’s a couple of strands of lights on there. So Tim and Jesus, so you had 15 different stops and you got to snuggle all the way. Tell the freight nation listeners a little bit more about the stops. And then what was like the overall feeling at each stop? I imagine that you got a little bit more sense of pride as the trip got closer and closer and closer to the Capitol.

Tim – 00:27:15:

It’s tough to put words to it. You know, the whole approach of it was to do it safely one mile at a time, the whole way through with the escorts and having, like I said, a team driver like Jesus with me, everything was done safely. We took our time. When you go from one location to the next, it had a tracking device in the trailer. So we’d go by schools during the week and all the kids would be out there waving and screaming and going through towns, people out taking pictures. It’s humbling. You had to remember that it’s the tree. But having a celebrity like Jesus with me, I was just feeling privileged to be a part of it. Like I said, he has a little bit more experience driving automatic transmission. So he got to teach me a little bit. So it’s always a learning experience. And you know, that’s kind of like driving semi-truck, whether you drove 35 years or you start tomorrow. What you did in the past is one thing. It’s what you do in the future that makes the difference. And doing it safely. We went to some small towns with population of maybe 520 and there was over a thousand people showed up. You just couldn’t imagine. And Jesus got to drive the capital of Charleston, West Virginia, the West Virginia’s capital. Seven marching bands let us in and there were 2000, 3000 people. I don’t know. Jesus, what do you think?

Jesus – 00:28:48:

Yeah, I was about, I would say it’s about two to 3000 people. I mean, it was a chance to see small town America. And meeting with the communities that were there and seeing the everybody knows everybody aspect. And everybody’s asking about their parents and how the family’s doing, if they need any help. And you coming over to the house this weekend and seeing that aspect still going on in the country was good. And, you know, brought warmth inside of your body and seeing the kids and not just the kids, the adults come to the tree and light up. It was an honor to do the event. And we, me and Tim, we still talk and just, we just talked a couple of days and he was telling me this. I was telling him that his hand was on his shifter in his truck. And the thing that we were doing was he would reach for the shifter and the automatic truck. And I started slapping his hand away, telling him it’s not there. So that was the joke that every time he’d reach, I’d slap his hand and say, it’s not there. It’s an automatic. So he doesn’t have me in the passenger seat slapping his hand anymore. So we actually just talked about that on Monday. So-

Brent – 00:29:45:

I love it. So is it safe to say you guys developed a pretty good friendship on this trip?

Jesus – 00:29:49:

Oh, yeah.

Tim – 00:29:50:

We were friends before. We probably got to know each other quite a bit better. You know, it’s just part of the tour, one of the sponsors, the big sponsor, 84 Lumber, you see it on, remembering the veterans. So to me, to have a two Purple Heart recipient running team with me, what a perfect scenario. Werner Enterprises on the door. The truck was wrapped for the tour. So everywhere we went, people would just, they wanted pictures of that truck because that was West Virginia. And like you said, when you hear people say, man, I haven’t seen you in ages and they work in the same place. And it’s like, but this brought them together. It was overwhelming.

Brent – 00:30:35:

Wow. Jesus, maybe I didn’t read it in your bio, but two Purple Hearts, man, that’s pretty remarkable. So I’m just humbled. I’d like Tim and the rest of us, thank you so much. But you guys had 15 stops. And so did you stop one of the military bases, is that right?

Jesus – 00:30:48:

Yeah. Joint Base Andrews. I’ve been telling this to a lot of people is that I learned a lot from Tim. You know, every day is a learning experience when you’re on the truck, no matter how many years of experience you have. And the amount of knowledge that I took in from Tim throughout the whole trip was incredible. But he showed me some tricks that I wasn’t even thinking about. Just entering a parking lot in Joint Base Andrews. You know, we brought the truck into one entrance and the trailer came in through another entrance. And that was something I never would have thought about. And I looked at him and multiple state champion and truck driver championships for Nebraska, placing in the top five top three at Nationals. It really showed with the skills and I learned a lot and took a lot in and it was just awesome to show up to the base and see service members and interact with them. And Steve and Gina got to bring in the companion trees and give them to the families there at the Joint Base but it was awesome.

Brent – 00:31:41:

Yeah, perfect segue into Steve and Gina here. So tell me about that when you guys got to bring those in and drop those off, Steve and Gina. What was that like to be able to do that? And to me, I love the emotion of this. You know, it’s like, wow, you know, I got to be a part of this. Tell the Freight Nation watchers and listeners what it was like, man.

Gina – 00:31:58:

Well, first we had to deliver in D.C. the other companion trees to Yates Building, WiDen. And so we didn’t have a escort. And if you know downtown D.C., it’s way challenging. So we had an extra set of eyes. We had to get out. At times we delivered right on the side of the road, delivering the treats to those four different buildings. That was exciting alone. Just we were in our own work truck, our Operation Freedom work truck. So we had the military work truck was that was, I think, more special to us than anything. We met the guys at Harbour Ferry and delivered a tree there. And then we went to Joint Base Andrews and delivered the trees there to the military members and their families. That was like the best experience. I think that was my most favorite, just being there. And I’m a military mom as well. I have two sons that are military and one still acting. So that was more special to me than anything.

Brent – 00:32:56:

Oh, super cool. Super cool. Jump in there, Steve.

Steve – 00:32:58:

So we weren’t given a route. We were just given the different buildings and what time was we had to be there. And what wasn’t on my planning was all their construction in D.C. So it was interesting navigating the streets of Washington, D.C. And unlike where we live, there’s no parking garages. So the residential neighborhoods were going down, had cars parked on both sides, were taking up the entire middle. When we left the coal yard, which is where we delivered all the ornaments for the Capitol Christmas Tree at, I asked for what’s the best way to get out of here. And I got three different guys pointing three different directions. So it was left to our own devices. And we just took our time, did it safely. As Tim and Jesus said, you just have an extra set of eyes.

Brent – 00:33:40:

I love how you said you asked three different people how to get out of there. They gave you three different directions. That sounds just like politics.

Gina – 00:33:45:

Helping Shot basically stop all the traffic so we could just back out and make our way.

Steve – 00:33:52:

We had trees for the different agricultural buildings in the Department of Interior. And we also had ornaments that went into the Representatives of West Virginia, the Senators and Congress people in the Capitol building. So we had all those ornaments. And then I think we had another 7,000 that went for the Capitol Christmas Tree. And we delivered those. And then we went to Joint Base Andrews that night. And we had one private ceremony for the military members with the Christmas Tree. And we gave out 74 Christmas Trees to family members and service members.

Brent – 00:34:26:

Oh, man. So cool. Please send me some pictures of that. That’s just the coolest thing, man. Just the coolest thing. All right. So, Jesus and Tim, I know that there’s a unique way they make you bring the tree in to Washington, D.C. Let’s close on that. And then I want to get a little piece of advice for the truck drivers out there from each one. Maybe we’ll wrap. Tell me about bringing that tree into D.C. Because I’m sure they let you do it right in the middle of the day. No big deal. I’m sure. Yeah, right.

Tim – 00:34:51:

Well, Werner also has what we call the final mile. So[inaudible] and I started off the mountain. Jesus did the final mile from Andrews to the Capitol. And go ahead, Jesus. You can make this up.

Jesus – 00:35:06:

We had to get off the base first. And one of the gates was malfunctioning. So we had to go out one direction that did not lead to the right way on the highway. So we had to make some pretty crazy maneuvers in order to get the truck to the right side of the road and taking it from Andrews to the actual staging point of the Capitol. People were already on the highway on the road. You know, it’s three o’clock, almost four o’clock in the morning. And even though we have escorts from the all the Capitol Police and I mean, you had a full support of all the Capitol police, plus the law enforcement for the Forest Service. And people were still trying to cut us off and cut into us going down the road. And trying to get on and off the roundabouts. And we had multiple times where we almost got into a collision with the car that just wasn’t paying attention. But we did that whole journey where we’re going to have anything happen the last mile. And we got to our staging point safely.

Brent – 00:35:58:

What time did you arrive there?

Jesus – 00:36:00:

It was roughly around about 6:00 AM. I would say. Sun still was down. We were able to get parked and start getting our coffee sent to us.

Brent – 00:36:08:

So that was on November 17th, right? Is that when y’all dropped it off? Was it around November 17th?

Jesus – 00:36:12:

Yup.

Brent – 00:36:13:

All right. So you get there. Now tell us a little bit about how they offload the tree and what happens from there?

Jesus – 00:36:19:

So from the staging point, you move to the front of the Capitol Lawn. It comes in, the Speaker of the House has come to accept the tree and you have cranes that are there waiting for you and the architect of the Capitol and their crew are sitting there waiting to offload the tree and get it put in its spot that it’s going to be presented or displayed at. And it’s just one of those moments where you had all the anxiety and nervousness of picking up the tree. And now you have the anxiety of finally getting it done and off the trailer and basically the load is delivered. So it was a good moment and a good feeling.

Tim – 00:36:53:

Well, and you know, it is called The People’s Tree. So America, Werner Enterprises delivered this year’s people’s Christmas tree to the United States Capitol. And the pride, especially doing it with the veteran, the company finding out, I keep, getting people to approach me and, man, I seen you on Twitter or this or that. I mean, I’m not really technically savvy or whatever you want to call it, but the pre-planning that Werner did for us with that big trailer, the routing, we had navigation set up to help us. We couldn’t ask for better support than Werner gave us in this whole journey throughout the whole trip. It was all about being safe. We were blessed that. The only snow was the day of the harvest and it wasn’t bad coming off the mountain or I didn’t feel it was. But the rest of the trip, dry roads, one of our locations in Davis, it snowed like four inches two days before we got there. When we got there, it was dry. It melted. So we were blessed the whole trip. Beautiful days, the outreach, the people, you know, the law enforcement, the pride that they played in making sure that they assisted us to get it there. And also our fellow drivers at Werner Enterprises, along with Steve and Gina. We know that we were the two selected, but we represented the whole company at Werner and all the driving force going forward.

Brent – 00:38:32:

Well said, Tim. Thank you so much for saying that. So you guys got it delivered. You got the trailer out of there. Steve and Gina, you guys got the ornaments delivered and the extra trees delivered and all the other trees delivered and everything else. You’re driving home with a big smile on your face that you served your country well. You served us well, the people well. You served your company well, and you served yourself and your family as well. Well, man, to me, this is just such a great picture of what trucking is about. It’s just really about that. It’s just really salt of the earth. Wonderful people, people that you’d love to have as a next door neighbor and a best friend doing things that just are about America and about this sort of thing. So thank you so much. So let me have one final thing. Just what’s one little quick piece of advice you’d give somebody else coming into trucking that you wish you might’ve had in the beginning. I like to close with a little bit of advice. So Gina, let’s start with you.

Gina – 00:39:24:

Well, I just want everybody to be safe out there. Put those phones down. Please pay attention and good planning is number one and wear that seatbelt.

Brent – 00:39:35:

Yeah, okay. All right, Steve, what’s that one piece of advice you wish you’d have gotten in the beginning?

Steve – 00:39:39:

I’ll leave your ego at home.

Brent – 00:39:40:

Well, there you go. There you go. All right. So what about you, Jesus?

Jesus – 00:39:45:

Slow down. Take your time. There’s no rush and just take it nice and slow and everything will happen and fall into place. I’d like to thank the spouses of all the drivers that keep America moving. That’s something that we don’t talk about a lot. And Carissa Dean, Tim’s wife, you know, my wife, Michelle, obviously Steve and Gina are married. The spouses are also there to support the drivers that keep America moving and deliver the essentials to the country across the nation. And my wife is at home while I’m on the road delivering the essentials. Tim’s wife was out, you know, raising the kids while we delivered the goods to keep America moving. And you got to give a big thank you to the wives and spouses that are out there that stay home and keep the home front going. So we just want to say thank you to them as well.

Brent – 00:40:28:

Yeah, man. I’ll say amen to that. All right, Tim, wrap us up on that piece of advice that you got when you were a young Tim.

Tim – 00:40:35:

Young Tim, family, take time to be with your family. And when they need your help, get there. Werner’s always been a top-notch company. I was home for all three of my kids being born. And Werner made it happen. But the biggest thing is, is when you’re driving our nation’s highways, everybody around you is family, whether it’s my family, Jesus, Steve and Gina, or yourself. So drive accordingly and make sure that they get there safely just as well as you get there safely. So like Steve say, be humble. You know, let them come in. You know they’re going to cut you off. And that’s one thing about the big tree. We took it like we always do, every mile safe, one mile at a time. And it adds up. Trust me, I found out five million times.

Brent – 00:41:30:

I love it. Well put.

Gina – 00:41:32:

With Steve and I being team drivers, we thank each other every time we get done with our shift that we kept each other safe on the road.

Brent – 00:41:39:

Yeah, be thankful. I hear you, no doubt on that. What great advice. What a great story. What a great experience for you guys. Thank you so much for coming on Freight Nation today and just being a benefit to everybody that gets to watch and listen to this. And so I love it because these four faces that are on here right now is what trucking is all about, man. It’s all about doing it the right way, doing it the safe way every single time. And so from the trucking industry to everybody else out there, from all four of us on the phone, from all the super great drivers at Werner and all the 3.5 million commercial drivers in the United States, we just wish you guys Merry Christmas to all the listeners and really appreciate you listening to Freight Nation today. And as we like to say at Freight Nation, don’t forget to work hard, to be kind and to stay humble. Thanks a lot, Freight Nation, and we’ll catch you the next time. On behalf of the Truckstop team, thanks for listening to this episode of Freight Nation. To find out more about the show, head to truckstop.com/podcast. If you enjoyed this episode, make sure you hit subscribe so you don’t miss any future episodes. Until then, keep on trucking and exploring the open roads with Freight Nation: A Trucking Podcast.

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