Aaron Stacey: Mt. Vernon, Washington

Article by Darin Burt

With its gleaming chrome, polished aluminum wheels and dancing flame graphics, Rob Graham’s steel blue T800 is one of the sweetest log trucks on the road. And don’t think for the minute that driver Aaron Stacey takes it for granted.

“Nowadays, a new truck costs a guy over $200,000. That’s a big investment to trust a person with,” says Stacey. “I take care of the truck I drive as if it were my own and want it to stay in good working order. It’s my office . . . the appearance of the truck reflects on the company.”

Stacey, 35, has been driving since he was 20 years old. Thirteen of those years have been spent hauling logs. The last three years, Stacey has been a hired driver with Rob Graham Trucking, out of Bellingham, Washington. It’s a return to where he started out; Rob took Stacey under his wing and gave him one of first log trucking job even though he had little experience driving in the woods.

Stacey’s vey first log hauling job was for Hamilton Bros., for whom his brother worked as a yarder operator. He knew little about trucking other than having been around farm trucks and riding with his dad who drove a milk tanker. Stacey’s first log truck was a 1981 Kenworth. “I rode with one of their experienced drivers for about a week, and then they just threw me in the truck and said, ‘Stay on the road, and remember your bunk pin and compensator.’”

After Hamilton Bros. got out of logging, Stacey moved on to operating a lowbed for Mike Hawkins. He also did some flatbed work, and while he has all the respect in the world for guys running on the highway, being gone from his family for extended periods of time just wasn’t for him.
Ironically, Stacey got the staring roll, with Graham driving one of his trucks through a parade in a commercial for the Deming Log Show. Graham now has nearly a dozen trucks, but back then there was just a couple, and when one of the drivers got injured, Stacey had to step up and pull a pup trailer. “I hadn’t even been hauling logs for a year, so I learned really quick,” Stacey says.

The truck Stacey drives for Graham is a 2006 Kenworth with a 475 Cat motor, 18-speed transmission, 46,000-lb rears with a single locker, Vulcan scales, lift axle, wet kit, aluminum wheels and Pedersen Bros. bunks and trailer. The truck is set up with a quick-change so that it can also pull side dump, as it did recently hauling rip-rap for the ARMY Corp of Engineers. Even with the wet kit, the lightweight on the truck is 27,000. Most of the time, a Pederson pup trailer (weighing 5,000-lbs) tags along.

“As a quick-change log truck, you couldn’t ask for it to be set up any better,” Stacey says. “It’s one of the most comfortable log trucks I’ve driven. It has air-ride, a drop axle with a 12-foot spread and it gets around really well.”

Stacey has been around the trucking industry long enough that he has a good handle on operating costs. He understands that in order for the business to make a profit, the truck has to produce and make its numbers – that means everything from preventative maintenance and striving for a clean driving record to being proactive and going after the extra load (when time allows, of course).

“There are a lot of guys out there who like to cowboy their truck and they’re usually the ones complaining about the fuel prices and maintenance costs. If you want to drive a nice truck, you have to be responsible for your actions in the truck,” Stacey says.

“A good hired driver is one who isn’t there just to collect a paycheck,” he adds. “One of the first things that Rob told me when I was starting out is that if your truck is broke you don’t work. It sunk in that if I’m not working, I’m not making a paycheck, and if the truck isn’t working, Rob’s not making a paycheck either.”

The handwritten note tucked in with Stacey’s Christmas bonus, showed that his efforts were much appreciated by his boss. It read simply: “Thanks for looking out for the company.”