Loyal to her 359

James Jaillet | September 01, 2010

Through an industrious career as a leased owner-operator, dispatcher and small-fleet owner, Theresa DeSantis has been unwilling to part with a special 1985 Pete.


Even though her company had been sold and her authority had been lost Theresa DeSantis says she just couldn’t bear to part with her truck. Even if she never drove it again, she says, and left it parked in her yard, “that would’ve been fine. At least I would’ve had something to fall back on.”

Theresa DeSantis started driving as an owner-operator when she was 21.

But after a year as an office manager and a dispatcher for Dart Trucking Inc. in1993, DeSantis put her 1985 Peterbilt 359 – Old No. 7 – back to work. “I didn’t like working in an office,” she says. “I went back to driving. It’s just what I wanted to do.”

She bought the truck new when she was 21, and the now 46-year-old DeSantis has driven it as an owner-operator ever since, other than her year as a dispatcher. After driving for Union Transit in Wilbraham, Mass., and Refiners Transport in Cleveland, she and her husband Dean applied for their own authority in 1987, using Old No. 7 as the cornerstone for what would eventually become a five-truck fleet owned and operated by the husband and wife team.

D.R. DeSantis Trucking Co. hauled lime, stone and coal nationwide, and after building the company for five years, DeSantis and her husband sold it to a larger company in 1993. She says Old No. 7 was the only piece of the company they kept.

Because it was her first and only truck, the sentimental ties were too strong to let it go. “I just couldn’t see somebody else driving it,” she says. “It was my truck.”

DeSantis says only 250 Peterbilts were made with the red and orange color scheme in 1985. She had to wait nearly a month to have the truck delivered after ordering the two-tone paint scheme. “It was worth it. The colors are part of what make it so special.”

DeSantis is leased to Clean Harbor Environmental Services, based in Norwell, Mass. She hauls hazardous materials such as flammables, oxidizers, corrosives and poisons, from Phoenix to Aragonite, Utah, and Deer Park, Texas. Between the sale of her company and leasing to Clean Harbor, DeSantis was leased to Columbiana, Ohio-based Dart Trucking.

In 2009, Joplin Peterbilt restored Old No. 7, painting the truck, updating its suspension and frame rails and “giving me a little better ride,” DeSantis says.

Dean and Theresa grew up in Ware, Mass., where the two dated in high school. Dean lives and works in Indiana, and Theresa lives in Apache Junction, Ariz. “Whether one of us is at home or traveling or whatever, that’s the way our marriage has always been,” Theresa says. “It’s just part of our lives.”

Theresa says the two visit one another on weekends to spend time together and perform maintenance on Theresa’s truck.

She says she and her husband try to tackle most maintenance issues in-house, doing all of the brake, tire, wiring and general chassis work. Owner-operators can’t afford to outsource that type of work, she says, and “if you do not have a shop, tools or know-how, the deck maybe stacked against you.”

DeSantis uses Quicken Books and Excel to track her expenses and develop plans to minimize costs. Because fuel is her largest expense, she says she tracks fuel costs on a per-load and per-quarter basis. She netted $30,000 in 2009.

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