Outside the ordinary

| August 01, 2006

Trick My Truck christened Jeff Crane’s renovated rig “The Ice Breaker.”

Famous folks and their extraordinary loads don’t faze Jeff Crane. The owner-operator has hauled the lifetime work of Nobel Prize winners, the San Francisco symphony’s instruments and a Hubble Space Telescope lens. And Crane, who is leased to the California-based VIP Transport, became famous himself after his 1999 Freightliner Classic was transformed on the Country Music Television series Trick My Truck.

“Eventually, I see everything,” the Gardiner, Maine, resident says. Still, he was given pause when he arrived for a Chicago load without knowing the content. Or that the previous trucker had abandoned hope of loading after an eight-hour effort.

Crane was met by two 800-pound, 9-foot dancing cows, covered in rhinestones. The cows were fiberglass and set on steel bases. “And here’s these two monster cows dancing in fishnets,” he recalls. “The artist had started on them in the studio without thinking about getting them out.”

The bovines were headed to New York City’s 2000 Cow Parade, which featured 500 artist-created cows exhibited citywide. Loading took all day, and the cows had to be padded carefully to not damage the artist’s two years of work. Crane used various equipment, including a machinery dolly.

“I have more equipment than you can imagine,” he says.

Moving giant cows may have been a first for him, but transporting entire labs of cancer and other scientific research is old hat. VIP is a Mayflower Transit agent which designed the Lab Transporter Vehicle equipped with a generator that allows huge research freezers to operate at the required temperature of minus 80 degrees Celsius within a climatically controlled van interior.

Before this, scientists sometimes lost research material because of improper temperatures. Once, Crane moved 11 research freezers at once, configuring the power to adapt for different voltages.

He loads with a crew but is prepared with knowledge of the delicate machinery, knowing where it can be pushed without damage.

Sometimes the loads are not as sensitive but highly valuable. Once, off-duty police officers accompanied him from Los Angeles to New Jersey to protect his load of a major recording studio’s master cuts.

Crane is often requested by customers. The San Francisco Symphony asked him to move their equipment for a tour of prestigious performing centers like New York’s Carnegie Hall.

Crane has also moved “everything from solar panels to satellites” for NASA, including the Hubble Space Telescope lens. Some of NASA’s equipment has to be isolated in the center of the trailer because of the machinery’s delicacy.

The most well-known person Crane has met was a writer of books, television shows and movies that he declined to name. The entire contents of the writer’s load was a $20 million painting crated and kept at 64 degrees.

But it’s Crane’s own truck – christened the Ice Breaker by the Trick My Truck crew – that now draws attention on the road. One of Crane’s five sons had submitted his father’s truck to the show for a makeover because Crane’s wife Jackie wanted to ride with her husband but was uncomfortable in the small bunk.

The crew added a huge sleeper with numerous amenities, including queen-size air-adjustable bed, electric fireplace and a barbecue pit that extends out from the exterior. The exterior design is blue with icebergs, and Crane and Jackie love traveling in it now.

The truck was featured on the show’s February debut episode, which everyone on the road seems to have seen, Crane says. “A cop pulled me over in Texas to get his picture taken with my truck,” he says.

Driver Michael Zuck also found himself in the spotlight recently. Zuck, a company driver for Kindrid Enterprises, of Taylorville, Ind., was surprised to see “polar bears” listed as the load on his Qualcomm.

Kindrid leases to FedEx Custom Critical, which was contracted to move three polar bears to the zoo in Memphis, Tenn. – 2-year-old Payton and 3-year-old Haley from Chicago and 4-year-old Cranbeary from Denver. Polar bears are the largest land carnivore and can weigh up to almost 1,000 pounds.

The Chicago polar bears were first crated and flown to Memphis. Zuck, of Lansing, Mich., arrived at the Memphis airport and was immediately directed by FedEx employees over to an airplane. Payton and Haley were unloaded from the plane and loaded into Zuck’s trailer. The two bears were sedated, and bags of ice topped their cages.

Zuck put load bars in front and back of the cages, strapped each cage into the truck and kept the van temperature at 65 degrees. Still, even invisible to traffic inside the van, they bumped the cage, causing the entire truck to shake.

The animals drew attention, starting with airport workers to the TV crews and crowds waiting at the Memphis zoo.

“I felt like the MVP of the Superbowl when I pulled in,” Zuck recalls. “It was kind of astonishing having that much attention.”

The following week, Zuck learned the zoo had requested him to move Cranbeary from the airport to the Memphis zoo. Cranbeary didn’t shake the truck, but Zuck could hear repeated thumps from the bear, who wanted out of his cage.

“I wanted him to have a good ride,” Zuck says, “but I think I enjoyed the move more than he did.”
Jill Dunn


Bear Necessities
Truckers with Teddys collects toys and supplies for needy children

Tragic news stories covering the impact of Hurricane Katrina got trucker Donna Baggett thinking, “What can I do?”

In the wake of one of the worst natural disasters in U.S. history, many people asked themselves the same question, and Baggett immediately got to work to make a difference in the lives of victims who had lost everything.

Baggett, also known as “Saddles” because she has owned horses and used to sell saddles and tack, has been driving for 20 years and is now an owner-operator for Trailer Convoys, Inc., out of Stratford, S.D. The 46-year-old mother of two and grandmother of seven recently started an organization called Truckers with Teddys, which provides needy children and their families with teddy bears, toys, blankets and any other supplies people want to donate.

Her website, provides six addresses that accept donations. Although Baggett was originally inspired by the destruction of Katrina, her charity is not limited to hurricane victims and includes a home for abused mothers and their children.

Since the inception of Truckers with Teddys, Baggett estimates that between 5,000 to 10,000 bears, gift cards and blankets have been donated to the needy.

“I don’t know what comes from who, but whoever gets the stuff knows it comes from truck drivers,” Baggett says.

The one-woman organization began one day when Baggett called into the Bubba Bo Show on XM Satellite Radio’s Open Road Channel to talk about what truck drivers could do to help hurricane victims.

“A man called in and said that he wanted to donate teddy bears and could build a website,” Baggett says. “He called me back a few minutes later and said, ‘get on a computer,’ and there it was.”

Not only can people box gifts and send them to the addresses on her website, but Baggett also enlists truck drivers to deliver a load if they are in the designated area and would like to volunteer. She has been to New Orleans three times and is currently on the injured list from a torn rotator cuff. This hasn’t stopped her from coordinating donations and deliveries, she says.

Baggett is currently applying for non-profit 501 (c)(3) status for Truckers with Teddys, and she is also a member of Operation Roger, an organization that reunites lost pets and their owners. Displayed on the front of her truck is a Truckers with Teddys sign, along with a number where people who want to help can call.

“I just tell people to think about what these people are left with – nothing,” Baggett says. “If I lost my home, I would still have my truck.”
–Rachel Telehany


Emergency Purchase
Trucker helps stabilize diabetic grandmother with O.J.

It was a small act, but it made a big difference.

Davis Transport driver Andrew Lee of Silver Springs, Nev., had pulled into a truckstop near Marysville, Wash., to buy lunch and was returning to his rig when he noticed a woman sitting in her SUV with the window down.

The woman, Dr. Ginny Tresvant, explained that she was a diabetic and had pulled into the truckstop because she was feeling dizzy. Upon checking her blood sugar, she discovered it was extremely low, but she did not have enough energy to get herself and her 17-month-old twin grandsons, who were asleep in the back of the vehicle, into the store to purchase what she needed.

Fearing she would lose consciousness, Tresvant asked if Lee could help, and he ran into the store to buy orange juice.

“I knew a diabetic needed orange juice,” Lee says. “It doesn’t take very long to bring the blood sugar level to normal.”

While she drank the juice, Lee also bought her candy bars to further stabilize her blood sugar, and he remained with her until it reached a safe level.

Tresvant wrote a letter to Davis Transport to commend Lee for his “quick thinking and fast actions” in what she called “a crisis situation.”

“It’s just in my nature to help,” Lee says. “I like the feeling I get in helping people.”

The Truckload Carriers Association recognized Lee as a Highway Angel for assisting the diabetic grandmother. Lee received a Highway Angel lapel pin, certificate and patch for his efforts, and Davis Transport received a certificate.
–Brittani Tingle

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