Independent's stunning 'Little Blue' 1995 Freightliner FLD

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Independent owner-operator Raiko Graveran, headquartered in Orlando, Florida, has owned this 1995 Freightliner FLD120 for about 15 years now. At the time of the Guilty By Association Truck Show in Joplin, Missouri, last Fall, he'd had it 14.5 years of his 15.5-year trucking career.

He got his start in trucking working for a friend of his father. He'd been working in construction when his dad's friend noted he needed a driver and came to Graveran about getting his CDL. "He said, 'if you get your CDL, I'll get you a job,'" Graveran said. "I got my license on a Thursday, Saturday I get training, and Monday I was working."

Graveran's dad also drove truck. He remembers sitting on his dad's leg at a young age, waiting until he was tall enough to reach the pedals. Once he was, around the age of 14, he started driving the backroads, getting the hang of being behind the wheel. "My trucking learning" he owes to his dad, he said. His father passed away about a year before GBATS last Fall, but "I always got my dad on my head, and I remember what he told me to do."

Through the years, he's been in the habit of jokingly referring to his big truck as his "little truck," hence the rig's name after the repainting of recent years. 

Raiko Graveran's 1995 Freightliner FLD120 rear viewOwner-operator Graveran nicknamed the truck "Little Blue" after he had it painted. The color is a mix between baby blue and sky blue, replacing dark gray it came with from the factory, likewise several other colors various owners put on it before he bought it. When prepping the rig for painting, Graveran "had to sand it hard to get all those layers of paint to do the right prep," he said.

A year after getting his CDL, Graveran bought this Freightliner for just $6,000. "It was in bad shape," he said, with multiple layers of paint peeling off and other mostly cosmetic issues. It "never was the kind of truck to give mechanical issues," however, so Graveran has been working to make it his own throughout his ownership.

He hauls flatbed freight -- no oversize or overweight -- under his own authority as RGT Transport, keeping mostly to lanes between the Southeast and Northeast, out to Iowa and Nebraska, down to Texas and back. In the wintertime, he tries to stay South as much as he can. "Wintertime, you're not going to see this truck up North," he said. It cost him "years of hard work, and I don’t want this truck destroyed by salt."

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The 12.7-liter Detroit Series 60 DD3 has been good to Graveran overall. In 2012, he lost the fourth cylinder while out in Texas. He limped it home to Orlando, and he and a mechanic friend diagnosed the issue, got the parts needed and made the repair over a weekend. In 2022, he rebuilt the engine at 1.8 million miles. "It's a reliable truck, easy to fix," he said.

12.7-liter Detroit Series 60 in Raiko Graveran's 1995 Freightliner FLD120Graveran had a friend paint the cab of the truck, but he handled painting the smaller parts, including the engine, himself.

As for the custom work on the rig -- "It’s a nice truck right now, but everything that’s on this truck" the truck paid for itself, Graveran said. "Many people see a truck as a machine, I see this one as a part of my life."

With the help of a few friends, he's transformed the Freightliner over many years into a working truck worthy of recognition. Last week at the Mid-America Trucking Show, Graveran brought home a second-place trophy in the Antique Custom -- Bobtail class in the PKY Truck Beauty Championship.

Raiko Graveran's 1995 Freightliner FLD120 side viewGraveran added an extra fuel tank on the passenger side to balance the weight of a toolbox in which he keeps his chains and binders on the driver side.

Among other upgrades: the frame's stretched to 273 inches; air ride suspension on the front end with a 14,000-pound car-hauler axle; aluminum wheels and fifth wheel; new lights; custom deck plate, T-bar and more.

The owner remains humble through it all. "It’s just a clean truck. It doesn’t have many features, nothing complicated, nothing fancy," he said. He did most of the custom work on the truck himself in his driveway over about a year during COVID, and officially revealed it as a working show truck at the 75 Chrome Shop's truck show in 2021.

Interior of Raiko Graveran's 1995 Freightliner FLD120Graveran said at GBATS that the interior wasn't yet ready for show, but it was well on its way, that's sure.

[Related: 'Plain Jane' 1995 Peterbilt 379 a company driver's dream ride]

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Raiko Graveran: My name is Raiko Graveran. I'm from Orlando, Florida. That's where I base it. And an owner-operator of single truck. So one-man shot, everything came out of my back.

The truck... This is a 1995 FLD Freightliner. As I told you, my first and only truck. I bought it in bad condition. I paid $6,000 only for this truck, so you can imagine how it was. It was in bad shape. It used to be 22 wheels on the front, 22 out on the back, short wheelbase, brown color. When you was washing the truck, you can see the paint getting out in the bucket. It was in bad shape, bad. It's a nice truck right now, but everything that is on this truck, he paid for himself. This is a truck that is reliable equipment. We always make it back home. It can be leaking oil or wheel seal, but he always make it back home.

He got a 12.7 Detroit third generation. So the DD3, people call it. I put an air ride suspension on the front right now with the car hauler axles. It's a 14,000 pound axle. I got a PDI exhaust with one boss turbo. Everything is factory set up. I don't crank it. Nothing crazy to don't break the engine. The aluminum custom work is all my idea. I went to the shop in St. Cloud, Florida. The guy is named Rumo Welding. Between he and me decide how we do the deck panel, how we create this panel. And he did the back of the chassis from me too. So between us, we work together with the idea. The cab was painted by a guy in Orlando. His name is Will. He paint the cab. I did the prep and I did a small piece of frame, engine, all the small pieces have been painted by me.

I did all the custom drill for all my setup, all my wiring, all my lights. Basically it's done by me with a couple hands, but 99% of the part made by me. It's just a clean truck. It don't have many features. Nothing complicated, nothing fancy. I did name him "Little Blue."  So that's his nickname, and I got on the back of the cab because I always say my little truck. Since I decide to paint it blue I thought, well, name pops up, Little Blue. It got aluminum fifth wheel, aluminum wheels, custom T-bar, the custom deck panel with the lights on it. This is my toolbox where I carry all my chains, my binders.

On the other side I got an extra fuel tank to help the chassis make the weight even because this side weighs more than the other side, so I try to make a balance on the chassis. APU on it, I try and blend it on the frame rail. Reliable truck, easy to fix. I love it. As long as the DOT allow me to keep driving this truck, I will drive until my last day.