A tribute to Glenn 'Pillsbury' Hensley -- his well-preserved personal 1984 Pete 359

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Updated Mar 7, 2024

At the Mid-America Trucking Show this past year, Andrea Hensley entered the press room. Owner of a livestock-hauling support business, Hensley had made time to visit Louisville to, among other things, see owner-operator Darrell Estes' restoration of her renowned father's past personal 359, a mechanical Cat-powered 1984 model

Darrell EstesHere's Estes at MATS with the beauty, a 1984 Peterbilt 359, which you can catch plenty more views of in the video at bottom.

Hensley, with an understated elegance belying her bona fides as an heiress to a type of trucking aristocracy, recalled what it was like to be the daughter of that renowned fleet owner, Glenn “Pillsbury” Hensley. She offered first this tale from her distant past. 

“I was probably seven or eight," she said. "I was a little girl. It would be payday. He'd be paying the drivers. He would show me the breakdowns. He would actually lose money [sometimes] by paying them, but because they were good drivers, he'd want to keep them. He’d say, ‘This is how you do business. This is how it works.’"

Pillsbury would make sure she "did the math," she said. "He'd say, 'Look, this is how I lost money on this load.' 

“But you can't do that forever.”

Glenn Hensley got his start in 1960 as an owner-operator with one truck. "Every time he paid off a truck, he would buy another one," his daughter said. That way, he slowly grew the company, and by the 1990s he "had 25 trucks that ran dry vans and reefers from Kentucky to the North and South.”

In the bloodbath that was 2007-'08, Pillsbury, then 64 years old, was losing money on too many loads. At an age when many of his contemporaries were filing for Social Security, Pillsbury would go on to haul his first load of livestock. 

“The economy tanked and the price of fuel skyrocketed,” Andrea said, and Hensley shifted his operation. “He kind of went out on a limb and [started running] 15 livestock trailers. He had never hauled livestock, but he had grown up on a farm and he had a couple drivers who knew how.“   

[Related: Livestock hauling: Caring for cargo]

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Andrea, for her part, with a resilience reminiscent of her parents', pivoted to trucking after her gig as a pharmaceutical rep fell victim to the pandemic. 

Andrea HensleyAndrea HensleyDenise MarhoeferA livestock hauler in her area “asked me to run his seven-truck fleet. I realized I wasn’t horrible at it," she said. She got them through a DOT audit, even, and she was at a place where she felt it was time to move when the DOT auditor "called me one day. She said, 'Look, I know you’re moving on from where you’re working, but you should stick with this. You’re good at it.’ 

“There’s really no class you can take to tell you how to run a trucking company. When I told my dad about it, he said, ‘You just accidentally know how to run a trucking company.’ My father had three mechanics throughout all the years he was in the trucking business. Just three. My mom was his only office employee. She ran 25 trucks by herself. And me. I helped on the phone."

What evolved from that would eventually become Andrea's A. Hensley Livestock Dispatch and Consulting business.

”I do on- or off-site DOT audits and provide guidance," she said. "My main focus is I dispatch livestock loads for drivers across the country daily.”

Yet she'd found time enough to be here to, among other things, see Estes' restoration of her father's personal 359. 

In hearing Ms. Hensley's accounts of her father, and having never met the man, I couldn't help but feel a deep sense of admiration for the devotion he inspired.

“He was gone a lot" when Andrea was growing up, she said. When "it was Easter or Christmas, his drivers didn't want to go, so he always did. [But] livestock gave him more holidays at home, because the sales aren't open.”

Among Pillsbury's trucking maxims: If you’re going to make it in trucking you have to be willing to work when no one else is.

“But there was one thing he never missed," Andrea said. "A dance recital. He never missed one of my dance recitals. I danced for 16 years, and he would always be home no matter what. [It] was always the first week of June.”

Hensley continued hauling cows until he was 79. "He had to quit strictly due to health reasons" in 2021, she said. "He still talks about getting back on the road. He loved it more than anyone I know.” 

I could remember the Hensley boys well. They had about the fastest trucks on I-75  back in the 1990s. I wasn't sure I'd ever seen the left door on one of their trucks, though. So we headed down the hall and to the right to meet Darrell Estes.

Find all the installments in Long Haul Paul Marhoefer's "Faces of the Road" series of profiles/oral histories via this link.

[Related: How a 'Diesel Fool' became the 'Highway Preacher: Paul Leger]

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