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Werner Enterprises Drivers Haul Capitol Christmas Tree in Kenworth T680 Signature Edition

Wed November 29, 2023 - National Edition
Kenworth


Werner Enterprises U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree drivers Tim Dean (L) and Jesus Davila. (James Edward Mills photo)
Werner Enterprises U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree drivers Tim Dean (L) and Jesus Davila. (James Edward Mills photo)

For Werner Enterprises professional drivers Tim Dean and Jesus Davila, the opportunity to transport this year's U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree from the Monongahela National Forest in West Virginia to the nation's capital in Washington, D.C., lived up to the hype, and then some.

"It was an absolute privilege to be one of the drivers for this year's tour and travel throughout West Virginia to share the holiday spirit," said Dean. "Being involved in this special transport far exceeded my expectations. I had so much fun visiting communities along the way and seeing how much joy and pride this tree brought to West Virginians who came out and visited us during the tour."

For the past 10 years, Kenworth has been a major sponsor of the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree program, supplying trucks to haul the special tree each holiday season. As an industry leader and long-time Kenworth customer, Kenworth recommended Werner to safely transport the 63-ft. Norway Spruce from its harvest site in West Virginia to the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, D.C., with a series of community events along the way.

Dean, who joined Werner in 1988, is only the second driver in Werner's history to achieve five million accident-free miles. He's also served as an ATA America's Road Team Captain and a Werner Road Team Captain and mentor since 2005. Davila, a retired U.S. Marine of 12 years and Purple Heart recipient, joined Werner in 2018 and has more than 550,000 accident-free miles.

In celebration of its centennial milestone, Kenworth provided Dean and Davila with a Kenworth 100th Anniversary T680 Signature Edition for the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree tour. The truck was equipped with a 76-in. high-roof sleeper and PACCAR Powertrain, featuring the PACCAR MX-13 engine rated at 455 hp, PACCAR TX-12 automated transmission and PACCAR DX-40 tandem rear axles.

Before Dean and Davila could embark on the journey through West Virginia and visit communities throughout the state prior to reaching Washington, D.C., the Christmas Tree needed transport from its harvest site deep in the Monongahela National Forest. On Nov. 1, the Norway Spruce was harvested in wintery conditions, a fitting way to start off the holiday season and the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree Tour, which officially began on Nov. 4. Dean was tasked with the responsibility of driving a Kenworth W990, equipped with a 52-in. flat-roof sleeper, MX-13 engine rated at 510 hp and a PACCAR TX-18 transmission, to haul the Christmas tree down 14 mi. of forest service roads.

"There were a few inches of snow on the ground and the roads were tight and slick in some areas, but the W990 is built to handle adverse conditions like that," said Dean. "The drive off the mountain went according to plan. The truck handled the roads very well and shifted through gears smoothly. It was almost like driving a manual with the responsive control I had."

Once off the mountain, and the trailer was hitched to the Kenworth T680 Signature Edition, Dean and Davila were off to visit 12 towns throughout West Virginia for community celebrations. Both drivers are accustomed to hauling van trailers for Werner, but driving a truck with an oversized trailer, measuring a combined 102 ft. in length, presented a new challenge. Fortunately, support from local agencies and the Forest Service to escort the truck, combined with the T680's advanced driver assistance technology, helped make the journey a breeze.

"I couldn't be more appreciative for all the hard work law enforcement and the Forest Service put in to help direct us and keep us on the right path throughout the tour. There was a lot of pre-trip planning, so we knew the route logistics," said Davila. "As for driving, our job would have been much tougher if Kenworth didn't produce such a great product and provide a truck with all the bells and whistles. The T680's turning radius, coupled with Torque Assisted Steering, made for a lighter steering effort — which reduced arm fatigue and made it easier to turn through tight city roads. The Digital Mirrors system also eliminated blind spots and gave us many different viewpoints to support in backing the trailer around corners. That safety technology made it easier for us to do our job."

According to Dean and Davila, traveling through West Virginia, a state known for its natural beauty, and visiting towns along the way was more fun than the two could have imagined.

"Everywhere we went, the turnout was great and the people who came out to see the tree were so prideful that it came from their state," said Dean. "There was a lot of interest in the tree and the logistics behind getting the tree to the capital. It was so much fun to meet all the people and bring joy to all the communities we went to along the way. I've accomplished a lot in my career as a driver, but being involved in this tour is something I'll always remember."

"The holidays are such a special time of year, and to share this experience with so many West Virginians and to see so many happy people, especially the kids who were excited for the holidays, was special," said Davila. "So many kids signaled to us to blow our airhorn throughout the tour, which was really memorable. It made us proud to be drivers and be a part of the tour."

Operation Freedom Fleet

When Davila isn't busy transporting a Christmas tree to the nation's capital or hauling his regular loads for Werner, he can often be found at truck driving schools and other industry events to educate members of the military community about employment opportunities with Werner. Davila is a part of Werner's Operation Freedom Fleet, a comprehensive military community program that sponsors multiple initiatives inside and outside of Werner.

Many of the drivers involved in the program, including husband-and-wife team Gina and Steve Jones, drive military-themed wrapped trucks to advertise to servicemembers of the employment opportunities in the industry. The Jones', who currently drive a Kenworth T680 Signature Edition, were involved with the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree Tour, assisting with transporting small Christmas trees and tree ornaments to Joint Base Andrews in Maryland.

According to Werner, approximately 18 percent of its workforce are veterans. One of its military veteran drivers, Todd Kraus is currently a finalist for the annual "Transition Trucking: Driving for Excellence Award," a program hosted by Fastport, Kenworth and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation's Hiring Our Heroes initiative and dedicated to finding America's top rookie military veteran driver. The program recognizes top drivers who have made the successful transition from active duty to driving for a commercial fleet.

The winner will be announced on Dec. 15 and will receive the keys to a fully loaded Kenworth 100th Anniversary T680 Signature Edition truck.

For more information, visit www.kenworth.com.

This story also appears on Truck and Trailer Guide.




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