Jeff Barnes Has Never Been Afraid To Try

Jeff Barnes - 10-4 magazine

Young people who want to succeed today do not have it easy - they are growing up in an uncertain world filled with stress and anxiety about their very survival - and Jeff Barnes can certainly relate. It used to be simple - work hard, be honest and persistent, and you will succeed.  Those core principles still hold true, but success does not come automatically just because you follow them.  Today, you have to be bold and take chances.  You have to have the guts to try new things and the confidence to stick your neck out, knowing that you could lose your head.  But Jeff Barnes has never been afraid of success.

At only 36 years old, Jeff has built a small but prosperous trucking operation called J&S Enterprises.  Based in Rochester, Washington, the company not only supports his immediate family - his wife and son - but also his father and a longtime family friend.  The pressure to keep everyone happy and working puts a lot of stress on this young man's shoulders but, apparently, he is up to the task.  His father put it best when he said, "Jeff has always had the guts to take chances and that has allowed him to succeed."  But success did not come easy to Jeff - he had to take a lot risks along the way.

Jeff was born in Olympia, WA and then his family moved to Rochester when he was four years old.  Jeff grew up in a trucking family - his grandfather Chuck Knoye (on his mother's side) was a truck driver for 45 years and Jeff's dad (Jeff Sr.) was both a mechanic and a driver.  Jeff began going out on the road with either his dad or grandfather when he was only two months old.  During the school months, he could not go out as often, but during holidays and the summer months, he was always out on the road with one of them.  By the time he was eight years old, he could drive (forward and backward) better than most of the "seasoned" veterans.

Jeff's Grandpa Chuck was originally from Arkansas, but later moved to Brawley, CA . When Jeff's mom was in high school, Chuck moved the family to Rochester, WA.  Grandpa Chuck was an owner-operator for most of his life.  Jeff fondly remembers going out with his grandfather in his old blue and white Diamond-Reo cabover.  Back then, Chuck pulled a lot of explosives and heavy equipment for Tri-State Motor Transit Co.  Later, he moved over to Mitchell Bros. out of Portland, OR where he mainly hauled heavy equipment.

Jeff's father studied auto mechanics at a technical school in Bellingham, WA.  After he graduated, he went to work at the local Datsun dealership.  About that time is when he met Jeff's mom, and shortly thereafter they were married.  His new father-in-law (Chuck) got him interested in trucks and, eventually, helped get him a job at Tri-State as a mechanic at their terminal in Maytown, WA.  He started out doing simple tasks like changing oil and working on brakes, but, over time, he got more into the heavy engine work and repairs.  Later, Chuck taught Jeff's dad how to drive a truck, and then he went to work at a local company running a dump truck.

When Jeff was three years old, his dad bought his first truck - an ugly Freightliner cabover painted green and orange - and then signed-on at Interstate Distributor Co. out of Tacoma, WA.  Today, that company has thousands of trucks and thousands of employees, but back then, in 1978, there were only about 100 total trucks (and that included their owner-operators).  Shortly after that, Grandpa Chuck also moved over to Interstate.  While Jeff's dad was out on the road trucking, his mom was at home getting very involved in horses.  As it turns out, horses and trucks don't mix well.  Jeff's parents divorced in 1984 when he was ten years old - and it was a messy divorce.  Looking to just get away, Jeff's dad moved to Los Angeles and took a local driving job at Osterkamp Trucking in Pomona, CA.  Jeff stayed with his mom in Washington.

A few years later, Jeff's dad moved back to Washington (Ferndale), got remarried, and then took custody of Jeff.  Over the next few years, while Jeff was finishing high school, his dad drove locally for a few different companies.  Jeff graduated in 1993 and, determined not to be a truck driver, he immediately signed himself up at a technical school in Phoenix, AZ to study Electro-Mechanical Engineering.  Jeff loved trucks and trucking, but wasn't really that excited about being a truck driver.  This was the first time he really stuck his neck out, because he was going to have to pay his own way, and it wasn't cheap.  As Jeff put it, "It was do or die!"

After arriving in Phoenix and moving in with the roommate the school had assigned to him, it didn't take long for Jeff to figure out that it wasn't going to work (apparently this roommate had a nice little drug habit).  Jeff moved out of the dorm and got his own apartment.  To pay for his tuition and living expenses, he got a full-time job at Con-way Freight, moving trailers around their yard. In 1995, Jeff earned his Associates Degree and graduated second in his class out of 500 students.  He then moved back to Washington and began to look for work in his new field of expertise, but jobs were scarce.  He ended up taking a job as a laborer at a local construction company.  Over time, he began operating their dozers and then hauling them around with a 1974 Mack and a tilt-back trailer. And, as you can guess, the rest is (driving) history.

After the construction company went out of business, Jeff switched over to a company called Aggressive Transport out of Red Bluff, CA and began running team between California and Washington.  After about a year, he had earned enough experience to get hired-on at a local flatbed outfit hauling sheetrock throughout the state (Washington).  He did that for awhile and then switched over to refrigerated hauling for Ron Nobach Trucking out of Marysville, WA.  His longtime girlfriend Staci (they met in high school) did not like the fact that he was gone all the time, and she started pushing Jeff to get a local job.  Shortly thereafter, Jeff began driving a transfer, hauling sand and gravel locally, for a company called Walrath out of Tacoma, WA.

In 2002, Jeff got the opportunity to stick his neck out again and buy a truck.  He was making good money driving the transfer, so he didn't want to leave that company, so, taking another chance, he bought the 1998 Peterbilt and then hired his dad to drive it - and J&S Enterprises was born.  Two years later, Jeff got the opportunity to buy another truck - a 2001 Pete with low miles that came with a job.  Taking yet another chance, he left his good-paying job at Walrath, bought the truck, and then started running six trips a month to the Bay area out of Seattle, hauling sacks of flour in a dry van.  As Jeff began to figure things out, another big opportunity presented itself.  A steel company was looking for a dedicated hauler, so Jeff stuck out his neck and made a bid.  After he got the job, he had to immediately go out and buy a brand new roll-top trailer, which was not cheap.

This steel haul was originally a full-time gig for just one truck (his), but as time passed and the steel company grew, more trucks were needed.  The first person Jeff hired was his best friend Chris, who was an owner-operator.  Jeff bought him a roll-top trailer, and then the two began running nose to tail between Washington, Oregon and Southern California, hauling lumber south and steel north.  Eventually, a third truck was needed, so Jeff pulled his dad off the reefer run, bought another roll-top trailer, and put him on the steel haul.  In 2006, Jeff hired another owner-operator named Walt, his dad's best friend, and bought him a new trailer.  At the peak in 2007, Jeff was running four trucks.

Throughout the year (2007), things were going great - all of the trucks were running hard and keeping very busy - but in 2008, everything got slow.  Jeff had trouble keeping everyone busy, and he eventually had to let his friend Chris go.  When Chris left, he bought the trailer he was pulling from Jeff and went out on his own.  Today, Jeff is running three trucks full time - he owns two of the trucks and two of the trailers (Walt now owns his own truck and trailer).  Business is beginning to pick up, and it looks like he may need to add another truck in the near future.

Jeff's current ride, featured on our cover and centerfold this month (and on these pages), was purchased sight-unseen off the internet in April of 2010.  When he went back east to pick up the highly-customized 2007 Legacy Edition Peterbilt (#316 of 1,000), it wasn't exactly what he expected.  A lot of work had been done to the truck, but the quality was not up to Jeff's standards.  Also, due to the modifications, the truck had cooling problems.  But, it was a Legacy Edition truck, it had a strong 625 Cat engine with only 12,000 miles, it was California compliant, and it was still a good investment, so he took a risk and bought it anyway.  After limping it home to avoid overheating, he took it to Bill & Dave Abernethy at Commercial Collision & Paint in Medford, Oregon, where it underwent a complete transformation over the next six weeks.

As most truck projects go, it started small and then grew.  Originally, the truck was just going to get a new hood and radiator and some paint, but at some point during the process, it escalated into a full-on rebuild, resulting in the beautiful combination you see here now.  As mentioned before, the truck has a 625 Cat, an 18-speed transmission (the larger one), 3.36 gears and low-profile rubber all around.  It also has a car-hauler front axle with Low Low AirLeaf suspension.  All of the truck, including the frame, was sandblasted clean and a new two-color paint scheme with "Graphite Effect" and "Silver Effect" was sprayed.  To help separate the colors, a dark purple breaker stripe was also added.

Bill Abernethy is a real perfectionist, so when it came time for him to work on the small details, he did everything right.  The fuel tanks, eleven-inch fiberglass drop panels on the cab and sleeper, battery boxes, air cleaners, deck plate and rear light bar were all painted silver, while the 379X grille and surround, as well as the rear fiberglass fenders and Double JJ headlight brackets, were painted gray.  After replacing the stock grille with the new painted one, the new rivets around it were polished, not painted, to offset all of the dark gray.  Double-round Crystal Projection headlights were installed, as well as extra cab lights, nine in total, to match the nine grille bars.  Bill & Dave also built and installed true hidden hood latches and removed (or moved) all of the Peterbilt emblems.  All of the lights were replaced with "Stealth" chrome-faced LEDs from Trux and a new 22-inch Valley Chrome bumper was installed.  The eight-inch stainless steel exhaust system (not chrome) was already on the truck when Jeff bought it.

Since the truck was being fully refurbished, Jeff decided to go ahead and do his trailer, too.  The 48' x 102" trailer is a 2010 Wilson aluminum flatbed with a Chameleon roll-top system.  All of the work on the trailer was done at Pacific Truck & Trailer in Grants Pass, OR.  The trailer has an onboard scale, aluminum half fenders and tool boxes that have been sprayed with Line-X (the doors on the boxes are polished stainless), 22.5 low-profile tires on Alcoa wheels with the larger oval holes and a painted-to-match gray nose cone with nine lights across the top.  Todd at Pacific Truck & Trailer wrapped the entire front and back of the trailer in polished aluminum and then hand-built the rear bumper.  He also built polished aluminum boxes, mounted underneath the trailer in two places on each side, to hold the turn signals.  As the ultimate finishing touch, the entire frame of the trailer was polished.

When everything was all said and done, Jeff picked up the truck on June 28th, went directly to Grants Pass to pick up his trailer, and then went right to his first load.  After renting a truck for six weeks and writing a big fat check for the rebuild, there was no time to waste - it was time to get back to work.  Running about 10,000 miles a month, this truck was not built to show - it was built to work - and work, it does.  Jeff wanted his truck to look good, but he also wanted it to be solid and dependable, which is why he took it to Bill Abernethy.  Although Jeff provided many of the ideas, he gives full credit to Bill for getting this project done, and for getting it done right.

When Jeff isn’t out trucking or on the phone setting up loads, he enjoys spending time with his family.  Jeff has a 12-year-old son named Tyler who is very big for his age, and he loves to play baseball and football.  Jeff goes to as many games as he can, but it’s hard to make them all when he’s out truckin’ all the time. They like to go out to the sand dunes in Tillamook, OR to ride their quads, and they also like to go drag racing.  Jeff has always been a big fan of drag racing, and, over the years, has owned several fast cars - and almost every one of them has been a Mustang.  A few years ago, he bought a 1989 Mustang GT for him and Tyler to work on together.  Originally it was street legal, but today that 500-horse Mustang can turn a 10-second quarter-mile.  A few other Mustangs out in his "stable" include a 1966 "restomod" hardtop, a 2005 Shelby GT, and his latest pride and joy, a black and silver 2008 Roush 427R.  Hey, maybe trucks and horses actually do mix well.

Running a company that supports not only yourself but others takes guts - especially for someone in their 30s.  Some days, when things are slow, Jeff stays home to let everybody else keep moving.  That takes guts, too! Jeff not only has the guts to succeed, but he also has the guts to be his father's boss!  Think about it, could you do that?  But everything Jeff does, he does for his family - whether it be for his son, his dad or an old family friend.  When Jeff succeeds, they all succeed.  It's true, success is not always an easy thing to accomplish, but with hard work, persistence AND guts, anything is possible.

Published Article -- Reposted with Permission
10-4 Magazine COVER FEATURE - October 2010
(Daniel J. Linss - Editor)