Wes Prater Builds a Cool Aerodynamic Truck

Like it or not, sloped-hood trucks are the rigs of the future.  With the EPA regulations getting tougher and tougher, it will eventually be darn-near impossible to accomplish the aggressive efficiency standards that are being placed on big trucks with a long, flat, square hood out in front of your windshield.  Seeing the writing on the wall, Wes Prater decided to get ahead of the curve and make the jump to an aerodynamic truck now, instead of waiting until later.  Being a long-hood kind of guy, Wes was very skeptical, to say the least.  But once he decided to go forward with the project, he only had one stipulation – it had to be cool!

Wes Prater (43) was born in Bellingham, WA in 1968.  His parents divorced when he was pretty young, and then his mom moved them south to Chehalis, WA.  When his mother remarried, Wes’ new step-dad was a welder and fabricator who worked on log trucks, dump trucks and heavy equipment.  Wes was always interested in mechanics, but he had never thought about it as a career choice.  But growing up in that environment, with trucks always around, obviously opened up his eyes to the trucking industry.

After graduating from high school, Wes moved to Moses Lake, WA where he enrolled in a flight training program at Big Bend Community College – his dream was to become a commercial pilot.  Being a straight-up, no-nonsense kind of guy who does not like “politics” or other ridiculousness, Wes quickly realized that the aviation industry might not be the best career choice for him, so he quit the program and went back to Chehalis.  After bouncing around between jobs, he enrolled in a diving school, hoping to get certified as an underwater welder (or something similar).

Shortly after graduating at the top of his diving class, Wes got a call from American Oilfield Divers in Louisiana – they had a great job for him, and if he could be there by Monday (this was on Wednesday), he’d be in the water that day.  It was a dream come true for Wes, so he packed the car and headed south.  But once he got there, he ran into a bunch of politics again, and found himself working on the dock, loading other divers’ gear, and not getting in the water.  After a week, he quit and went home.

In 1994, Wes started working for North Fork Timber as a mechanic, in charge of putting their 27 log trucks back together every night after a long day of abuse by their drivers.  After a year, Wes decided that he would rather drive the log trucks then fix them, so he learned how to drive, got his CDL, and then started driving one of their log trucks.  From there, he began a log truck driving career that bounced him between several outfits, including Mark Chloupek Trucking (2 years), Pursley Logging (2 years), and Donny Steele Trucking (2 years).

About that time, in 2001, the timber prices crashed and the industry started to slump, so Wes hooked up with a friend from church named Jerry Terrell and the two started pulling a reefer between Seattle and Florida in Jerry’s Peterbilt 379.  Things were going great until Jerry had a small stroke one day while in the sleeper, which sidelined his driving career for a while and caused him to lose his truck.  Wanting to keep the run alive, Wes went out and bought a 1994 Pete 379 and a reefer trailer.  He continued to do the run by himself for almost a year, and then the haul went away.  After that, he leased-on at Lund Trucking, where he pulled reefer loads for two years.  While at Lund, he stepped up to his next truck – a 1999 Peterbilt.

In 2005, as the housing market started to boom, Wes sold his road truck and went back to driving a log truck for A-1 Timber.  Eventually, wanting to be his own boss again, he bought his own log truck – a 1988 B-Model Kenworth – and then later, a 1994 W900 Kenworth log truck.  But, we all know what happened in 2009 – the American economy died!  Wes sold his log truck, bought another road truck (a 2005 Peterbilt), and went back to hauling freight for Lund, running up and down the I-5 Corridor, but he was just scraping by.  Then, a new opportunity presented itself.

Helping out a friend, who was trying to get hired to work in the oil fields, Wes ended up getting a job offer himself, which he promptly accepted.  In March of 2011, he parked his Peterbilt and headed to North Dakota to work in the oil fields, hauling water in and out of the drilling sites.  It was steady work and the money was good, but it was hard for Wes to be away from his family (he had a wife and two kids at home).  After six long months in North Dakota, Wes was given the opportunity to come home and start driving for our friend (and past cover truck owner) Jeff Barnes of J&S Enterprises in Rochester, WA.  Wes immediately came home, jumped in his truck, and started running lumber and steel between Washington and Chicago, and also down to Los Angeles.

Running that 2005 Peterbilt was beginning to get expensive, and the truck’s reliability (or lack there of) was beginning to nickel and dime Wes to death.  One day, while sitting at a dealership waiting for his truck to be fixed again, he got on the phone and ordered the new sloped-hood Peterbilt you see here on these pages. Jeff had been trying to convince Wes for quite some time to buy and build a cool new aerodynamic truck, and Wes just finally gave in.

With plenty of help and advice from Jeff, Wes ordered his new 2013 Peterbilt 386 with the full aerodynamic package, a 249-inch wheelbase, a Cummins ISX 525, a 13-speed transmission, 3.38 rears, “Graphite Effect” paint, and a 70-inch double bunk (so he could take the family along from time-to-time).  The truck, which was ordered in June, was delivered to the dealership (Western Peterbilt in Yakima, WA) in July.  From there, the guys took it straight to Bill Abernethy’s shop (Commercial Collision & Paint in Medford, OR), where it spent a month being painted and customized.

What started out as just a paint job, ended up being a lot more.  In addition to the cool two-tone paint job with a silver leaf outline that Wes and Jeff designed using a color they call “James Davis Blue” (because it was a color that Bill had custom-mixed for one of James’ trucks), Bill completely sandblasted and then sprayed the entire frame blue.  After all of the painting was complete, they installed a set of custom stainless full fenders with extra painted pieces added so they wrap around the tires even more. Then, they installed small cab and sleeper extensions (dotted with a row of single-diode “Bulls-Eye” LEDs from RoadWorks), a painted drop visor, and extra window trim pieces to give it that “chopped” look.  They also changed out the five stock cab lights with seven bullet lights, stripped all of the red out of the Peterbilt emblems, plumbed the hose connections to the back of the frame, and painted the hubs blue.  One last detail they did was flip the intake vent covers on the sides of the hood and change the mesh to match the grille (by flipping the intake covers, the emblems are now at the back, which allowed the paint scheme to flow better and made the hood look just a little bit longer).  When everything was finished, the truck made its debut at the Brooks Truck Show in Oregon, where it got a lot of positive attention.

Although it was hard for Wes to give up his hood, he is already getting way better mileage out of this truck than his old Peterbilt, and it isn’t even broke in yet.  Currently, he is pulling Jeff’s 48-foot Wilson curtain van, which just happens to match perfectly.  Not long after Jeff was on our cover back in October of 2010, he went through a divorce and ended up with custody of his son.  Needing to stay home and get off the road, he took advantage of some opportunities, expanded his business, and brought in some owner-operators (Wes is one of them).  Today, Jeff spends most of his time arranging loads and dispatching. His operation consists of two trucks, five trailers, and five owner-operators.

When he’s not out on the road, Wes loves to hunt and fish, tinker with his 1964 hot rod Mustang, and spend time with his family.  Currently living in Winlock, WA, Wes and his wife Shannon have been married for 19 years and have two kids – a son named Camren (18) and a daughter named Hailey (16).  Shannon loves being a mom, and since their two kids are practically out of the nest, they recently decided to become foster parents.  Over the last couple years, they have had several infants temporarily join their family, and last December they adopted one of them – a 2-year-old boy named Joey.  In addition to all the kids, their home is also filled with horses, chickens, birds, lizards, cats, dogs, fish and a goose, just to name a few.  I guess when you have a lot of love to give you need a lot of things to love!

Wes really wanted to thank Jeff for all of his encouragement, ideas and help.  Without Jeff’s pushing and prodding, this project would have never happened.  He also wanted to thank Bill Abernethy and his crew for all their hard work, his truck salesman Eric McDonald (this was the first new truck he ever sold), his wife Shannon, and most importantly, God, for allowing him to have a job (and truck) that he likes so much.  Wes never could have imagined that he would have a truck good enough to be on the cover of a magazine, especially an aerodynamic style of truck, so he was pretty blown away when we approached him at the Brooks Show in Oregon.

These days, it is hard to be unique, which is one of the reasons why Wes chose to build a sloped-hood truck.  And with all the EPA regulations getting tougher and the price of fuel going through the roof, it just made sense for Wes to buy an aerodynamic truck now, because that is where things are going.  Wes Prater is glad that he could get ahead of the curve and be one of the first to build an efficient, legal truck – today, and on into the future – that also happens to look very cool.  And, like it or not, you will probably have to buy one someday, so why wait?  Do it now and get ahead of the curve, too.  Wes doesn’t think that you will regret it!

Published Article -- Reposted with Permission
10-4 Magazine COVER FEATURE - October 2012
(Daniel J. Linss - Editor)