Behind the Scenes Delivering This Year’s U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree
Washington, D.C. – When Rick Williams was approached by Kenworth and the Papé Group to transport “The People’s Tree” from Oregon to Washington, D.C., in a new Kenworth W990, he had to give the project some thought. As CEO of Central Oregon Truck Company (COTC), he knew there would be a lot of paperwork, planning and logistics involved. “It was complex,” he said.
“But that complexity has been completely overshadowed by the honor of delivering the 2018 U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree. This has been a true highlight in my life, and for other drivers at our company. The joy we’ve seen on all the faces as the tour progressed – the celebrations and parades, and the bands, orchestras and carolers who performed when we arrived. It was a caravan of fun as we made stops along the Oregon Trail in reverse. I was able to be behind the wheel for several legs through Oregon. This is a memory I’ll never forget,” Williams said.
“This has been a true highlight in my life, and for other drivers at our company. We had 15 drivers from our Elite Team drive parts of the route. They were over the top with excitement.” – Rick Williams, C.E.O., Central Oregon Trucking Company
According to Williams, the best part of the project has been how the tree transport has become a company-wide source of pride. “We knew we wanted to get our Elite drivers involved in the delivery, and we’ve been able to do that,” he said. “Our company was built on teamwork and we wanted to share this experience with our senior drivers. We had 15 drivers from our Elite Team drive parts of the route. They were over the top with excitement.”
Preview: It’s Truckerville and we’re helping Santa find a new sleigh and giving you a tour of many of the hottest new year model heavy duty trucks. Plus, we give you a never-before-seen look inside the story of the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree.
For Phil Taylor, COTC’s vice president of maintenance, being involved in the move has been special. “It began with Rick, Brad (Aimone, director of driver safety and services) and myself in the Willamette National Forest where the tree was cut and loaded on the Kenworth W990,” he said. “We saw it all the way through to Washington D.C., where it will stand in front of the U.S. Capitol Building. It was quite a journey.” (The U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree was officially delivered Monday, Nov. 26, to its final destination in Washington. D.C.)
When the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree was close to Pocatello, Idaho, Taylor and Aimone pulled over to meet up with Danny Leon-Guerrero, an Elite driver who has been with Central Oregon Truck Company for 4-1/2 years.
“I was routed so I could meet up with the caravan and have a turn,” said Leon-Guerrero. “Brad took my load and followed us as I got to drive ‘The People’s Tree’. Driving that truck with the long hood brought back a lot of great memories. When I was an owner-operator, I drove a long hood. When we got to Pocatello, I met the mayor. We were even on Facebook Live. It seemed like the whole town came out to see us.
“From there we went to Soda Springs (Wyoming) where a band and cheerleaders greeted us, along with hundreds of others, and then onto Evanston, Wyoming – about 220 miles from where we started,” said Leon-Guerrero “Before we arrived, we stopped at a truck stop and were surrounded by other truckers who wanted to see the tree and the truck. It was amazing experience – a once in a lifetime thing. I then swapped trucks with Brad, did my 34-hour restart, and continued on with my original load to Hearne, Texas. It was one trip I’ll never forget.”
“Thousands lined the streets and we all celebrated Thanksgiving together. It was special that we could share the transport of ‘The People’s Tree’ with so many.” Michael Gillespie, COTC driver
One of the highlights for Taylor and Aimone was participating in the Thanksgiving Day Parade in St. Louis. “The whole U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree tour has been incredible, and the parade was a major highlight for us,” said Aimone.
“Thousands lined the streets and we all celebrated Thanksgiving together. It was special that we could share the transport of ‘The People’s Tree’ with so many,” added Michael Gillespie, a senior/tenured COTC driver who had the honor of driving in the parade.
While taking the special tree coast-to-coast has been a unique experience for COTC drivers, so has been getting to drive the Kenworth W990. Other than a few pre-production units, there aren’t any out on the highways (production begins the first quarter of 2019). “So we’re really the first ones to drive the truck and it’s been a great experience,” said Williams. “It’s a beautiful truck – roomy, quiet and very comfortable.”
According to Taylor, the Kenworth W990 has been a big draw – giving tours inside the truck, and opening the hood has been commonplace. “People want to check out the truck and we’re happy to oblige,” he said. “A lot of truckers knew the truck was coming, so this is their first opportunity to see the W990. And, when we hit truck stops, the crowds always come. It’s pretty neat.”
A few days ago, the National Capitol Christmas Tree was placed on the U.S. Capitol lawn after traveling more than 3,000 miles from @WillametteNF in Oregon. The tree is now being decorated and will be officially lit by the Speaker of the House on December 5. pic.twitter.com/XwUjO0m8eG
— U.S. Forest Service (@forestservice) November 29, 2018
Images courtesy of Kenworth Truck Co.
About The Truck
Kenworth W990: Featuring a 76-inch mid-roof sleeper, the Kenworth W990 is spec’d with the PACCAR Powertrain which incorporates a PACCAR MX-13 engine rated at 455-hp and 1,650 lb-ft of torque, 12-speed automated transmission, and 40K tandem rear axles. The truck was also specified with the W990 Limited Edition interior, premium GT703 seats and audio system, Kenworth Nav+HD, predictive cruise control, 1800W inverter, 180-degree swivel passenger seat, and Kenworth TruckTech+® Remote Diagnostics.