QUINNESEC, Mich. – Any driver who depends on a Western Star truck to haul logs has Denny Olson to thank.
Back in 1979, Olson, then a young log hauler in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, was invited to Western Star’s assembly plant in Kelowna, British Columbia, to advise the engineers on how to build a truck specifically for logging. A friend had recently opened a Western Star dealership in Green Bay, Wisc., and recommended Olson as an expert source for the manufacturer.
Make the frame heavy enough to handle the legendarily oversized loads in Michigan, Olson told the engineers. Design the hood to provide better access to the engine. Make the air compressors powerful enough for the four lift axles a logging truck needs and position the air tanks so they don’t get in the way when the lift axles are being added. Make the passenger seat a bench seat with room for a toolbox underneath.
“They listened and they made the trucks special,” said Olson, who’s 70 now, but still hauls logs part time and also runs a gravel pit. The proof of how well the engineers listened can be found in the 1990 Western Star 4964 SB Olson still drives and in all Western Star trucks.
Olson estimates his truck has 2 million hard miles on it. “They’re just built so tough,” he said. “These logging trucks take a beating.”
Olson, who also used to sell trucks part-time, became the brand’s biggest champion in the Upper Peninsula logging community, proving day in and day out that Western Star trucks could outperform and outlast better-known competitors. Back in the 1980s, he even drove some of the Western Star trucks from the Kelowna assembly plant back to customers in the Upper Peninsula.
On one factory visit, he saw something that convinced him of Western Star’s commitment to quality. A painter was doing a careless, sloppy job and his co-workers wouldn’t accept it; they criticized him so much that he grabbed his lunchpail and quit.
“That’s how much the Western Star guys cared about how their trucks were built,” Olson said. “If they did that, then that’s the truck I want to buy.”
While Olson said he intends to keep his 1990 model, he recommends Western Star to anyone looking for a tough truck.
“As far as I’m concerned, they’re in a class by themselves,” he said.
Western Star Truck Sales, Inc., headquartered in Portland, Ore., produces tough custom trucks for highway and vocational applications. Western Star is a subsidiary of Daimler Trucks North America LLC. Daimler Trucks North America produces and markets Class 5-8 vehicles and is a Daimler company, the world’s leading commercial vehicle manufacturer.
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