KIRKLAND, Wash. — For Werner Enterprises 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,” Dean said. “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.
Kenworth recommended Werner to safely transport the 63-foot 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 5 million accident-free miles. He’s also served as an America’s Road Team Captain for the American Trucking Associations (ATA) 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-inch high-roof sleeper and PACCAR Powertrain, featuring the PACCAR MX-13 engine rated at 455 horsepower, 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. Once the tree was harvested and loaded onto a Manac extendable flatbed trailer, donated by Hale Trailer Brake & Wheel, Dean was tasked with the responsibility of driving a Kenworth W990, equipped with a 52-inch flat-roof sleeper, an MX-13 engine rated at 510 horsepower and a PACCAR TX-18 transmission, to haul the Christmas tree down 14 miles 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, the trailer was hitched to the Kenworth T680 Signature Edition, and 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 that measures a combined 102 feet in length, presented a new challenge. Fortunately, support from local agencies and an escort from the Forest Service 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,” Davila said. “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,” Dean said. “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.”
Davila said it was special to share the experience with West Virginians and to see so many happy people.
“Especially the kids who were excited for the holidays, (that) was special,” he added. “So many kids signaled to us to blow our air horn throughout the tour, which was really memorable. It made us proud to be drivers and be a part of the tour.”
The Trucker News Staff produces engaging content for not only TheTrucker.com, but also The Trucker Newspaper, which has been serving the trucking industry for more than 30 years. With a focus on drivers, the Trucker News Staff aims to provide relevant, objective content pertaining to the trucking segment of the transportation industry. The Trucker News Staff is based in Little Rock, Arkansas.