The lady knows what she wants. That’s quickly evident to anyone who has a conversation with tanker driver Nan Harguth.
“I’m not messing around. I want that truck over there, and I want pink stripes on it. I’m totally dead serious. Can I please have a pink truck for God’s sake?” This is a snippet from a conversation Harguth had with one terminal manager about ordering her next truck.
Harguth didn’t get that pink truck — but she got the next best thing. Gary, South Dakota-based Cliff Viessman Inc., the carrier for which she drives, operates about 350 tractors that are painted white with a triple-stripe graphic featuring maroon, orange and red. One truck, however, is different. This one features stripes in varying shades of pink. It’s Nan Harguth’s truck, a 2022 International LT with an A26 Navistar engine and a 12-speed auto-shift transmission.
Harguth added pink seat covers and sheets and pillow covers, a pink duvet and even pink valve stem caps. She bought pink accessories, too, including a hard hat and safety vest. She added a pink coffee cup and some pink shoes.
“I have so much pink in there, I kind of actually feel like a girl for a change,” she said with a laugh.
On the outside, Harguth has added extra graphics. A pink ribbon festoons the side of the tractor, along with the words “dedicated to all that have battled.” “Cancer Sucks” is emblazoned across the rear of the sleeper.
“I didn’t necessarily want the words ‘breast cancer’,” she explained. “Everybody’s going to go to push it more towards the breast cancer, and that’s fine. It’s my choice to have a cancer truck.”
Harguth says she never intended to become an anti-cancer warrior; she was just looking for a way to stand out. She has participated in truck rodeo competitions and in the Special Olympics Convoy, as well as other events, and alerted Ryan Viessman, director of operations, that the company’s trucks weren’t getting noticed at the events she frequented.
“I said, ‘Dude, I said they’re not even looking at us at the truck show. I want to do something to stand out,’” she related.
Harguth hoped to bring home a trophy for the company — and to publicize that Viessman employs both men and women.
“You know, maybe somebody will look at my truck and say, ‘So, tell me about your company,’” she said.
The decision to broadcast a message about the fight against cancer was not a difficult on, however. Harguth is a survivor of the disease, and she’s seen several members of her family suffer with it as well.
“My mother battled 30 years with cancer,” she explained. “My grandma found out four months before she passed away that she had cancer. I lost an aunt that broke her ankle and ended up with cancer that ravaged up her leg.”
The list goes on. An uncle survived colon cancer. Another uncle died of an aneurysm, but an autopsy revealed he’d also been suffering with cancer.
Harguth has been, at times, overwhelmed with the public response to her truck.
“I’m trying to make it a worldwide statement, and also let women and children and grandmas and grandpas and uncles and aunts and the whole world know it,” she said. “But I usually try to just kind of hide back in the crowd, to blend in.”
She often attracts waves and smiles from passers-by, in trucks and in four-wheelers, but some people have gone further.
“I’ve actually been pulled over like 12 times, asked to pull over. I’ll go up the off-ramp, and stop, by all means,” she remarked. “I’ve had a grandma, whose granddaughter found out she had breast cancer, and she wanted to send pictures. And I’m like, ‘By all means, please, if this encourages her.’”
A worker at a truck wash she visited was also touched.
“His mom was diagnosed with cancer, and she has actually come to touch my truck and pray over it,” Harguth said. “My truck gives others encouragement to keep going, keep battling.”
The day she was interviewed for this story, Harguth had another memorable experience.
“I had a young man today come driving up past me; he was in the passenger seat. They got in behind me and followed me into a rest area, and asked if he could take a couple of pictures. When he saw the ‘Cancer Sucks’ graphic, he started crying. Come to find out, he was just diagnosed this morning.”
Harguth has been awakened so often that she leaves a note in the window when she sleeps, granting permission for well-wishers to photograph the truck and asking that they don’t wake her.
“They’re very gracious about not waking me up, and very much understanding to allow me to sleep,” she said.
Like many in the trucking industry, Harguth became interested in trucking at an early age.
“I grew up in Southern California, around the desert area called Trona, not too far from the salt flats,” she explained. “I would sit and watch the big dump trucks. I always told my mom that one day I would drive the big trucks — the bigger the better. She wanted me to get a pilot’s license.”
However, life doesn’t always cooperate with childhood dreams. Harguth married at a young age, a relationship that eventually failed. She had another relationship, this one with a truck driver who introduced her to the industry.
“I think I fell more in love with his truck than I did him,” she said.
At that time, “the cards were not in line for me to get my CDL,” she said. Her mother became ill, and she had to remain close to home. Then her grandmother fell ill. “Those were the two main women in my life that raised me,” she said.
In the meantime, Harguth met her current husband, who convinced her to study for her CDL. After her mother died, she eventually teamed up with her future husband and learned the ropes of trucking. The couple married soon after, and then both went solo with Viessman. She’s now been with Viessman for nine years, hauling mostly liquid food-grade products.
When she isn’t hauling, Harguth enjoys cooking, crafts, fishing and mentoring new drivers. She and her husband had horses for a while, but now she rides a Harley in the summer and a snowmobile in the winter.
While Harguth didn’t set out to be a cancer crusader, she recalls one encounter that truly helped her settle into the role.
“This lady said, ‘I want a picture of you and me, and I want a big hug in front of your truck,’” she related. “She said, ‘I just want you in that truck because you are giving other people an inspiration to keep going.”
That’s a heavy load for any driver — but rest assured, Nan Harguth can handle it.
Cliff Abbott is an experienced commercial vehicle driver and owner-operator who still holds a CDL in his home state of Alabama. In nearly 40 years in trucking, he’s been an instructor and trainer and has managed safety and recruiting operations for several carriers. Having never lost his love of the road, Cliff has written a book and hundreds of songs and has been writing for The Trucker for more than a decade.