It’s hard to miss Daniel and Phyllis Snow’s tractor-trailer, dubbed “The Goose,” on the highway … or anywhere, for that matter. The eye-catching emerald green 1996 Freightliner Classic XL, powered by a 700-horsepower Detroit engine teamed with a 13-speed transmission, is attached to a 140-inch sleeper, with a small back “patio” positioned between the tractor and the custom 53-foot trailer. Altogether, the rig measures a whopping 85 feet in length.
The sleeper, rescued from a salvage yard, is more like a compact home on wheels, with a full kitchen, a dining area, a full-size fold-out bed and a bathroom, complete with a shower. The trailer is outfitted with a compact workshop so the two can make improvements and repairs any time. Converting a small storage space into the workshop/maintenance room won the pair the title of American Truckers of the Year in 2014.
“We have rebuilt it and remodeled all of it ourselves,” Daniel said. “We have done about all of it (while) on the road. We are more appreciative that we have done it ourselves.”
When the couple bought the tractor, it had a 260-inch wheelbase, which has been stretched to 351 inches, Daniel said. Phyllis noted that the stretching and the paint job are about the only tasks the couple did not tackle themselves. The tractor is decked out with a Twisted Roads bumper lift. Almost all the lights are Grand General, and most of the stainless-steel elements were custom built. The fenders on the truck and trailer are by Talladega Fiberglass.
So far, the couple has spent about $80,000 on parts and labor, rebuilding their Freightliner. When they purchased the truck, it cost $24,500, but Daniel said it is now appraised at $250,000. It’s no surprise that The Goose has won or placed in several truck shows over the years.
“It is worth about three times the amount from when we bought it,” Daniel said with a smile.
The couple, who have been married for nearly 30 years, are the owner-operators of Arkansas-based Snow Trucking. Daniel has been in the trucking business for about 40 years, while Phyllis has been driving about half that time. They’ve run as a team for more than 16 years. Before joining her husband on the road, Phyllis managed a Walmart store.
“I don’t think everybody could do it,” Daniel said, referring to team driving. “Running as a team takes a lot of patience, because you are in tight quarters with each other for long periods of time. It gets pretty complicated, but she and I do real well. We enjoy being together all the time.”
Although spending a lot of time in a small space with a significant other might be stressful at times, Phyllis said the couple “wouldn’t have it any other way.” They typically run about 340 days out of the year, and they were only home 26 nights last year. “We don’t do well apart,” Phyllis added.
Daniel said he discovered his love of trucking at an early age, riding along with his older brother, a trucker, at every opportunity.
“I took a love to the trucking industry. It came natural to me,” Daniel said. “It is a good, honest way to make a living — and by no means the easiest.”
In the early days of the couple’s relationship, Daniel said, Phyllis was enthusiastic about the trucking industry and that she “took a liking” to riding along with her spouse. Little did Phyllis know that she would one day join Daniel on the road full time as a team driver.
“As fate would have it, when our youngest graduated high school, [Phyllis] decided to leave her job because they were going to relocate her — so the timing just worked out,” Daniel said. “God’s plan just fell together.”
Phyllis said her youngest son, Jayme, and Daniel taught her to drive through “old-school trucking” techniques. She learned how to read a map, drive on the road and conduct pre-trip inspections. “It was the only way to go. I loved it,” she said, adding that Jayme, now 34, owns Snow Farms Trucking.
Daniel said Phyllis “cut her teeth” hauling a cattle trailer. Even though it was challenging for her, “she adapted well, because she wanted to learn,” he said, with pride evident in his voice,
Daniel said that when Phyllis started driving, the couple had seven trucks and 10 cattle trailers. They kept the fleet running until around 2012. Today, the couple sticks to The Goose.
Of course, there’s a story behind the rig’s name. It all started when Jayme drove through a flock of ducks in his rig. The tractor sustained considerable damage — so much damage, in fact, that the insurance adjuster had a hard time believing the carnage was the result of “just” ducks — earning Jayme’s rig a “fowl” nickname. Then, along came The Goose.
“I saw an old goose with some ducks one day and thought, ‘Wow, they run together!’ so we named the trucks Duck and Goose,” Phyllis explained with a laugh.
The Snows share a love of trucking, as well as a strong Christian faith, Phyllis said, pointing to the couple’s motto emblazoned on the front bumper: In God We Truck. The pair designed the truck to draw attention “so we could share the word,” she said.
Over the years, Daniel said, the pair has become known as a couple that tries to help other drivers. “If it is mechanical help, I have a lot of contacts, so I’ll be glad to do that,” he said.
“We don’t hand out any money, but we do carry Bibles with us that the church supplies us with,” he said. “We are trying to do God’s work and haul freight at the same time.”
Daniel said that if other drivers need prayers or help, they often call or email the couple. “Prayer is our way of trying to help,” he said. “It is a good feeling to help somebody.”
In addition to helping others, the couple’s faith has helped them weather many storms, they said, adding that even before the COVID-19 pandemic, 2020 promised to be an out-of-the-ordinary year.
“Phyllis had a heart attack in February, so we have been home more than normal this year,” Daniel said. “The freight index and rates have been low as well, and the coronavirus has impacted us.”
Daniel said Phyllis has a defective artery. She spent about a week in the hospital, including five days in the intensive care unit.
The down time isn’t necessarily a bad thing, the two agreed.
“Right now, we are really enjoying the ‘us’ time. We spend a lot of time talking about things we want to do to the truck,” Daniel said.
Phyllis said they are constantly looking for more ideas for the truck, adding that she would like to flip the hinges on the doors on the cab, creating “suicide” doors that open from the back rather than the front, and that they are also planning some more interior work.
“We want to improve on the truck in the inside and out. We seem to have a lot to talk about,” Daniel said. “Usually the shops are so backlogged, and there aren’t a lot of shops that can work on older trucks. Since our truck is an older model, (having our own shop space) does make it easier on us. Being able to fix things yourself makes a huge difference.”
Daniel said he hopes to be able to pass that self-efficient attitude and love of trucking down to his family. Phyllis added that being a truck driver, “gets into your blood.”
“Our youngest son, it got in his blood as well,” Daniel said. “Our grandson, who is 6, has a piggy bank and he is saving his money to buy a truck. “(All of our grandkids) have a trucking desire. They all love it.”
After years on the road together, Daniel and Phyllis have the following advice to future generations of truck drivers: Do all you can to keep costs down, and be proud to be a trucker.
Story by Linda Garner-Bunch and Sam Pierce. Photos by Linda Garner-Bunch.