Every carrier is engaged in the business of trucking, but one Lincoln, New Jersey-based carrier is using its equipment to honor those who have served in the U.S. military.
“Trajce, our owner, has a huge respect towards military personnel who sacrifice so that our country can be safe,” said Klaus Teff, head of marketing for Z Transportation. Trajce “Zuko” Ristovski is a founder and CEO of the 150-truck carrier; the “Z” in the company name comes from Ristovski’s nickname.
“He’s all about the drivers and especially the veterans,” Teff said, quoting Ristovski as saying, “We’ll do anything for our veterans. They are our saviors. They are America’s guardian angels.”
Because of this dedication to the nation’s service members, Ristovski talked to his team about ordering a special truck for one of the company’s veteran drivers, Willie Fulton. Fulton had driven with Z Transportation for nearly a decade, and the company wanted to reward his loyalty.
“The way it happened, we talked to Willie and asked him about his military experience and ways we could be respectful of it — without telling him what we were actually working on,” Teff explained. “We talked to another veteran driver who also gave us some tips about what should be on the truck.”
Then the design team went to work. After several drafts, the team came up with the design, which features the stars and stripes along with a collage of military-themed images. The eye-catching wrap is sported by a brand-new Volvo VNL 860. Across the hood of the tractor is a shield emblem that frames a service member giving a salute, with the word “Respect” emblazoned above the shield.
The presidential seal appears on the passenger side of the tractor, along with an iconic image of six U.S. Marines raising the American flag atop Mount Suribachi during the battle of Iwo Jima in Japan in World War II. Photos of other military personnel and vehicles, superimposed on a red, white and blue background, complete the design. The words “God Bless America” appear on the side fairings on both sides of the truck. The driver’s side of the tractor features the Seal of the United States and more military images.
Fulton, a veteran of the New Jersey National Guard, was assigned to drive the new Volvo, which was an instant hit out on the road. Other drivers complimented Fulton on the design, and more than a few have asked him to pose for photos with the truck.
“He said that he had a feeling something was up, but was totally surprised when we presented him with the wrapped truck,” Teff remarked.
Fulton drove the truck to his Guard unit, where it was received with enthusiasm. Officers and dignitaries stopped by to visit and take photos. While Fulton left the company during the COVID-19 pandemic, Teff said he is expected to return.
Two additional Volvos with identical designs have since been added to the fleet. The trucks are prominently featured in the company’s driver recruitment advertising.
“We made the trucks exclusive; not just anyone can drive one,” Teff explained. “The person who drives it had to have served in the military. It doesn’t matter what branch — Army, Navy, Marines or whatever.”
The company plans to dedicate two more trucks to military veterans in the near future. This time, the tractors will be new Peterbilt 579 models.
“We have ordered, I believe, 20 automatics and 10 manuals, so we will decorate one of each with the military wrap,” Teff said. “Our drivers really like the new Peterbilts. Those are pretty hot right now.”
A video featuring the trucks is also in the works; Teff says he expects to complete the video project either later this year or early next year.
Z Transportation maintains several terminals in New Jersey and North Carolina, and hires in the lower 48 states. Home time is determined by where the driver lives, Teff said. Those who live in the Northeast can drive for the regional fleet and be home weekly, while those who live in the South or Midwest will likely be over-the-road drivers and will travel two to four weeks at a time.
There is no specific pay package or other program specifically for military veterans, but Teff says these drivers receive special treatment.
“They get, I guess you’d say, more prestige,” he explained. “The wrapped trucks are an example. We just wanted to reward one of our veterans, so we just went out and did it.”
Teff said the company sometimes sends gift certificates to reward driver performance, or arranges lunch or dinner parties when several drivers are in the area.
“Nothing crazy big, but just small things here and there to show our appreciation,” he explained.
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.