When the word “team” is used in trucking, it usually denotes two drivers taking turns at the wheel of one truck. In the case of Wes and Cindy Ward, it means traveling and serving together.
“I do the driving,” Wes told The Trucker. “Cindy keeps me fed and taken care of. Whether it’s cooking, trip planning or preparing for the next truck show, Cindy stays busy.”
The Maynardville, Tennessee-based couple owns a 2004 Peterbilt 379, christened “Prayerbilt,” that has an extended hood.
“We named it ‘Prayerbilt’ because, really, everyone’s life is built on prayer,” Wes explained.
The truck, equipped with a 1999 Caterpillar 3406E engine and a 13-speed transmission, is paired with a 2014 Mac 48-foot, 102-inch-wide flatbed trailer. The truck’s transmission is a recent upgrade.
“It came with a 10-speed transmission, but this past Christmas we replaced it with a 13-speed,“ Wes explained. “It’s a lot easier going up hills now.”
The couple leases the truck to CRST Malone, headquartered in Birmingham, Alabama.
We run pretty much all over,” Wes said, “but we run the Atlanta to Phoenix lane as much as possible. That’s kind of our go-to route.”
The couple hauls spools of cable on their preferred run, often returning a load of empty reels to the shipper. The empties don’t pay as well, but at least there are no deadhead miles involved.
“If we find something that pays better going back that way, we’ll haul that,” Wes said.
The Wards have options in their relationship with CRST.
“CRST will help you manage your truck if you want,” Wes said, “but you’ll be dispatched on freight in their system, and that’s primarily east of the Mississippi (river). You can also take (brokered) loads from an approved carrier list if you want more control over your business.”
Like most trucking businesses, the Wards have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s been kind of slow all year, but we expected it to be slow,” Wes said. “With the COVID-19, where we used to maybe wait a day to reload, now we might be sitting for several days. It’s off and on.”
The Wards brought their truck to last year’s Shell SuperRigs contest and have entered it in other shows as well.
“We really enjoy all the fellowship and opportunity to share the gospel at the truck shows,” he explained. The couple was disappointed when the SuperRigs competition was moved online this year, due to safety considerations for the pandemic. “We’d still like to do a couple of shows yet this year if we could,” he said.
While Wes controls the driving and maintenance on the truck, the bunk area belongs to Cindy.
“I’ve almost got enough room to turn around in our 63-inch bunk,” Wes explained. “I’ve been working to expand the storage.”
Some of that storage is used for the Ward’s charitable projects.
“Cindy works with charity food banks,” said Wes. “She’s always helping somebody.”
This year, that help extended to other drivers who are working through the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We found some folks in Knoxville (Tennessee) giving away masks, and we bought some Lysol and some hand sanitizer,” Wes explained. “We gave those things out to whoever we ran across that needed them.”
When they aren’t trucking, the Wards are active in their church in Knoxville. When they can’t get home for services, they like to stop at the truck-stop chapels they come across. They have four children between them, each bringing two to their marriage in 2016.
There’s little time for hobbies, but Wes does what he can.
“I collect H.O. model trains,” he said, “and every now and then, I pick a little (guitar).”
The majority of their time, however, is spent on the road in the Prayerbilt Peterbilt, keeping the family business trucking along.
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.