Trucking through the generations

Trucking families continue their legacies into 21st century.

March-April 2019

Wendy Parker

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You’ll often hear owner-operators say that “trucking is in my blood.” It’s something most relate to on a level far deeper than an occupation. For some, trucking truly is part of their heritage.

Three current-day OOIDA members share family trucking histories that helped shape infrastructure, commerce and residential areas in the communities they originated in and well beyond.

Ralph Smith Co., Bountiful, Utah

The trucking legacy of OOIDA board member Doug Smith, is a multigenerational mix of two trucking families. “Some of the trucking we’ve done has been so fun, I can’t believe we got paid for it,” Doug said. “It has really been a great life.”

Linette Ashworth Smith, Doug’s wife of 44 years, helped unwind the complicated history by explaining her family branch of the lineage in a phone interview with Land Line Magazine.

“In the early 1900s my grandpa, Harold Ashworth, and his brother Rulon, formed A&A Moving, which became Ashworth Transfer in 1912, when Rulon bought the business,” she said.

“Harold’s son was Wayne Ashworth. He was my father,” Linette continued. “My father worked for Uncle Rulon hauling equipment and supplies to remote Civilian Conservation Corps camps during the Depression. He was probably in his late teens – he dropped out of school pretty young.”

Linette’s father left the family business to serve in the U.S. Army during World War II. “Dad spent several years doing different jobs after the military. He worked in coal mines, did whatever he needed to do, you know.”

Ashworth settled on ironworking, and used his own trucks to deliver the structural steel to job sites. Linette’s childhood memories of her dad usually involve a truck. “He was the lead driver and liked driving trucks more than all the other jobs in steel construction.”

In 1975, Linette Ashworth married Doug Smith, who also came from a multigenerational trucking family

The Smith family had their own rich trucking history. Ralph Smith Sr., Doug’s father, was a dump truck owner-operator. In the 1950’s, Ralph took the dump bed off his truck and put a new stake side bed on it and moved into hauling explosives to mines.

Ralph and his brother, Hyrum, would take turns driving while the other one slept against the door or under the canvas tarp covering the explosives they hauled from Salt Lake City, Utah, to the Mesabi Iron Range in Minnesota and mines in California and Arizona.. The brothers soon had a small fleet, a successful trucking business, and growing families.

Ralph Smith Co. flourished until the late 1960s, when the business suffered a devastating loss. A bad deal with an ICC hauling authority left the 30-truck family fleet with one truck Ralph worked by himself to support his family and make ends meet.

Doug Smith graduated high school in 1970. Ralph and Doug bought a gutted-out Kenworth and a couple of wrecks to get enough parts to put a nice truck together for Doug to drive. Father and son ran the two belly-dumps and kept on trucking together through the slim times. Doug was working for his father when he met and married Linette.

Six years later, Ralph died at age 47 from chronic pneumonia. Doug and his younger brothers, Daniel and David, continued to run those two trucks for their mother’s support while buying their own equipment to drive for themselves and to support their own young families.

Doug’s father-in-law, Wayne, made good use of Doug’s driving experience during the highway paving off season. Doug was soon delivering structural steel, including 125-foot bridge girders, to new segments of I-15 throughout Utah. His skill set grew with each season.

“I ran Salt Lake to Los Angeles for a year with a day cab. In summer I slept on the steel beams I hauled on the mountain passes where it was cooler,” Doug said. “That was my first truck.”

Because of the experience and knowledge handed down from the generations before them, the Smith brothers had the know-how, youth and energy to make another run at building a business again.

Forty years after Ralph’s death, Doug and his wife Linette handed the reins to Sam, Harry and Kate, three of their six children. The focus of today’s business is still construction related, including all types of dump trailers, trucks, lowbeds, and flatbeds. Ralph Smith Co. has been a major participant in building infrastructure in Utah and surrounding states.

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Sevin’s Trucking, Labadieville, Louisiana

The Sevin family trucking tradition began three generations back with Joe Sevin Sr. OOIDA life member Kerry “Sweet” Sevin continues the tradition today, working out of the same shop his father ran.

Kerry Sevin comes by his love for the job honestly.

“All I can ever remember wanting to do is drive trucks. I loved em’, I loved riding in my dad’s truck,” Kerry said. “I can’t imagine doing anything else for a living.”

Joe Sevin Sr. was Sweet’s grandfather. He trucked in the Louisiana logging and sugar cane-hauling business during the 1950’s and 1960’s. When Joe Sr. was ready to retire, his son, Joe Jr., or “Big Joe,” took over his dad’s part of Sevin and Talbott Trucking, where he had begun his own trucking career as a teenager.

Big Joe Sevin and Talbot worked up to as many as 21 trucks out of their Labadieville, La., shop, hauling sugar cane, raw sugar, dirt, rocks and sand. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, they ventured into the oil fields, hauling drilling equipment and supplies.

“My dad bought their only new truck, the blue and burgundy 1980 Peterbilt he and I are pictured together with,” Kerry said. “He drove this truck from new until it was handed down to my oldest brother Kenneth first, then to Kevin and a very few choice drivers. Once I was of age I also drove the truck myself. It was always my dad’s baby.”

Big Joe’s three sons – Kenneth, Kevin and Kerry – all went into the family business of trucking.

In 1995, Big Joe’s partner, Louis Talbot, passed away. Sevin purchased his half of the business, and the company became Sevin’s Trucking. Father and sons continued in the trucking business. Big Joe and Kevin branched out into the school bus business and contracted them to state school systems. Kenneth hurt his back and quit driving but continued to work in the shop.

Kerry became an owner-operator.

Big Joe retired in 2007 and passed away in 2009. Kerry continues to carry on the family tradition, working out of the shop his father ran and he and his brothers still own together.

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Hammett Excavation, Dodd City, Texas

In 1963, Harry Hammett began Hammett Excavation in Dodd City, Texas, with one truck and one dozer. Today, his son, Gaylon, and grandson, Kaleb, own and operate a fleet of nine trucks, two of which are heavy-haul.

Kaleb, 21, grew up in the cab of a truck with his father, Gaylon. Some of his earliest memories are of his grandfather and father at jobsites, transporting and operating heavy equipment.

“My grandpa was a big influence in my life,” Kaleb said. “We spent a lot of time together when I was little. He and my dad taught me just about everything I know about trucking. Except for the stuff you have to learn by experience. I’m still learning, but I’ve got great teachers.”

Harry passed away in 2014, but Hammett Excavation continues to thrive.

Gaylon and Kaleb are busier than ever, overseeing a multitude of dozers and excavating equipment on multiple job sites. Landfill cells and real estate subdivision development all over the state of Texas are the result of Harry Hammett’s hard work and humble beginnings. LL

Wendy Parker

Wendy Parker has covered the trucking industry since 2012 after she says she “lost my mind and decided to climb inside my husband’s big truck to travel with him as an over-the road, long-haul trucker.” Her unique writing style that ranges from biting satire to investigative journalism coupled with her unbridled passion for fighting round out a wildly talented stable of writers.