IRON RIVER, Mich. – Darrin Kurtz didn’t know much about Western Star trucks when he bought his first one in 2004; he just knew he needed a truck up to the job of hauling logs out of the woods in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
“I took a chance and it was the best decision I ever made,” said Kurtz, owner of Kurtz Trucking, a one-man, one-truck operation. “I wouldn’t buy anything else. I love these trucks.”
He’s on his fourth Western Star now, a 2017 4900 SF day cab with a Detroit™ DD16® engine and an Eaton Fuller 18-speed transmission. A typical day is a trip into the woods for a load of logs, which he delivers to a mill, then comes back again for a load of pulp wood, which then goes to a different mill. Approximately 400 miles a day, most of it on logging and secondary roads, pulling a custom-made three-axle trailer.
“My truck takes a beating every day and the Western Star stands up to it,” he said. “These trucks are built for the woods.”
On rare occasions, the logging roads get too muddy and the truck gets stuck. When that happens, Kurtz unload the logs and a logging processor tugs the 4900 from the front while a bulldozer pushes it from the rear until it’s back on solid ground. A truck has to be built tough to stand up to that sort of handling, Kurtz said.
He buys his trucks from U.P. Truck Center in Quinnesec, Mich., which also does his upfitting. In addition to the DD16, which provides up to 600 HP, and a log loader mounted on the trailer, Kurtz specs double frames and two lift axles. His latest Western Star has 46,000-lb rear axles, 20,000-lb front axles and a 46,000-lb Airliner suspension.
“They do a great job. I’ve been really happy with the service and how they take care of my truck,” Kurtz said.
Logging trucks are usually spec’d for performance, not looks. It’s a dirty job and, in the woods, there aren’t many people around to see them, anyway. Kurtz’s Western Star is the exception. His 4900 features green flames on a black finish, twin stacks, train horns, 11 cab lights, top hats for the wheel nuts and a top-of-the line interior. “I spend more money than I should (on the extras), but it’s more than a truck to me,” he said.
He greases it every weekend and washes it once a week during the summer. Just because a truck does a dirty job doesn’t mean it can’t look pretty, he said, adding, “I like to have a clean, shiny truck, even though I take it into the woods and get it salty and dirty and sloppy.”
Good looks are a plus, but Kurtz’s livelihood depends on his Western Star being able to handle everything the woods can throw at it, a challenge the 4900 does more than meet.
“I love how rugged these trucks are,” Kurtz said. “They’re big and tough, which is what I need to handle the woods and the winters up here.”
Western Star Truck Sales, Inc., headquartered in Portland, Ore., produces tough custom trucks for highway and vocational applications. Western Star is a subsidiary of Daimler Trucks North America LLC. Daimler Trucks North America produces and markets Class 5-8 vehicles and is a Daimler company, the world’s leading commercial vehicle manufacturer.
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