Driven To Succeed

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It takes a lot of drive to succeed in trucking today – especially at a young age.  At just 28 years old, Wade Riffey of Wonewoc, WI has already done a lot in his life.  Having lived on his own in four different states and worked full-time since he was 15 years old, Wade has also owned and driven several trucks and trailers, worked in various industries, built a large ag business of his own and then lost it all, climbed out of that hole, built the show-quality working truck you see here, and helped create his family’s growing trucking and logistics operations, which he will undoubtedly take over one day.  Not bad for a kid who dropped out of school in 7th grade!  It just goes to show that a person with enough drive, determination, and faith can accomplish anything.

This trucking story begins on a farm in Kansas where Wade Riffey’s grandparents lived.  Wade’s grandfather, Carl Greybill, was a farmer, but he started trucking in 1981 for an outfit called Bones Transportation.  After bouncing around a bit, he ended up pulling a flatbed at Hunt Transportation for many years.  Tragically, Carl was killed in an automobile accident in 1997 on his way home from dropping his truck off after a run.  Wade’s father Aaron began trucking part-time in Kansas when he was 16 years old (around 1979), hauling ag loads during harvest season.  In 1986, he too got a job at Bones Transportation, pulling an end dump with a 1968 International cabover, until he quit driving and bought into a construction company in 1987.

Moving to Indiana, where the construction company was located, Wade was born there in 1992.  A few years later, Wade’s father fell off a roof, so he quit the construction business and moved the family to central Wisconsin (Wonewoc) in 1996 to get into the agricultural and trucking business.  At the time, land there was cheap and dairy farms were booming, so they started a dairy and began farming.  With only about 100 cows, their operation was never huge, so they also got into custom harvesting, which they still do today.  To help on the farm during harvest, Wade’s dad bought a 1992 International 9200 with a small flattop sleeper and a M11 Cummins engine which Wade, and his two older brothers, all learned to drive in.

Wanting to get back into trucking full-time, Wade’s dad sold the cows and closed the dairy in 2001 and became an owner operator.  Pulling a reefer for Walbon & Company out of Rosemount, MN, in 2002 he landed a dedicated weekly haul from Minnesota to Wildwood, FL and back.  At the time, Wade was being home-schooled, so at nine years old, he packed up his schoolwork and books and started going out with his dad in that 1992 International they owned.  This went on for three or four years, until Wade got a job at a local dairy at just 12 years old.  Doing his schoolwork and helping at the dairy part-time, this went on until Wade got offered a full-time job at a local concrete company when he was 15 years old.  At this point, in just 7th grade, Wade quit school and began working – and never looked back.

Working five days a week and often 12 or more hours per day at the concrete company, Wade also continued to help his parents with planting in the spring and harvesting in the fall (mostly corn and soybeans).  Whenever he went back home to help on the farm, he would go out trucking with his dad or brothers.  After about a year and a half, he met a girl who lived in Ohio and moved there to be with her – at just 16 years old.  Getting a job at another concrete company as a concrete finisher, he stayed there for a little over a year.

When his relationship with the girl in Ohio ended, he quit that job and moved to Othello, WA and joined a harvest crew at 17 years old.  While there, he turned 18, so he went home to Wisconsin, got his CDL, and then returned to Washington where he got a job at an excavation company driving a quad-axle dump truck pulling a quad-axle pup.  Not long after that, he switched over to their heavy-haul division where he began moving large pieces of equipment, from jobsite to jobsite, with a Peterbilt 377 and a triple-axle detachable trailer.  He did this for a few months and then met another girl, who lived in Kansas, so he quit this job and moved there.

Once in Kansas, Wade got a job at Rick’s Trucking out of Lawrence, KS driving a dark blue Pete 379 daycab pulling an aluminum end dump.  Hauling sand and gravel for about a year and a half, at 19 years old he broke up with his girlfriend there and then moved back to Wisconsin.  At the time, his dad had three trucks, so Wade jumped into one of his W900s and began hauling logs and lumber.  About a year later, at 20 years old, Wade met another girl, that lived in Kansas, and moved there again to be with her.  Thankfully, this girl, named Shanae, ended up being his wife in 2013.

Going back to Rick’s Trucking in Kansas, running sand and gravel locally, Wade turned 21 in November of 2013.  By now, Wade’s dad had quit driving full-time and was dispatching his own trucks and wanting to bring more on.  Wade really wanted to run over-the-road, so he convinced his boss Rick to buy a truck and trailer – a 1996 Peterbilt 378 with a 1999 Wilson hopper – and put it on at his dad’s company with Wade as the driver.  This arrangement did not last long, maybe six months, so Wade left Rick’s Trucking and started driving a red 1999 W900 for his dad.  By now, Wade and his wife had a house in Kansas, so they continued to live there, as Wade ran OTR, mostly between Texas and Wisconsin, pulling one of his dad’s hopper trailers.

In August of 2014, Wade bought his first truck – a black and red 1994 Kenworth W900 that he literally pulled out of the weeds in Missouri.  The owner had stopped using it several years prior, and just parked it.  Wade was able to get it started and drive it home, but barely.  Once back in Kansas, he immediately took it to a shop to have the motor completely rebuilt.  While this was happening, he continued to drive one of his dad’s trucks.  Once the engine was done, he took it to his father-in-law’s shop where they stretched it from 255 inches to 315 inches, added stacks, a visor, extra lights, an air-ride system on the front axle, and cleaned it all up.  Buying a brand-new Cornhusker hopper trailer to put behind it, Wade started driving it for his dad in January of 2015.

The first main haul Wade got with his new combination took him from Minnesota to California and back every week.  Around this same time, Wade and his wife moved back to Wisconsin, and Wade started getting more involved with the family business.  In October of 2015, Wade sold the KW to his brother and quit driving to work in the office full-time.  Not long after that, Wade bought a tractor and some tanks and started getting into harvesting on his own.  His company, Riffey Ag Service, grew quickly.

In the spring of 2016, Wade bought more equipment and got more involved, and by fall of that same year, he had 13 tanker trailers for hauling liquid manure and four “throw-away” Freightliner Columbia trucks, along with several owner operators to pull the other trailers, to service the local dairies.  The following year, in 2017, he invested a lot of money in a Claas 980 chopper (not the kind you ride with two wheels, but the kind that chops crops), and in 2018 he bought even more.  Business was great!

At just 25 years old, Wade had all this equipment (and the debt that went with it), along with 20 employees, and then the dairy market crashed in the fall of 2018.  Due to increases in production and decreases in demand, as more people were turning to non-dairy alternatives to cow’s milk, the price dropped by almost 50% overnight.  With no money, the dairy farmers stopped paying Wade the money they owed him, and with a crashed dairy industry, the market for equipment dropped, too, making it hard for Wade to sell off his equipment and stay in business.  The end result was that Wade lost it all.

Vowing to pay all his remaining debts, he convinced his banker to loan him the money to buy a truck and trailer, saying, “I know how to make money trucking, and if you help me do that, I’ll be able to pay everything off eventually.  Otherwise, I am dead in the water.”  The banker agreed and loaned him the money to buy the truck and trailer featured here – although they didn’t look quite like this when he bought them.  Wade is proud to say that he and his wife have already almost paid off all that bad debt.

Purchasing the 2014 Peterbilt 386 in November of 2018, the truck was all dark blue with a 48” sleeper, a 300” wheelbase, 8” stacks, cab and sleeper drop panels from Talladega Fiberglass, and a hopped-up 785-hp Cummins ISX, that had been recently built by Antrim Diesel in Greencastle, PA.  The truck still had a “stock” look about it, but it was a great foundation for Wade to build upon.  The trailer, a stainless 2018 Timpte Super Hopper, was purchased from one of their owner operators who had ordered it brand-new but didn’t like it.  The rails were painted baby blue and a few things had been done to it, but Wade did a lot more, for sure.

Putting the truck to work immediately, pulling a reefer for his dad at first, Wade did what he could while still working the truck full-time.  Fleet Paint & Body in La Crosse, WI painted the truck’s black frame baby blue, matching the paint color to the rails on the trailer, and then a place in Hagerstown, MD built the deck plate.  In May of 2019, Wade took a three-week “vacation” and took the truck to his father-in-law’s shop, Davison Autobody in Garnett, KS, to finish the job.  While there, they cut out the back window and repainted the back of the sleeper, added the baby blue paint to the truck (along with a thin metallic silver breaker stripe), built and installed a custom air-ride system for the front end, and then added all the goodies.

The exterior “goodies” on Wade’s Peterbilt include a stainless visor and a Valley Chrome front bumper, step covers and mirror brackets from 12 Ga. Customs, stainless half-fenders from Hogebuilt, a rear light bar, seven bullet-style cab lights and deleted horns, and billet step plates from Lifetime Nut Covers.  The headlights were replaced with new LED units from United Pacific that are painted black on the inside, and plenty of extra new LEDs, also from United Pacific, were added throughout, including on the drop panels and on the back of the sleeper.  Wade also had new “bus glass” (with the tint on the bottom) made by Cody Jensen out of Nebraska.  Most of the truck’s accessories were purchased from Big Rig Chrome Shop in Oshkosh, WI (which is also a place where you can get your free copy of 10-4 Magazine each and every month).

Moving inside the truck, a few things have been done in there, but Wade has a lot more planned for the future.  For now, Wade had his wife’s grandfather, Lelland Davison, who has done flooring his entire life, install a laminate wood floor (he even had him sign his name on it with a marker pen).  He also added a hollow chrome shifter (to hide all the lines) from SH Tube, glass watermelon interior lights, a wood steering wheel, glitter knobs on the shifter and brake valves, and wrapped the backside of the visor with a faded American flag graphic (the bedspread in the sleeper matches the wrap almost exactly).  There are also a few interior trim pieces painted baby blue to match the exterior.  On each side of the windshield, Wade proudly displays his Mid West Loud N Proud member stickers.  Wade has been a member and a sponsor of this trucking organization for six years now, and really likes all the people involved and what they stand for.

The matching trailer behind Wade’s 386 Peterbilt is a 2018 Timpte Super Hopper with polished stainless sides and painted (baby blue) rails.  Wade designed the baby blue paint on the truck to lineup with the baby blue frame rails on the trailer.  Almost everything underneath the trailer has been painted baby blue, including the landing gear, and what isn’t painted is polished.  The rolling tarp up on top is dark blue, which also matches the color and scheme of the truck, and extra pieces were added to the back of the trailer and painted, as well.  As one might expect, the entire trailer is covered with lights.

After finishing the truck, Wade continued to work it hard.  In 2019 alone, primarily running to California every week, Wade put 247,000 miles on the truck.  Running under Riffey Trucking, they haul various dog food ingredients like chicken meal, meat and bone meal, dried and processed vegetables like tomatoes and potatoes, and other ingredients (oddly enough they never haul the finished product).  They also haul some organic items for chicken and pig feed, and a few food-grade products for humans, as well.

In 2020, Wade took the truck and trailer to a few shows in his area and did very well.  In June he attended the AMCAN Truckfest in Union Grove, WI; in August he was at the Waupun Truck-n-Show in Waupun, WI; and in September he competed at the No Coast Large Cars Truck Show in Britt, IA.  At all these events, our roving reporter Eric Hill got to know Wade and was very impressed with this young man and his aero truck.  After “putting in the good word” and pointing us toward him several times, we chose Wade to be on our cover and went to Wisconsin to take the photos.  Special thanks to Eric for “discovering” Wade and introducing us to him – you are obviously a good judge of character.  Wade is extremely excited to be on the cover, and never would have dreamed that it could be possible.

In addition to Riffey Trucking, the family also runs Riffey Transportation and Riffey Logistics, their brokerage company.  Between the three divisions, they run about 45 trucks, which includes a mix of company trucks, leased operators, and dedicated owner operator trucks, and cover all 48 states.  Since doing the photo shoot, Wade has temporarily parked his truck to focus on running their brokerage.  Having just opened a second office in Kansas City with a few new brokers, Wade currently has his hands full.  Once all the changes get settled, he fully expects to get back in the truck more often, which is what he wants to do (he misses hanging out with all his friends in Barstow, CA).  Although Wade misses driving, he loves running the business.  Wade is being trained to take over when his dad retires, but since he is only 57 years old right now, it probably won’t be anytime soon.

Wade’s mom and dad, Cheryl and Aaron, have been married for over 35 years.  Mom works in the office every day, along with Wade’s younger sister Betsy (26), who comes in a few days a week.  Wade also has two older brothers that are involved in the business and have trucks of their own – Kurt (35) and Craig (33).  Kurt has a 1995 Pete 379 and a 2014 Pete 388, while Craig has a 2002 Pete 379, a 2004 Pete 379, and a 2005 Pete 379X.  Dad has a 1984 Pete 359 and a 1985 KW W900, as well.  Wade also has an older sister in Colorado named Beth (30).  Married to his wife Shanae since 2013, the couple has two daughters – Aurianna (6) and Brinley (1).  Shanae is a stay-at-home mom, but she also handles all of Wade’s bookkeeping.

Getting to this point is not an easy task, and it is never done alone.  Wade wanted to thank all his friends for their help and encouragement, his father-in-law Ryan Davison, Big Rig Chrome Shop, Henry at Little Sister’s Truck Wash in Barstow, CA for keeping all their trucks shining for the past 16 years, Evan Steger of Evan’s Detailing & Polishing in Chilton, WI for the final cleaning of Wade’s truck before each show and the photo shoot, his parents, his brothers, and his wife, who is Wade’s biggest supporter.  Also, thanks to United Cooperative in Hillsboro, WI for allowing us to take pictures at their facility.

One day, when Wade is in charge, he would like to see the operation grow to 100 trucks and more brokers, but he still wants the company to have that family feel – he never wants his drivers and owner operators to feel like just a number.  And he certainly doesn’t want to become a brokerage that takes advantage of its trucks or deals with cheap freight.  He treats their people fairly, and has every intention to keep it that way, no matter how big they get.

In all honesty, Wade’s goal is to make the trucking industry great again.  No cheap freight and no greedy brokers – it’s all about building a great company with a great legacy.  Wade has done a lot in a short amount of time and is fiercely independent.  This “kid” has been taking care of himself since he was 15 years old, and he doesn’t let anything stop him – not even a failed business and tons of debt to pay back at the tender age of 25.  To this, and all his successes, Wade says, “To God be the glory!”  He even put that on his t-shirts.  When you have that much faith and determination, and are driven for success like Wade Riffey, nothing will keep you from achieving your dreams.

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