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Kenworth

Convoy

by Peter Carter
Untitled Document

Geez," the long-distance operator remarked when I asked for Paul Brandt's number, "I didn't know he was into trucks, too."

I was searching for Paul Brandt Trucking, in Winnipeg. The 411-operator thought I was asking about Paul Brandt the country singer. Last year, the 32-year old dusted off and made a hit out of that old trucking song "Convoy." You know the one - when it came out 27 years ago, it threw the CB radio market into skyrocket mode because all kinds of non-truckers were lured into the language of the airwaves. Brandt, who says he grew up hearing his dad and uncles in Alberta singing the song, was encouraged by his wife Liz to record the song last year after they heard it on the radio in Nashville. It's been on the Canadian airwaves since.

However, I wasn't looking for that Paul Brandt. I was searching for the trucker. In the video for the hit, Brandt the singer uses a 2004 Pete 379 belonging to Paul Brandt Trucking. I wanted to find out what that kind of exposure means to the bottom line.
Turns out there's more than one lesson to be learned about trucking as she is done by the Brandts of the world.

Paul Brandt Trucking has been around since before Paul Brandt the country singer was born, but in the early-1990s, the Alberta-born songwriter was performing at the Morris, Man., rodeo, and Paul Brandt the fleet owner showed up and introduced himself. His idea? He would deliver the trucker to the stage in one of his Western Stars. That was the first time Paul Brandt the singer rode in a Paul Brandt truck.

The Brandts (they're unrelated) exchanged addresses, then after Brandt recorded "Convoy", his record company contacted the boys at Brandt trucking - it's now run by Paul's sons Kerry, Bill, and Tracey - asking if they could use one of the rigs in a dramatic re-enactment of the somewhat famous "Convoy" story.

In the summer of 2004, Kerry Brandt, his wife Barbara, and their three kids hopped into a long-nose 2004 Peterbilt with a 63-in. high-rise sleeper, a 500-hp Detroit under the hood and the best paint job Brandt could muster and headed up to Wainwright, Alta. Brandt was making his video at the Canadian Forces base up there.
Kerry says that his time up there proved that video making was a lot like trucking. "I couldn't believe how much waiting around there was," he laughs. "We shot for four days and it was 12 to 14 hours a day."

The best part? When Brandt the singer sings "we hit the gate doin' 98," it was Kerry Brandt behind the wheel. "It was me drivin' all right, even though you can't see me in the video." Kerry also took the truck on the Paul Brandt tour last summer, and when Brandt hosted the Country Music Awards, not only did the Pete attend, but so did 60 of the trucking company's employees, courtesy of Brandt bros.

Like the singer, who is one of Canada's most decorated country artists, Paul Brandt Trucking has grown into star status since the founder (Kerry's dad Paul) started hauling logs around Northwestern Ontario. These days, they have 45 trucks and 70 trailers, hauling grain, feed, and general freight throughout Western Canada and the U.S.
So, did the video do anything for the trucker's bottom line? Kerry says there's little doubt it was good for business.

"We can't say we've had more revenue because of it, but it sure makes you feel proud. There was lots of media coverage and any coverage is good for business."
Singer Brandt and his wife also autographed the cab and its interior, so when the driver now makes one of his regular trips into Oklahoma or Texas, he always attracts attention. "That's another thing," Kerry says. "I think when drivers are proud of their trucks, they'll like their jobs more. It's good for morale."

Finally, Paul the singer has a reputation for being a good guy. He's involved with his church, and with good causes locally and abroad. "You gotta like having somebody with that kind of reputation spreading your name around," Kerry comments.
What about the other way around? Did having that beautiful Peterbilt help the song earn hit status?

"No question it was a catalyst," the singer says with a laugh during an interview from his home in Calgary (he also has one in Nashville). "Convoy" was a serious career boost.
"Because of that song, I had all kinds of new faces at concerts," Brandt says. "I was used to seeing the typical young country crowd and suddenly I was seeing mechanics and truck drivers and guys my dad's age out there."

The album featuring "Convoy" is called This Time Around, and it's available across Canada. The video's in medium rotation on the CMT network, and Paul the singer says the song is receiving an increasing amount of airplay in the States. You can find out more by checking www.paulbrandt.com.

Another side effect? Just before Christmas, Paul and Liz - the Nashville Brandts, who devote a lot of time to charitable causes, visited children in Cambodia to bring them Christmas presents, as part of an organization called Samaritans First. Joining the team of philanthropists? Barbara Brandt, of Paul Brandt Trucking, from Winnipeg. Sounds to us like a convoy.

 

Another Brandt Name Product

Kerry, Bill, and Tracy, and Paul Brandt aren't the only Manitoba truckers with showy iron. Cousin Mark, whose dad is company founder Paul's brother, is a familiar name at local show-and-shines. And Mark, based in Arborg, Man., insists his award-winning Petes and Kenworths are worth every coat of paint. For one thing, he says, the carefully tended trucks keep drivers happier.

He keeps a fleet of 15 grain-haulers busy around the Western provinces, and he says he's not having driver-retention problems. "You give drivers the trucks they want, and they'll stay around longer."

Not only that, but he acknowledges that keeping them north of the border and away from the problems associated with customs helps too. "I only go into the States a bit," he says. "I guarantee my guys will be home every weekend, and very often they get home at least once mid-week, too."

But driver retention's only part of the reason he gives so much attention to his rigs. "I grew up in this business. Good looking trucks are in my genes."