KIRKLAND, Wash., Nov. 23, 2015 – John Schank still smiles every time he hears the comparison people inevitably make between him and the other white bearded guy who makes deliveries at Christmas time. The Lynden Transport driver said he especially likes the way younger kids look at him. With a long white beard and a full head of white hair, Schank looks much like old Saint Nick.
“I suppose if I wore a big bright red suit, I would probably get even more kids wanting to tell me what they want for Christmas.”
Schank, who is a father, grandfather and great-grandfather, said he has enjoyed the attention received during the 3,000-mile tour across the United States. He said he feels “pretty amped” about being chosen to deliver the 74-foot Lutz spruce from the Chugach National Forest in his home state of Alaska to the U.S. Capitol.
It’s not surprising Lynden Transport chose Schank to deliver the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree, powered by a brand new Kenworth T680 with the new 76-inch mid-roof sleeper option, since he holds records few in the trucking industry have attained. In fact, Schank holds the record for the most miles driven of any driver who’s operated a truck on the road from Fairbanks to Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, 5 million miles, all without a single accident.
Since Schank began driving for Lynden Transport in 1975, he has delivered millions of tons of essential supplies and materials for the Alaska pipeline construction and Prudhoe Bay oilfields over one of the most treacherous roads in America – the Dalton Highway. Former Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell presented Schank a letter of commendation for 37 years of accident-free driving on that road last year. He was also recognized as 2014 Driver of the Year by the Alaska Trucking Association.
Schank said he always approaches every single hauling job with a single purpose – to make the delivery as safely as possible. “I pay attention and stay alert. I stop when road conditions get too bad. And I always try to get plenty of rest.”
Schank said having the right equipment makes a big difference in how well he’s able to perform his job. “Fortunately, I have worked for a company that’s always made sure I have a properly equipped truck.”
For this job of delivering the U.S. Capitol Christmas tree, Schank said the T680 provides a comfortable ride with excellent visibility.
“The panoramic windshield gives me a full view of the road ahead and the mirrors make a big difference when I am changing lanes and backing it up,” he said. “The T680 has gotten great fuel mileage carrying the tree, which weighs about 9,000-pounds.”
Schank’s T680 is equipped with a fuel-efficient combination of the PACCAR MX-13 engine and the Eaton Fuller Advantage 10-speed automated manual transmission. The truck also features the new Kenworth TruckTech+ designed to enhance vehicle diagnostics and to help optimize truck uptime and productivity.
“This T680 is a great interstate truck, and if that’s the kind of driving I was doing back home, I would certainly be happy driving one,” he added. “I’m certainly glad to have this Kenworth truck on this trip. It’s like driving a Cadillac.”
Schank also feels well supported by the Kenworth and PacLease network of dealers and leasing franchises. It is the second consecutive year that PacLease provided a Kenworth truck for the tour.
“They make sure we have anything we need while we’re out on the road.”
When Schank and the rest of the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree Tour support staff took a day off from the three-week, 10-stop tour across the Lower 48 states, Lower Great Lakes Kenworth in South Bend, Ind., cleaned the T680 and provided a place to leave the truck and trailer.
“We were able to enjoy watching the Notre Dame Fighting Irish on Saturday (Nov. 14) with my nephew, who’s an undergraduate and works for the university and got us all tickets to the game against Wake Forest,” he said. (Notre Dame defeated Wake Forest 28-7).
Schank delivered the tree to the U.S. Capitol on Friday, Nov. 20. His wife, Nancy, followed him on the tour starting from St. Louis. Schank has another delivery to attend on Nov. 30. His daughter-in-law is expected to deliver his 17th grandchild in Hendersonville, Tenn., before he returns to D.C. for the lighting ceremony.
“This has been a wonderful trip and experience,” he said. “The people I’ve met and the family members I’ve been able to visit along the way have made the trip all the more memorable. And I’m really happy to drive a beautiful and comfortable truck, supported by outstanding people.”
The U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree arrived Wednesday, Nov. 18, at Joint Base Andrews, Md. After a brief stay, the tree was uncrated, unwrapped and then transported into Washington, D.C., to the U.S. Capitol Building. Upon arrival, it was hoisted by a large crane onto the West Lawn and secured.
The tree will be decorated with more than 4,000 ornaments, handcrafted by children and others from Alaska communities and thousands of LED lights. But the tree will remain dark until Speaker of the House U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., lights it during a ceremony starting at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 2. For more information, visit the 2015 U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree website.
Kenworth Truck Company is a PACCAR company and the manufacturer of The World’s Best® heavy and medium duty trucks. Kenworth's website is Kenworth.com.