The holiday season will be a little brighter this year with the help of Wilbanks Trucking Services, LLC, as it takes on the role of transporting the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree to Washington, D.C. An annual gift to the nation, the 2019 tree will make its way to the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol building from the Carson National Forest in New Mexico. This is the second time a tree has been selected from the Carson and third time from New Mexico.
Wilbanks Trucking also will provide crane support as the tree is cut in early November and prepared for the 2,000-mile expedition, which will include a series of 30+ community celebrations and culminate with the official tree lighting in early December.
Wilbanks Trucking was chosen as the hauler for this year’s tree at the recommendation of Great West Casualty Company and based on industry reputation in New Mexico, according to Bruce Ward, president of Choose Outdoors, the non-profit partner that assists USDA Forest Service with coordinating the annual public engagement initiative.
Ronnie Wilbanks started the organization in 1987 with only a few trucks in the backyard in Artesia, NM and has since grown to employing 250 with additional locations in Hobbs, NM and Odessa, TX — weathering the storms of the boom and bust oil and gas industry. Many of Wilbanks’ trucks are custom built to assist in the construction of oil and gas rigs, and employees are experts in hauling oversized, overweight loads, making them the perfect fit to transport the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree.
“Wilbanks is proud to provide everyday logistics services to transport the 2019 U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree, and to represent New Mexico and its diverse resources spanning from the Oil and Gas Industry in the Permian Basin, to its beautiful national forests in Northern New Mexico,” said Shane Phipps, Safety Director, Wilbanks Trucking Services, LLC.
Three Wilbanks employees will ensure the precious cargo is safely delivered, having been nominated by peers and selected by company leadership.
Josh Garcia is a second-generation employee whose passion for trucking started from the age of 6, riding along side with his father. Garcia’s father and uncle were the first two employees of Wilbanks Trucking in 1987. Garcia joined the team professionally straight out of high school in 2004. Starting as a swamper, Garcia obtained his CDL in 2006 and has obtained the skills to operate a gin pole truck, tandem, forklift loaders, and cranes. Promoted into management, his knowledge and skills in the rig moving industry have proved vital in overseeing daily field operations. Garcia says, “I feel honored to be selected as part of the transportation of the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree. I have hauled thousands of oversized loads in the oil and gas industry, so hauling the Capitol’s Christmas tree will be an amazing opportunity and exciting challenge.”
Josh Rice has been a part of the Wilbanks organization for more than 15 years and driving commercial vehicles for 20 years. As a third-generation rig mover, he is passionate about his profession, primarily servicing the oil and gas industry of eastern New Mexico and west Texas. Rice has hauled over 10,000 oversized loads including sub structures and derricks which range in weight from 50,000 to 200,000 pounds. He is NCCCO lattice boom certified to operate crawler cranes as well as forklift certified, and can also operate gin trucks and tandems. Rice says, “I feel a great sense of responsibility to be able to participate in this annual tradition. Christmas is my favorite holiday! This grand tree represents family and tradition to millions of Americans across the United States, as I know it does for me. This adventure will definitely be one of the most unique and memorable hightlights of my career.”
Brum Stephens has hauled everything from cattle and cotton to farm machinery and steel beams. He started in the oilfield in 1996, originally selling drill bits before launching his own business in 2000 providing rental trailers, manlifts and field welders with trucking services and support on rig moves. Stephens ultimately sold to and joined the Wilbanks Trucking team in 2013. About the honor Stephens says, “Less people have hauled a Christmas tree to the Capitol than have won the lottery. This is my lottery win! It will definitely be something I will never forget, and something that my children and grandchildren can look upon and have a sense of pride.”
Kenworth Truck Company returns for a sixth year as a sponsor of the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree program. A specially decaled Kenworth W990 will transport the 55th U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree. The Kenworth W990 is equipped with a 76-inch mid-roof sleeper and features the PACCAR Powertrain with PACCAR’s MX-13 engine rated at 455-hp and 1,650 lb-ft of torque, 12-speed automated transmission, and 40K tandem rear axle. The truck is also specified with the W990 Limited Edition interior, premium GT703 seats and audio system, Kenworth Nav+HD, predictive cruise control, 1800W inverter, 180-degree swivel passenger seat, and Kenworth TruckTech+® remote diagnostics. The W990 will provide a very comfortable work environment for this year’s tour drivers.
“Kenworth is proud to once again play a part in delivering the ‘People’s Tree’ to our nation’s capital,” said Kurt Swihart, Kenworth marketing director. “The cross-country tour offers the opportunity for people to see this national symbol of celebration, and the Kenworth W990 is the right truck for this important job.”
“The annual journey is only possible with the help of strong partnerships throughout New Mexico and beyond state lines,” said Ricardo Martinez, Deputy District Ranger, Carson National Forest. “We’re grateful for the resources Wilbanks Trucking and Kenworth Truck Company are providing to help make this the best tour to date.”
Additional transportation partners include Spireon, Inc., Truckload Carriers Association, Hale Trailer, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, Meritor and LexisNexis VitalChek Network, Inc., in addition to local and national partners including Elvis Duran & Alex Carr, PNM Resources, Husqvarna, Alaska Airlines, Taos County, and Christmas Tree Promotion Board.
For related news, events and tour information, and to track the tree cross-country, visit www.uscapitolchristmastree.com, along with Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.