Theresa De Santis never thought about competing in truck beauty contests until a fellow female trucker told her how great her 1985 Peterbilt 589 looked and persisted until De Santis entered the Great West Truck Show in Las Vegas in 2010.
“We didn’t know what to think,” De Santis said. “There was a couple from California who taught us stuff like how to set the tires and what the judges are looking for.”
The truck she and her husband, Dean, purchased new and babied over the decades won in Las Vegas in 2010, 2011 and 2013, the last year of the show. Victories followed at the Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville in 2015 and 2018.
When De Santis parked among the 75-plus entries at Trail’s Travel Center in Albert Lea, Minnesota last week, buzz about the witches-themed orange-and-black-painted rig carried throughout the site of the 37th annual Shell Rotella Super Rigs.
On Saturday, July 26, De Santis won the best engine and best theme segments, propelling her to the $10,000 best-of-show award and a page in next year’s Shell Rotella wall calendar.
She had some fun with the competition. License plate holders affixed to her gleaming chrome front bumper declared: “From 0 to witch in 8 seconds” and “My broom is broken, so I have to drive this.” A hood ornament of two witch’s black boots was repeated in the custom grill below.
2.9 million miles
De Santis takes winters off at home in Arizona but still clocks 70,000 to 80,000 miles a year for Long Haul Trucking out of Otsego, Minnesota. Her truck has 2.9 million miles, powered by just its second diesel motor, a Caterpillar 3406C.
The couple installed new frame rails, wheels and fuel tanks in 2009 before exploring the truck show circuit.
The Peterbilt was part of the D.R. De Santis LLC waste-hauling business the couple operated in Massachusetts from 1983 until selling it a decade later to American Waste Management Services Inc. of Warren, Ohio. Dean De Santis joined American Waste and moved through a series of other corporate roles before retiring in January. He now drives a 2018 Peterbilt 389.
Other than truck shows, the couple sees each other when their long-haul routes cross paths. Dean, who entered his gambling-themed truck but won no awards in the Super Rigs contest, was thrilled for Theresa. He immediately posted pictures from the award ceremony on Facebook.
“It was our first new truck, and we’ve had it since Day One,” Dean De Santis said. “In the last 10 years, we’ve probably spent $80,000. If you think about it, that’s not that much money.
First=place winners included:
Jonathan Eilen from Hampton, Minnesota. in the Tractor/Trailer Division for his 2007 Peterbilt 379 and 2017 MAC dump.
Kaleb Hammett of Dodd City, Texas. in the Tractor Division with a 2017 Peterbilt 389
Tod Job from Everest, Kansas, won in the Classic Division with his 1996 Peterbilt 379.
The Most Hard-Working Trucker award was presented to David Gramberg of New Richmond, Wisconsin for his 2019 Kenworth W900
Todd Brenny of Saint Joseph, Minnesota, won the People’s Choice Award for his 1977 Peterbilt 352. The winner is selected by competitors and attendees.