Trucking industry mourns the loss of a legend

by Jeran Pollock, V.P. Sales, Elliott Machine Works, Inc.                

Central Appalachia and many in the truck equipment business are mourning the loss of a legend.  Wes Tobin, of Pikeville, KY, 95, died Friday, March 17, 2017.  He dedicated many years of his life to servicing customers and equipment in the mining business.  Even at the age of 90, he was still one of the first people to be called when a service truck needed parts or a new truck was planned.

“He was an elderly man that knew just about anything and everything about service trucks and lube trucks..…after 15 minutes with him…I noticed that I was the one that had no idea,” said Bill Jones, former Equipment Manager for Revelation Energy, about their 20 year friendship.  As a customer of Tobin’s, they came to expect him to not only answer his phone in the middle of the night, but to deliver the part before sunrise as well.  In many instances, Tobin would help install the part with no bill for labor.  While some people get fired for sleeping on the job, it was a sign of devotion to see Wes asleep in his truck on the job, just in case the new “grease truck” or “tool truck” had a problem during the first night shift run.

If one traveled with Tobin, the appointments were often scheduled around the towns that offered the best senior citizens center lunches. Appointments took longer than usual, because everyone on the jobsite had to stop over to check in with Wes.  Nearly everyone involved with mining in the Central Appalachia knew of Wes.  If you had not purchased from him, your grandfather, father, or other relation had dealt with him.  And chances are, Wes had gotten one of those people out of a jam in the middle of the night.  “He was the most well-known and respected individual in mining by manufacturers, suppliers, and especially by his customers…..[We] greatly benefitted from the impact he made on the industry…” said Jason Ritchey, President/Owner of Curry Supply Company.

As a competitor, the last thing one wanted to see was that overloaded red Chevy diesel truck pull in or out of a job site.  Because not only did everyone prefer to deal with Wes due to his past experiences, chances were that he had the part they needed in the back of that truck.  However, at the 2012 retirement party for “The Legend” in Pikeville, many of the attendees were his competitors.  We all knew what it was like trying to sell against Wes, because we all did it.  Not very successfully, but we did it.  I was fortunate enough to also get the opportunity to work with Wes for many years.  His true passion for the equipment and devotion to the customer was not a sales front, but his way of doing business.  His favorite expression was that you need to kill the customer with kindness.

For those of us who worked with Wes, we were blessed with knowing a true legend in this industry.  For those who didn’t, rest assured that the expectations for selling equipment and services are set much higher than before he entered into this industry.  Thank you, Wes Tobin, for raising the bar for all of us.

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