LARRY West loves trucks. And he loves a challenge. He especially likes challenges involving trucks. And when people say that a certain thing cannot be done, West tries all the harder to prove them wrong.
After all, the owner of West Trucking & Repair has the tools
to do it.
His Kreutzer Drive facility, which serves as a hangout for old-time truckers who haul steel from Detroit to Tennessee, includes a warehouse, tools, fabricating shop, truck-repair bay, alignment bay, tire shop, air conditioning shop, and trucks and trailers in various states of disrepair and modification.
West’s crew can make the trucks longer, shorter, wider, taller — or swap out the engines. The garage contains a modified Ford F350 that’s powered by a 6.7-liter Cummins Turbo Diesel, which you normally find only in a Ram truck. A furnace nearby has been modified to run off of used motor oil.
West recently walked through his trucking kingdom, pointing out his industrial arsenal, which included a bulldozer, a Skid Steer, racks with about 500 tires, and, outside, a Chinese-made semitrailer, on which he was tinkering to fix a problem related to the integration of the American-made engine.
“You name it, I’ll do it,” he said. “I just like doing things.”
At age 62, he still drives trucks. Most of his revenues these days are generated by hauling steel from North Vernon to local automotive manufacturers, including AK Tube. West Trucking delivers about half a million pounds of steel per day, he said.
West has facilities for storage and other purposes. A nearby property stores his toys, including a 1978 Mercedes Benz 450SL, a Ford pickup truck from the 1950s and another from the 1930s, which he bought from a museum in St. Louis.
A newly acquired facility, the former Irwin Union Bank branch at State and Mapleton streets, is being turned into an office for West Trucking.
West grins about the purchase of the former bank building, saying he bought it primarily because he could — and because he thinks it is the only building in East Columbus with any architectural significance.
Indeed, the Columbus Area Visitors Center has on its website information about the building’s history. The bank was designed by Paul Kennon, who from 1957 to 1964 worked with Eero Saarinen, the modernist mastermind behind the Dulles International Airport, the St. Louis Gateway Arch and the Miller Home in Columbus.
A sign along State Street already identifies the building as West property, but renovations are ongoing, and the office staff, including West’s wife, Evelyn, and one of their daughters, Gina, soon plan to move into their new digs.
West, who hails from near Waymansville, said he learned to drive before age 10 and quit school at age 14 to work with his father, Lawrence, in a sanitation company. West said he and his father drove trucks all over the county to pick up trash. After his father died in 1970, West ran the company until 1983 before selling it to Rumpke.
West also likes to tell stories about people he has met and with whom he has had business dealings. He tells about how he bought his first semitrailer in 1983 from the late Dick Willoughby, how Willoughby’s brother Delbert still works for West, or how he rented a building from Tom Crippen, a former local oil distributor, in the 1970s.
West is known, even in his family, for telling stories with a certain enthusiasm that frequently, in his mind, requires colorful language. He likes to rail, for example, against seat belt laws, saying they’re really just a money maker for the government.
But that’s just West’s gruff exterior, said David Myers, who has worked for West Trucking for nearly 23 years.
“He’s just a good guy,” Myers said. “You couldn’t ask for anybody better.”
Myers hauls parts for the local Toyota forklift plant, driving his semitrailer to Bloomington, Indianapolis and Franklin twice a day.
He likes working for West, he said, because he enjoys the people and because the boss is up front and fair.
West, meanwhile has no plans to slow down anytime soon. He jokes that he’ll stop when a local acquaintance — a funeral director — tells him it’s time.