It’s an amazing thing, looking back at life, to see how you got where you are. Some argue that your path is chosen long before you “decide” where you’re going. The story of Hell Bent Xpress trucking company and my own is much like that.
I wanted to be an astronaut when I was little. Space exploration intrigued me and “driving” a rocket ship sounded like fun. It wasn’t until later that I started dreaming of really driving and building a fleet. Now, as a freight carrier operating under my own authority, it’s almost like deja vu to see where I’ve come. (As if maybe I should’ve known I was heading this direction all along.)
Growing up, my parents were middle class, hardworking, simple folk. We farmed and my dad had a straight truck to use around the land. At 16, he bought his first Class 8 truck, and “hired” my brother and I to drive it. South Dakota didn’t require a CDL until 1992, so it was then I first started driving a truck. In 1992 I got my CDL and continued driving for him. Then at 21, I decided to buy my own truck and started dreaming of owning a trucking company.
With that truck, a Metallic Blue 1992 Freightliner FLD, I leased onto Smithway Motor Xpress and tried to figure out how to manage my own business. My dad had never been a fan of paperwork; so it was me who kept the books for our family business. I thought I knew it all and was ready to do it all, as most young adults do. I kept that truck for 2 years. In 1997, I traded it for a 1995 Kenworth T600. I foolishly believed it was going to be my favorite truck. I certainly loved it more than it deserved. Between poor fuel economy and maintenance issues, it certainly wasn’t helping me go any places, so I sold it. I needed to become a student of the road again to figure out which truck would work best for me and which direction I wanted to take.
It was then when my partnership with the trucking company Cliff Viessman Inc began. CVI hauls food grade liquids nationwide and had a fleet of Internationals I was curious to drive. As the saying ‘life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans’ goes, “a while” turned into a 26 year partnership. It was this partnership that taught me those valuable life and business lessons I lacked initially. In 2010, I bought my first Volvo – a truck I nicknamed The Old Swede – and HBX was born.
I traded for a newer one in 2013, and then in 2016, after much research on fuel mileage, reliability, and overall cost of ownership, I upgraded myself to a brand new Mack Pinnacle. Next came 2 Mack Anthems, and once that love affair began, I traded the Pinnacle for another Anthem. The rest, as they might say, is Hell Bent History.
During this time I chronicled my fuel economy journey on my Twitter page and to my surprise, got a fair amount of traction – even from Mack Trucks themselves. As it turned out, they wanted to partner with me. My fourth truck would be a new Mack Anthem that I would spec however I wanted, and continue to chronicle it’s journey not only on my social media accounts, but to their corporate office for research and development as well. (Take a peek at the Mackonomics page for more info that collaboration.) Joining forces with them has truly been an exciting chapter in my life. Each chapter though has had its own fair share of excitement, I suppose, as most lives do. I wouldn’t change any of them.
In my younger years, my CB handle was Hell Bent Hagen because I was steadfast in my determination to get the job done and done right. This has been the common thread through my personal and professional life. It has carried me to where I stand (or drive) today. I have always known that people could rely on me and my business to exceed their expectations for a trucking company; and I have always found joy in that. So while this may not have been what wanted to be “when I grew up,” it has been a good life so far and I am grateful for it.
I invite you to reach out and see what Hell Bent determination can do for you and your freight.