Freightliner honors the Buffalo Soldiers with a special truck

Published 12:00 am Thursday, April 25, 2024

By Kenneth L. “Kenny” Hardin

For the Salisbury Post

CLEVELAND — Past military history met current technological advancement on April 19 at the main entrance to the Daimler Freightliner truck plant in Cleveland. An 18-wheeler truck cab custom wrapped with a paint scheme honoring the legacy of the famed Buffalo Soldiers was unveiled to the public in a small ceremony. In attendance were employees from the plant, representatives from the Veterans Social Center and an honor guard contingent from the 9th and 10th Horse Cavalry Association of the Buffalo Soldiers Greater North Carolina Chapter. The group was decked out in full period uniforms and consisted of four flag bearers and two riflemen. They stood proudly in front of the customized truck in a picture worthy of gracing a magazine cover. 

On Sept. 26, 1866, Congress established six all-black regiments, comprised of former slaves, freemen and former soldiers at Ft. Leavenworth Kansas. Their mission was to help rebuild the country after the Civil War and to fight on the Western frontier during the Plains Wars. The nickname originated from one of these six regiments, the 10th Cavalry. Differing accounts attribute the name being bestowed by either the Cheyenne, Apache or Plains Indian tribes based on their kinky curly hair, the bison hide coats they wore or because they were seen as wild buffaloes. Regardless, they earned the respect of the native Indian tribes they engaged with. From their inception well into the early 1890s, these regiments participated in most of the military campaigns and earned a distinguished record. Later they became the first park rangers serving in California’s Sierra Nevada. 

Steve Barber serves as the committee chairman of the UAW Local 3520 Veterans Committee at the Daimler Freightliner plant and is a member of the Ride of Pride Committee, which is responsible for creating the theme. Barber met members of the Charlotte group at the Veterans Social Center’s 2-year anniversary celebration back on April 6, and shared with them the truck was in production. He then spoke with Trooper Leanna Rogers, chapter president, and they worked out the details for the group to travel to the plant to participate. Barber summed up the significance of the event by sharing, “It was an exciting day to bring together the Ride of Pride Buffalo Soldiers truck and pair it with the Buffalo Soldiers of the Greater North Carolina Chapter. It was magical and felt like the truck was brought to life through those members that came to participate in the photo. It was a privilege and an honor to meet them.” 

Barber explained that the idea for the paint scheme came from employee Joe Shumway, who serves on the Ride of Pride Committee. In the past, they would send out input requests to plant employees to submit theme ideas, but for this truck, it was kept within the committee. Barber added that they’ve been creating the special military themed custom truck cabs since 2002. They typically complete one per year, but in some years, they’ve done four. He estimates that since the first one rolled out, they have completed 30 trucks. So far in 2024, this is their second truck completed. According to Barber, the Cleveland plant is the only facility in N.C. that produces the custom-theme trucks. The Buffalo Soldiers truck has been purchased by Hodges Logistics headquartered in Montgomery, Alabama, with two other large facilities in Dothan and Prattville, all operating under four million square feet.

The Ride of pride Committee has provided similar show trucks for a number of special events in and around Rowan County per request. Attendees enjoy taking pictures, photos and climbing up on the side rails to get better views of the technologically advanced cabins.

Kenneth L. (Kenny) Hardin is the founder of the Veterans Social Center in Salisbury and is a member of the National Association of Black Journalists.