There comes a point when most truck drivers pull to the side of the road and hop off their truck for the last time.
Dennis Hilker hasn’t reached that point yet.
He began driving truck in 1959, and started his own trucking company in 1980.
Born in October 1940, Hilker was newly married at 19 years old when he started driving a gas truck for the local cooperative. Hilker then went to work for Kampo Transport in Neenah, pulling a gas tanker and later was on a team milk run to Florida.
When the company sold, he tried a different kind of trucking. He pulled step-deck and oversize loads throughout the U.S. and Canada for Haupt Contract Carriers out of Wausau. Later he hauled potatoes, produce, and charcoal for HF Dushek out of Waupaca.
Hilker bought his first truck in 1973 — a 1972 International cabover. Throughout the 1970s he had several trucks leased to such companies as Key Line Freight, Badger Freightways, Bird Trucking, Overland Express, Foreway Express, and Clairmont Transfers. In 1976, Hilker bought his first Freightliner, a relationship that has endured since.
Hilker began hauling for Hillshire Farms and Kroger in 1980. Both companies remain loyal customers.
“Our drivers have hauled countless miles for Hillshire, and we’ve got an outstanding relationship with them,” said Brian Hilker.
Hilker Trucking today operates about 20 tractors and about 40 refrigerated trailers from Wisconsin to the Midwest and South regions.
His wife, Carol, and their four sons – Brian, Steve, Bob, and Tom – also work in the company. So does daughter-in-law Lori, in dispatch, and to this day learns a little more from her mother-in-law.
Hilker’s son, Brian, nominated him for the Antique Truck Historical Society (ATHS) Golden Achievement Award. The whole family was on hand when the award was presented at the national convention in Springfield Missouri, in May 2014. Dennis brought his two classic Freightliner show trucks to the convention as well. The first is a 1972 International cabover, the other a 1994 classic Freightliner.
An ATHS Southern Wisconsin Chapter member, Hilker enjoys taking his 1982 Freightliner cabover and 1994 classic Freightliner to shows. With a gift for gab and a love of people, Hilker knows many people he calls friends.