For the holidays, NFIB member Mike Wilson, owner of motor carrier Whitewood Transport in Billings, Mont., has been entrusted with transporting particularly precious cargo: this year’s U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree. Cut from the Kootenai National Forest in Northwest Montana, the 53rd U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree is a 79-foot tall Englemann spruce, which will tour Montana and neighboring states before eventually heading east to Washington D.C., according to the Billings Gazette. Whitewood Transport is responsible for ensuring that the tree safely travels the country and arrives at its destination to be celebrated and admired in the nation’s capital.
“It’s a badge of honor,” said Wilson about being chosen to transport the People’s Tree. “I would never have imagined that we would ever get to do something like this.”
Whitewood Transport was chosen due to their quality reputation in the state’s trucking industry, according to Bruce Ward of Choose Outdoors, one of the nonprofits tasked with coordinating the tour for the U.S. Forest Service. Wilson has designated Larry Spiekermeier as the driver transporting this year’s tree because of his record of over 1.6 million accident-free miles.
“We have worked tirelessly to do things right, to have the right safety records, to provide the right customer service, to be good members of our community, to be good stewards of the road, to do things right,” said Wilson.
Spiekermeier will be driving the Kenworth T680 to transport the tree, and making 20 stops along the way in Montana, North Dakota, Minnesota, Missouri and Kentucky. The trailer will be decorated with holiday decal designs, along with the words, “Big Sky. Big Tree. Big Journey.” Community members have also donated 70 smaller trees and nine pallets of “Made in Montana” ornaments to accompany the People’s Tree in a separate truck.
Ceremonies and community events are being hosted in the towns along the Capitol Christmas Tree’s route by businesses and organizations. According to Wilson, children will be able to sign the sides of the trailer, and Spiekermeier will be passing out wristbands, trading cards, and other related gifts. Gov. Steve Bullock plans to attend the ceremony in Libby, Mont., on Day 2 of the tree’s journey to Washington, D.C.
“We have to use this as a catalyst to propel us into the future, and use that badge of honor to show people what we can do,” said Wilson. “Trucking is really the backbone of our country… We employ 7 million people through our industry. We are 5 percent of the GDP. Everything that you touch, everything that you eat, everything that you wear, at some point, came on a truck. I think that this is a great opportunity with this tree, for us to remind people about the value of what our industry provides every day.”