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Butler takes top awards

Ever since his trucking company opened in 1965, Andalusia's Rhett Butler has made a name for himself through his family-owned business and his breathtaking show trucks, of course with distinctive "Gone with the Wind" imagery, that have captured several awards.

Recently Rhett Butler Trucking, Inc. racked up few more awards as it attended the International Truck Show, June 28-July 1 in Las Vegas. The company introduced its latest show truck during the competition.

During the show, the company, Inc captured several honors, including:

Best of show.

People's choice.

First Place Company Truck Combo.

First Place Paint and Mural.

First Place Original Equipment Manufacture Sleeper.

Third Place in Engine.

Attending the show from Rhett Butler Trucking were Butler, who is CEO of the company, Larry Weaver (Show Truck Promotion Manager), Lester Brooks and Roger Jernigan.

The latest show truck, a combination 2001 Kenworth T2000 and 1999 Utility 53-foot van, is equipped with many of the latest safety features, including a Bendix night vision camera, drowsy drift monitor, an Eaton Vorad Collision warning system and a self-diagnostic system as well as other features such as a flat-screen television and an on-board phone system which connects to the Internet. The truck is the highest technology working truck in U.S. today, said Butler.

Weaver, who has worked for Butler Trucking for eight years, said as vendors continue to develop new technology, said the company tries to always stay on top of the newest technological innovations.

The company is participating in 11 shows this year

The artistry for all of the show trucks is provided by Wes Harding of Dothan.

The truck, titled "Frankly, M'Dear," is yet another showcase item for the nationwide carrier specializing in the freight transportation of finished products within the continental U.S. and Canada. Butler said the company now has 122

trucks.

The company also has a liquid tank division which runs the eastern half of the nation, out of three different terminals and a dry bulk division out of Mobile.

Weaver said the process of preparing a show truck for a competition is a detailed one.

"We wash (the trucks) and wax them and clean the engine and compartment and the undercarriage," said Weaver. "We clean the interior and bottom side of the trailer and we clean the trailer sides. We give it what you call a good spit and shine."

And while the company's actual show trucks have come up big at various truck shows, Weaver said miniature models of the trucks have also been big hits with "Gone with the Wind" fans, and these are sold for $75 each.

"There has been an awesome response from Gone with the Wind collectors (about the models)," said Weaver. "(The miniature models) are solid die casts and they are collector's items, and there have only 500 distributed in the United States, Canada and Australia.

Butler said the day-to-day activities of his business and the showcasing of his trucks never becomes old hat.

"(His business) is a lot of hard work, but it is also a lot of fun," said Butler. "I get to meet thousands of people at a show and you get to meet a lot of friends and I get a lot of e-mails and letters.

He said the success of his company would not have been possible without the teamwork of all of his staff members, which includes shop personnel, administrative staff and others.

"It is a team effort by all means," said Butler.

Butler said while the truck shows are always fun, he said they are also serious business.

"We are real competitive," said Butler. "Of course there are a lot of nice trucks and real quality trucks out there. You make a lot of nice friends, but they are your competitors. There are usually between 100

to 135

trucks or so at the shows. We may not win best of show, but there are no losers because (all of the trucks in competition) are beautiful trucks."

Butler also added that the success of his trucks would not have been possible without his numerous vendors.

He admits his name has mainly served as an advantage in promoting his company.

"We do (capitalize on his name) and we have basically from day one," said Butler. "Of course in the past, some operators wouldn't want to put a call through because (of his name), but we have a good time with it. It is a hard name to forget."