Dave Bryant feels he has a lot in common with the well used semi-trailer truck he has been putting back together one piece at a time.

Bryant of Monmouth found the 1994 Kenworth resting in a salvage yard in Augusta with more than one million miles on it. 

Both the truck, called a tractor, and Bryant are disabled.

“Me and this truck have a lot in common. We have been disposed of and put out to pasture,” the former truck driver said.

Nerve damage in Bryant’s legs prevent him from driving for extended periods. “Physically, I cannot drive a truck anymore,” the 44-year-old Bryant said.

“I hate it. I despise it,” Bryant said about not being able to drive. “I was raised to work.”

Bryant bought his first truck from his father and took over his dad’s trucking company when he was 25 years old.  

“Dad drove through my childhood,” Bryant said. “Trucks are my earliest memories.”

A birth defect in Bryant’s spine that he did not detect until late in life has made driving painful. “In 1998, my neurologist told me to stop driving,” Bryant said. “So I did what every good truck driver does and went out and bought a new truck.

“My dad always said, you can always tell a truck driver but you can’t tell him much,” he said.

Bryant, a father of five, has given up on his dream of getting back in the driver’s seat but he has not given up on semis. “I cannot shuck trucks,” he said. “It’s all I have ever wanted to do.”

Instead of driving a truck, Bryant is building one. “I can’t sit around and wait until things get better. I have to be proactive,” he said. “I can’t live the life that I want. I have to live the life that I got.”

After finding the Kenworth studio sleeper in the scrap yard, Bryant did some research and discovered that the tractor was a one-of-a-kind “Paradise on Wheels,” a truck that Kenworth gave away to a Maine driver during a promotion.

Bryant purchased the truck piece by piece until he had the entire tractor stuffed into his garage. 

“I bartered. I traded. I sold to get that truck,” Bryant said. “I traded motorcycle parts. I fixed up a Corvette and sold that.

“This thing began with a pile of motorcycle parts and no money,” he said.

Bryant pulled the frame and replaced it with a chassis from small transport bus, a medium duty frame that is a lot lighter. “It’s the same chassis as a UPS truck,” Bryant said. He also replaced the engine, saving even more weight. 

The changes will allow the truck to be driven by an operator with a Class C license, a basic license for operation of passenger cars and light trucks. Before the changes, the tractor required a driver with a Class A commercial license.

“It’ll be like driving a motor home,” Bryant said. 

Originally, the truck was intended to put Bryant “back in the seat.” But his health problems won’t allow that to happen. “After the last surgery, I lost a lot. To drive this thing day in and day out is not going to happen.”

Bryant’s focus is now to put out a prototype truck that can be driven by an operator with a Class C license.

“This is something that can open the doors for a lot of people,” Bryant said. “There is a market for these.

“It’s basically a modified, oversized, one-ton pickup. That will do more than a one-ton,” he said. 

He envisions a market for race car teams, horse farms and retirees with motor homes. 

Bryant and his family have done as much as they can financially to finish his prototype. “If this is ever going to fly, we need a lot of help,” Bryant said.

He started a social media campaign called “Back in the Seat,” or B.I.T.S., to help find financial backing. He estimates he needs about $30,000 to get the truck on the road and has raised about $500 so far. 

Bryant posts video clips and updates on his “Paradise on Wheels” Facebook page to keep donors updated. “The money is going towards this truck and I’m gonna prove it to you,” Bryant said.

Bryant said he has people from 14 countries following his progress, many of them former truckers who can no longer pass the Department of Transportation physical required of a commercial Class A operator.

“This could change the lives of a lot of people,” Bryant said. 

“I have to find a way to make it work for me,” he said. “I want to work. This is my way to get back in the seat.”

Bryant’s 3-year-old grandson, Emmett, will often sit in the passenger seat and watch Bryant work on his semi-truck.

“If this fails, at least I will be able to look at that little boy and say I tried. I did not just lay down and die,” Bryant said. 

Follow Bryant’s progress at http://paradiseonwheelsbits.wix.com/home

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