by Sean Kilcarr
Congratulations to Buddy’s Wrecker Service Inc.Union City, Tennessee!
While flamboyance might work in Hollywood, it’s certainly not a trait that will help a tow truck operator gain much traction with customers.
Yet Steve Sedberry feels that while hard work, determination, and a willingness to venture out into the dead of night or in bad weather remain the stock in trade for tow truck companies, standing out from the crowd doesn’t hurt.
“Very few companies out here operate Navistar International trucks,” he says. “So right there I found a way to look different from everyone else.”
Sedberry is also partial to International models for another, more heartfelt reason—his father, John Morgan “Buddy” Sedberry Jr., loved them dearly. In December 2001, shortly after his dad passed away, Steve Sedberry dedicated a 1997 International model equipped with a Century bed in his father’s honor.
Still, Sedberry wanted to put together a truck he could make a statement with—and that opportunity arose in 2012. Through his dealership Tri-State International, he found a 2010 LoneStar tractor model that was coming up for sale in Arizona.
The unique front end of the LoneStar appealed to Sedberry, so he flew out to Arizona to retrieve it—driving the then all-white tractor back to Tennessee so it could be turned into a monster tow truck.
“It took about 9 months for us to convert it into a tow truck, with three of those months spent by me just thinking about what body style I wanted as well as how the colors should look,” Sedberry says.
Tri-State had to stretch out the tractor’s frame and add a tag axle, while Crouch’s Wrecker Sales developed a uniquely shaped body for the vehicle. A burgundy and white paint scheme topped off with an artistically shaped “cow catcher” for the front end completed the look for the truck dubbed “W-20” in honor of it being the 20th wrecker in Buddy’s fleet.
The one-of-a-kind W-20 was the icing on the cake for the Sedberry family business, which began in 1963. Originally named Buddy’s Esso, the shop was a full-service station that focused on selling fuel and vehicle maintenance work.
“We had an old 1965 Ford as a ‘pusher truck’ to get vehicles in and out of the service bay, but no true wrecker,” Sedberry says.
That all changed when he joined his dad in the family trade in 1973. For just $800, Buddy purchased a used wrecker truck. By 1977, the family changed the company’s name to Buddy’s Wrecker Service to reflect its growing full-time focus on the tow truck business.
In 1978, the firm purchased the first and only hydraulic wrecker in Southeast Kentucky and Northwest Tennessee. By 1979, the company purchased a 1976 Holmes 750 25-ton mechanical wrecker crane mounted on a Kenworth tractor and began work in the heavy-duty wrecker business.
Two decades later, the company relocated to a 5,000-sq.-ft. building on three acres along the local Highway 51 bypass.
By 2007, Buddy’s Wrecker had expanded its garage and added a repair facility. Today, the company offers heavy towing, heavy-duty recovery, mobile crane service, and auto towing and roadside assistance in Northwest Tennessee, Southwest Kentucky, Southeast Missouri and Southwest Illinois. It also operates a full-service auto repair facility servicing customers in Union City and Obion County, TN.
And W-20 is just helping spread the word that much further, Sedberry says.
“It hadn’t gone 15 mi. up the highway after it left Tri-State for the first time to come to our location when I started getting calls about it,” he explains. “It’s a great advertising piece for us when it goes up and down the road.”
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