By Tim McEntire
Looking back into the logging history of Northwest Montana, there are many things that have changed. Ownership of mills and industrial timberlands continue to shift as time goes by and the big logging companies consisting of hundreds of men are all of but a thing of the past but logs continue to roll down the highway. One thing that continues to be a constant is some of them are on the familiar blue and white color scheme of John Jump Trucking.
John Alden Jump was born on September 11th, 1925. He was raised in the small town of Peach, Washington where he was the oldest of nine children. The family owned and operated a large fruit ranch which included the Big Bend Trucking company to get their crop to market. When dams started being built on the Columbia River, the families fruit orchards were flooded. The family moved to Spokane and continued the trucking company and eventually moved operations to Ellensburg. John got his start driving for the family until he branched out on his own driving for other outfits hauling everything from livestock to road oil. John’s trucking career was sidelined during WWII as he joined the U.S. Navy to support the war effort.
During one trip through Northwest Montana, John took a particular liking to the area. He moved to the Flathead Valley and took a job with Bill Hathaway who owned a local trucking company. John mainly drove tanker trucks back and forth to Havre tackling Hwy 2 and Marias Pass which was a windier and much more difficult road in the 50’s. In the mid 50’s, Royal Logging, which was the company logging outfit for Plum Creek Timber, was in desperate need of log trucks. Seeing a need he thought he could fill, John purchased a 1956 Diamond T log truck and formed John Jump Trucking, Inc with his newly married wife Darlene.
As Royal Logging grew, so did the need for trucks. John seized the opportunity and eventually grew his company to seventeen log trucks and a self-loader. In the breakup season of 1987, Plum Creek dissolved Royal Logging. Short notice was given to the shut down and the sell of Royal’s logging equipment. Out of this shake up, many smaller “gypo” loggers were born out of the large company logging crews. John was able to obtain the hauls of many of these newly formed logging operations and kept the trucks rolling. John diversified during this time by buying a couple of log loaders and also began working with helicopter logging operations.
Over the years, John and Darlene welcomed four children into their lives, (Kevin, Kelley, Kristy and Kimberly). The oldest and only boy, Kevin began working in the shop while in high school. In 1975, Kevin went to work for Royal Logging running skid cat. Kevin’s time on a dozer was sidestepped in 1976 due to getting hit by a sweeper and breaking his neck. After his recovery, it was not recommended to go back to operating cats. Still wanting to be in the woods, Kevin started bumping knots for many experienced long boom, (cable crane), loader operators. This spurred his interest to run cable loaders and began his lifelong passion of loading logs.
In 1984, Kevin came back to the familiarly of the blue and white Kenworths and started hauling and loading for John. Kevin continued to work with the family company until he saw an opportunity to be his own boss in 1991. Kevin purchased a truck and a few years later a log loader.
John worked passionately at his business being at the shop every day and occasionally jumping in a truck when it was needed. John’s trucks were a common sight in the woods and delivering logs to mills in Northwest Montana and Northern Idaho. He ran the business every day until a few short weeks before his death on January 1st, 1997. He spent his final days at the beloved family’s Truman Creek home surrounded by family. He is remembered as a tough, but genuinely concerned and loving man that served 30 years at the Evergreen Volunteer Fire Department.
Death is not often planned for and as happens in this industry, work continued at John Jump Trucking. Darlene took over full ownership and Kevin took over operations as President. Kevin kept the fleet of trucks rolling, diversifying the company farther by adding lowboying and flatbed services to the company profile. Kevin expanded his service to helicopter operations, following them in four northwestern states.
After a lifetime of watching brush piles go up in smoke, Kevin always wanted to harness all that wasted energy. In the spring of 2006, as the need for boiler fuel at Smurfit-Stone increased and lots of research on how to fill that need, Kevin purchased an existing “in-woods” grinding operation. By diversifying both the operations of John Jump Trucking, Inc. and his personal business, Kevin expanded opportunities by processing and hauling previously unmarketable forest materials such as unused logging slash and fuel reduction materials. These materials were usually burned, but now were being utilized by the grinding operation. One of the major hurdles of in the woods grinding is that most forest roads were not built with a chip van trailer in mind. Kevin got around this by making an assortment of specialized equipment to get to the residues. Everything from a Timberjack log forwarder fitted with a high-volume box to high- volume dump trucks have been converted to help the operation. The closing of Smurfit-Stone in 2010 all but killed the market for boiler fuel in Montana. But since the decade of its closing, Jump Trucking still is grinding residues, most of which find their way into Stoltze Land & Lumber’s 2 ½ megawatt co-generation plant.
In 2008, Kevin’s Mom decided to sell the company to him. Behind every good logger there usually is a wife working with him. This is the case with Kevin as his wife Carol is a big of a part of the company. Kevin and Carol’s children have become ingrained in the business also. Daughter Voni has been secretary and office manager since 2002. Son Casey has been a major part of the company for 20 years and has handled the grinding operation since conception.
In the winter of 2019 due to the lack of qualified drivers, Kevin found himself back behind the seat of a log truck hauling out of Libby. A van traveling in the opposite direction crossed the center line and smashed into the left front of Kevin’s truck bending the logger bumper into the front steering tire. As a result of the near head on wreck, the collision caused Kevin to smash his head resulting in a severe concussion and other injuries. Kevin has been battling the effects of the crash since then and to date cannot get back behind the wheel of a log truck. Casey, with the help of much valued employees, immediately stepped up and has taken over daily operations and his wife Sarah is working with Voni to learn the other side of the business.
An article about the Jumps cannot be complete without the mention of the tireless work Kevin has done fighting for the industry. At a drop of a hat, Kevin will be in Helena testifying on behalf of the industry. If there is an issue within the log truck industry, Kevin is usually one of the first to help with it. He has served as an MLA chapter director of the Flathead and is a long-time member of Hoo-Hoo International Club #187.
The blue and white Kenworths with the iconic Jump Trucking badge on the door have been a part of the local industry for 63 years. There are not very many loader operators out there that haven’t put a load on one of these trucks and now with the third generation taking over, Jump Trucking timber roots continue to grow.