by Mary Lou Jay
Joe Coleman, CEO and owner of CS Truck & Trailer, knows from experience how valuable fast, reliable, repair and maintenance services can be to a trucking company’s bottom line. “After owning two trucking companies, I understand that if a truck is not running, it is not making money. CS Truck & Trailer is set up to get people in and out faster than anyone, to do the job right the first time and to charge a fair price,” Coleman said.
Coleman moved from Nashville to Atlanta in 1979. In the 18 years before he founded CS Truck & Trailer, he established two new trucking companies, one for another owner and one in which he had one-quarter ownership. After selling his share of that company, he became a partner in an advertising agency during a one-year non-compete period. While he was successful there, “the whole time I was doing it, I was anxious to get back into trucking,” he admitted.
In 1992 Coleman established another trucking company and six years later started CS Truck & Trailer as well. “Seeing how much we had to spend to maintain equipment, I felt there was an opportunity to open a for-profit repair business,” he explained. “Atlanta is the distribution center of the Southeast, and every major trucking company has a presence here.” His original purpose in starting the service business had been to service trucks for both his own and outside customers. “But I learned quickly that you can’t serve two masters, so I went back to doing my own maintenance for my equipment and CS handled only outside business.”
In 2007, after CS had grown from eight to 30 employees, Coleman sold his share in the trucking company and decided to focus solely on the service business. Today his company offers truck and trailer maintenance and repair on a large scale, with 110 employees generating $18 million a year in revenues. CS used to occupy just one-third of Coleman’s 15.6 acres in Lithonia; today the business uses the entire property, which includes a 42,000-square-foot service facility.
“We can get a wrecked truck in and out faster than anyone in town. We push out 10 finished trucks a day, and we have doubled the size of our trailer shop, so we can now work on more than 20 trailers at a time,” Coleman says.
TECHNICIANS, TOOLS AND TRAINING
CS Truck & Trailer is unique because of the wide variety of services it can provide, Coleman said. “We can do anything and everything to meet the needs of any truck or truck repair.” The mechanical shop handles everything from alignments to sandblasting to rebuilding engines and fixing clutches, brakes, air conditioning and more. In addition, the company operates a large paint and body shop with five downdraft heated paint booths.
Since it’s not always easy for its trucking customers to get their vehicles to the shop, CS employs 10 drivers who pick up and deliver equipment within a 50-mile radius. “We also have 20 mobile service trucks that work on trucking company yards to keep trucks DOT compliant and in good repair,” Coleman added.
He wants CS to be the best in everything it does, so the company invests the money in technology and training that will help it achieve that objective. For example, all of its mobile service trucks have the diagnostic equipment necessary for onsite analysis when a truck isn’t running as it should. Its painters go to school to become certified in their trade, and the company’s paint providers are on site several times a week to assist with materials and equipment on challenging issues.
“One of my job is to give my people the tools they need to do their jobs,” Coleman added.
The goal is to always meet or exceed customers’ expectations. “We treat each job as if it is dependent on our next job and each customer as if they are the only one we have. We want them to feel as special as we feel about the opportunity to serve them,” he added.
It takes a skilled and dedicated workforce to deliver that level of service. CS currently employs 70 service technicians, and is always looking to recruit and retain good people. The company gets referrals from current employees because it has earned a reputation for treating people well and paying them well, according to Coleman. CS Truck & Trailer has been named one of Atlanta’s top 125 workplaces for two years in a row.
A few years ago, CS began partnering with a local vocational college. “We now have about 12 of their graduates in different phases of training and expertise,” said Coleman. “We are constantly training and promoting from within.” One vocational school grad who started in the trailer shop is currently being trained to become an estimator. Another is working in the mechanic shop, and a third in the parts department.
Through his various companies, Coleman has been an active member of GMTA for almost 40 years and currently serves on its board. “There is not a finer group of people than those in this industry. I am proud to be one of them and to call many my friends,” he said. He’s appreciative of the support that GMTA has show for the annual golf tournament that benefits CURE Childhood Cancer. That’s an important cause for Coleman, whose daughter was diagnosed at age two with leukemia and survived after three years of treatment. Because of his work with CURE, which bolstered the image of the trucking company and set an example for others, Coleman was the first recipient of GMTA’s Leadership Award in 2007.
In the coming years, Coleman looks forward to growing CS Truck & Trailer to meet the needs of the trucking industry. “Safety is first in the trucking industry, and we will be here to serve,” he said. “As long as you have human beings and mechanical equipment, there will be problems. We are here to help keep trucks on the road.”