It is a disconcerting time in our world right now. The Coronavirus has now affected not only the world’s health, but the financial markets, the supply chain, travel, and more recently, even most people’s daily routines. Cancellations and postponements are happening on a daily basis, leaving many of us wondering what to do about upcoming plans. Conflicting reports from government officials only add to the confusion. People are reacting to this uncertainty in various ways, from a renewed focus on proper hand washing techniques to hoarding toilet paper. Just before the concern started to grow here in the US, I embarked on a trip to Georgia and Florida.
I arrived in Albany, Georgia on Sunday evening. Jim Smith from Interstate NationaLease met me at the hotel. Jim had planned for us to join Adam Newman for dinner, but as most of the restaurants in Albany are closed on Sunday evenings, they had devised a contingency plan. The Taylor family, who own Interstate NationaLease, also own some farming and hunting land just outside of Albany. Adam was already at the Lodge on the property preparing dinner for the three of us. The evening was still warm, so we sat outside on the front porch and chatted until the sun went down and it got a bit chilly. The dinner Adam prepared was fantastic, and the relaxed, cozy atmosphere was an unexpected treat. Jim and I pitched in to help Adam clean up after dinner before heading back to the hotel for the night.
The next morning, I met with the whole team at Interstate NationaLease to discuss their business and how NationaLease can continue to support them as we have for over 50 years. Fred Taylor started his first truck operation, Georgia Mack Sales, in 1959 with $95 in capital and a $3,750 loan. As customers began to inquire about leasing, Fred entered the full service truck leasing industry and created Interstate Truck Leasing. In 1966, Interstate Truck Leasing became a NationaLease member. Today, Interstate NationaLease is the largest division under the family operated Fred Taylor Company, and has become one of Georgia’s largest privately held transportation companies. They currently have 16 locations throughout the southwest. Interstate NationaLease exemplifies the values of NationaLease and service to fellow NationaLease members as demonstrated by their earning of the Leadership Circle Award nearly every year since its inception. After our meeting at the corporate office, Jim took me down the street to visit the shop. Not surprisingly, the techs were hard at work repairing and maintaining trucks as we walked through. I also had a chance to congratulate Mark Minton on his recent Masters Club recognition while we were there.
Leaving Albany, I headed south toward Tallahassee–well, actually Midway, Florida—to meet with Brad Prior at Four Star Leasing, LLC, a NationaLease Member. Since my last visit to Four Star, they had built a brand new building for their Tallahassee operations, so I was happy to get a full tour. The techs were hard at work in the state-of-the-art shop facilities. They have a very comfortable customer lounge for the drivers who are waiting on their trucks, and even have a training room, which they built to assist the local technical college with technician training. Four Star Leasing got its start in 2000, when Jerry Kocan purchased two Freightliner dealerships and consolidated them, then rapidly expanded the locations to include seven locations in Alabama, Georgia, and Florida. They became a NationaLease member in 2006 to offer the additional lease and rental services to their customers. Four Star is proud of its ability to attract, hire and retain great employees and people. Due to a high retention rate, as well as the commitment to invest in the employees, Four Star has experienced a consistent level of knowledge, expertise and support at each location. It was great to catch up with Brad and learn about all they are doing to support their customers.
From Tallahassee I drove east to Jacksonville. It had been a long day of driving, so I had a quick dinner in the hotel and turned in for the night. The next morning I headed over to Tom Nehl Truck Leasing, Inc., a NationaLease Member. After stopping at the main office to chat with Steve Bacalis and Bret Catto, Bret and I drove the short distance over to their new leasing facility. The Tom Nehl Truck Company started in 1958 when Tom Nehl started it as a Chevy truck dealership. Steve Bacalis purchased the business and took over the reins when Tom retired in 1989. In 2012, they became a member of NationaLease. At the new facility, I met with Bret and Jeff Fazan, Jamie Smith, and Wilson Livingston. They gave me a tour of their new facility, and shared their plans for growth with the addition of Wilson to the team. We talked about the ways NationaLease can support them, including our purchasing programs, our Reciprocal Service network, and our National Account team.
Today trucks, drivers, and technicians are in the spotlight as they provide critical functions in keeping the goods we all need for survival moving across the nation’s highways. This is well-deserved recognition for a group of people and companies who have been quietly providing these services for years. Without trucks, their drivers, and the people who keep the trucks in good repair, none of us would have any of the goods we use on a daily basis. I’m proud to be associated with these wonderful people, even in my small way. Our NationaLease members are crucial in the efforts to keep North America healthy and safe.
They have weathered uncertainty and change many times over the past seventy-six years, and I’m confident will do so again. As we all manage through these tough times together, please stay healthy and safe, and if you do happen to encounter a truck driver or technician, please express your gratitude. They deserve it, now more than ever.