Mobile repair businesses co-op to expand services, coverage

Feb. 1, 2009
Operating a one-man mobile transport refrigeration business specializing in 24-hour service is considerably challenging. Resources are limited, it requires

Operating a one-man mobile transport refrigeration business specializing in 24-hour service is considerably challenging. Resources are limited, it requires a huge investment in parts, tools, and equipment, and one person can accomplish only so much work in a day.

Productivity often is reduced when a service call is far away, because driving eats up time that could be better used doing billable work. Yet, no company wants to turn away business.

Three small 24-hour mobile transport refrigeration repair services in northeast Georgia have devised a solution for each one to be more effective, and productive, with their time. Those companies are McClay's Transport Refrigeration, Athens, owner Ron McCurry; Thermo Tech 2000 Transport Refrigeration Services, Cleveland, owner Bob Barela; and TRW Transport Refrigeration, Comer, owner Robert W Wampole III.

“We all were facing the same problems,” says Wampole. “One day when we were together talking shop, we decided we'd join forces.”

“We formed a cooperative type arrangement to help one another when one of us is too busy to handle a call, or one of us is closer to the location of the service call, or one of us has a needed part,” Barela adds.

“It made perfect sense,” continues McCurry. “We've been friends for a long time, and we were helping one another on occasion anyway. I don't know why we didn't formalize our pact sooner.”

Through their arrangement, rather than turn away business, they refer service calls to one another. They try to keep their road service work to a manageable 75-mile radius. “Productivity is effectiveness and efficiency,” observes Barela.

The three experienced transport refrigeration technicians have known each other for more than 10 years. They met while working as certified transport refrigeration technicians at Carrier Transicold and Thermo King dealerships in Atlanta.

Early start

At a young age, Wampole began helping his father, a refrigeration technician. He then joined the United States Marine Corp where he studied, what else — refrigeration. Leaving the Corp in 1997 after seven years, he landed a job in transport refrigeration.

In 2007 Wampole decided to start a business and formed TRW Transport Refrigeration.

McCurry, along with his wife, started his company, McClay's Transport Refrigeration, about 11 years ago. The company's name comes from a combination of his last name and his wife's maiden name, Lay.

With a father in trucking, McCurry grew up around trucks. His first job in trucking was in tire service. He then got into truck repair before moving into transport refrigeration.

McCurry left his transport refrigeration technician job when he had the opportunity to start an automotive repair shop. He soon added road service and then truck repair. He got into transport refrigeration repair when an opportunity came along to buy a repair shop that was going out of business.

After two years, McCurry and his wife, Sharon, sold the repair shop and became a mobile truck services operation, with a focus on transport refrigeration.

Barela, the veteran of the three with 28 years of experience working on transport refrigeration equipment, also had a father in trucking. His dad worked for Consolidated Freightways. Barela got a job there working on trucks. He then went to work for Coors Brewing in the vehicle maintenance department.

Barela had planned to become a commercial artist, graduating college with a degree in commercial design. However, not finding a commercial artist job that paid him enough to support two children, Barela returned to work for Coors. He soon enrolled in school for truck mechanics and eventually got into transport refrigeration.

Barela began his business, Thermo Tech 2000, in 1998 in Phoenix, Arizona. He moved it to Georgia in 2000.

Being entrepreneurs is nothing new to Barela, McCurry, and Wampole. “We all had our businesses when we were young,” Wampole says. “We mowed lawns, shoveled snow, had paper routes, and did those sorts of things to make money,” adds Barela.

“I started a small engine repair business when I was 14,” notes McCurry.

Managed growth

The toughest challenge the three faced in starting their 24-hour mobile transport refrigeration businesses was finding customers. “We passed out fliers and business cards at truckstops, warehouses, distribution centers, fueling locations, and other places where truckers work,” Wampole says. “And we still do.”

“We also began calling companies and letting them know about our businesses and services,” Barela says.

In addition, McCurry says, “we advertised in telephone directories and have worked to get listed in repair directories.”

The services provided by McClay's Transport Refrigeration, Thermo Tech, and TRW Transport Refrigeration include mobile repair service on any make and model truck and trailer refrigeration unit and auxiliary power unit, and minor truck and trailer repair.

Thermo Tech also works on cold plate refrigeration systems. McClay's does 24-hour mobile truck and trailer repairs and tire service, and recently added incident response services for cleaning up truck accidents.

All of the companies are bonded, and the three owners stay current on training, products and developments, and services techniques.

“We try to distinguish ourselves from the competition by providing superior service with more personal attention in a very timely manner,” says Wampole.

“Our main goal is to help truckers and fleets by solving their problems and getting trucks back on the road as fast as possible,” Barela says. “The better we do this, the more our reputation grows.”

“I believe that doing good deeds and helping others not only makes a person feel good, but good things will come back to you,” McCurry remarks.

About the Author

David Kolman

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