We sometimes take refrigerated transportation for granted, as if we always have been able to put fresh fruits and vegetables on our table — even when they aren't in season.
That was not the case in the 1940s when Cy Weller returned to Texas after serving in World War II. He recognized the need to transport perishable products extended distances and thought that somehow the refrigerators that helped deliver food to the troops overseas could be used to ship produce across the country. Weller began purchasing these refrigerators and installing them on trailers. By 1948, Weller had a trucking company called Frozen Food Express.
As demand for refrigerated transportation grew, so did the size of his fleet. And that growth generated a need for reliable transport refrigeration unit service.
That's where W&B Service Company came into being. Weller hired the most knowledgeable refrigeration expert he could find — Walter Brooks. The two men formed W&B in 1952 to provide transport refrigeration service. That same year, W&B became the first Transicold dealer in the United States.
Today W&B has 17 locations in Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Louisiana — including a new flagship location in the Dallas suburb of Duncanville.
Last year was an eventful one for W&B. After servicing refrigeration units throughout its existence, the company became a Hyundai trailer dealer in March. W&B also celebrated its 60th year in business and opened its new facility in Duncanville.
The company moved to the suburbs after years of operating in the shadows of downtown Dallas.
“Dallas' trucking service market is re-locating out of the downtown area,” says Mark Eaton, director of refrigeration operations. “John Chisolm, our owner and CEO, decided to relocate here — to an area in the southern quadrant of Dallas, where the industry is moving. The City of Duncanville has been very supportive of our move here and very cooperative.”
Updated work environment
Eaton said the company had several objectives in designing its new headquarters.
“Trailers and refrigeration units have changed a lot since we first moved into our Dallas shop,” Eaton says. “We wanted a more modernized work environment and more space to enable us to keep up with our expanded workload.”
Those expectations translated into a shop that is equipped with:
Support for working on heavy bodies.
Full overhang that can accommodate a 53-ft trailer.
Air and electrical outlets at every bay.
Energy efficient lighting.
Electric doors. “This makes our employee more productive and our shop an easier place to work,” Eaton says.
The ability to expand in the future.
One of the striking things about the building is the overhang that extends out from the shop. The overhang provides technicians with a roof over their heads — and over the entire length of 53-ft trailers.
“It really helps us meet the peak demand that refrigerated service experiences in the summer,” says Tracey Maynor, president and chief operating officer. “Our goal is to get our customers in and out as quickly as possible. When our shop is full, customers can back their trailers in under the canopy. We roll out our tools and get them back on the road quickly and without affecting the jobs already in the shop.”
What they do there
The new facility is designed for sales and installation of an array of products, including Carrier Transicold refrigeration units for trucks and trailers, auxiliary power units, Hyundai Translead trailers, Hercules dry-freight and refrigerated van bodies, along with truck, trailer, and refrigeration unit service. The company repairs all brands of trailers and truck bodies.
The Duncanville location is one of 17 that W&B operates. Most are in Texas, including Fort Worth, Houston, San Antonio, Bryan, Longview, Harlingen, Lufkin, Laredo, McAllen, Sulphur Springs, Temple, and Texarkana, in addition to the new location in Duncanville. The company also has facilities in Lowell-Springdale and Pottsville, Arkansas; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; and Shreveport, Louisiana.
“Each of our branches has its own responsibilities,” Eaton says. “We provide them with the facilities and the equipment they need.”
That includes a fleet of service trucks. Some are based at the locations where W&B operates a shop, but the company also extends its reach to its service customers by assigning others trucks throughout its four-state trade area. As an example, 150 miles of Interstate 35 separate the W&B shops in San Antonio and Temple. To help fill the gap, the company has a mobile service operation in Austin — halfway between the two locations. The same holds true in places such as Corpus Christi, a city of more than 300,000 people located between the W&B shops in Houston and the Rio Grande Valley.
“We need to be close to our customers,” Eaton says. “And we need to be available 24/7. That's mandatory in the reefer business. You can't just be available when it's convenient to you because it's never convenient when a truck breaks down.”
W&B operates a fleet of 93 trucks companywide. Some of the trucks specialize in trailer repair. Others service refrigeration units and APUs.
Training the techs
With a fleet of 93 service trucks and 17 shops, training technicians has to be a major challenge.
“About a third of our service trucks handle truck repair, and two thirds specialize in refrigeration unit repair,” Maynor says. “But most of our guys do a little bit of everything. Our reefer technicians are qualified to do basic truck repairs, and the same is true for the people who mostly do truck repairs.”
W&B has addressed that issue in part by developing its own online training system. Subjects include business ethics, company policies, and basic safety practices such as the proper way to lift a load. A separate module on the fine art of driving a truck will be added in the near future.
“It's something that's coming from our insurance company,” Maynor says. “It's not anything that our insurance company is forcing on us — we found out that it's available, and we are taking advantage of it.”
For the refrigeration mechanics, the training is much more intense — a two-week course that Carrier conducts. To round out the training, an array of vendors helps W&B technicians remain up to date on general truck and trailer repair procedures.
“We are constantly having vendors in to train us on repairing and maintaining their products,” Maynor says.
W&B recently added Hyundai trailers to its product mix.
“We had sold trailers earlier, but only for specific accounts, and without anyone dedicated to trailer sales,” Maynor says. “But we decided to take on Hyundai and hire four sales guys who aren't allowed to sell anything but trailers. The result has been well beyond our expectations.”
Hyundai presented sales awards in August. After representing the trailer manufacturer for only six months, W&B won one of the five awards that were presented.
Winning awards is nothing new, though, for W&B.
“We have won Carrier's prestigious dealer of the year award more times than any other dealer,” Maynor says.