Dealer Profile: Freightliner Of Knoxville
Buddie Carroll took the "long way there" on his way to becoming the owner of one of the nation's most successful truck dealerships, but it's been an interesting journey.
A second-generation truck driver, Carroll learned the business from his father while growing up in Montgomery, AL. His first job was driving a truck, but he decided to pursue his interests in math and science at college.
He graduated from the University of Alabama with an engineering degree and earned a master's in business administration from Auburn University. Carroll worked for a NASA subcontractor and also was a partner in an engineering firm when he realized his father needed help running his trucking business.
After taking over the trucking company in 1971, Carroll took the company out of the trucking business and focused on sales. After operating Carroll Kenworth Trucking Sales until 1982, he sold the company and entered into business with his cousin, Arland Carroll, branching out into construction and asphalt.
It was in 1990 that Buddie Carroll decided to re-enter truck sales and moved to Knoxville, TN. "Times were better then, and I had an affinity for trucks and the industry," he explains. He continued his partnership with his cousin in starting the Freightliner of Knoxville dealership, and they continue to be close after buying each other out. "We are more like brothers, really," Carroll states.
Buddie Carroll says the trucking business has been very good to him. "I believe business exists for the purpose of creating jobs and providing a return on investments. This just happens to be one business that I know a lot about and have been able to be successful in."
With sons Patrick and Dean both working in various areas of family businesses, Carroll says, "I am so fortunate to have a family that can work together and work together well."
THE BUSINESS OF TRUCK SALES
"The trucking business is a 24-hour-a-day operation. The demands of the industry force trucking and expediting to operate that way, and we are open to assist truckers in keeping their commitments."
That statement of customer support comes from Patrick Carroll, vice president of sales at Freightliner of Knoxville. It's representative of this dealer's philosophy of service to the trucking and expediting community.
Founded by owner and president Buddie Carroll in 1990, Freightliner of Knoxville enjoys a regional sales reputation, selling to individuals and companies throughout the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic states and making it East Tennessee's largest full-line dealer. Sales are estimated at $100 million dollars annually.
This dealership's lineup of equipment includes Class 8 tractors, business-class trucks and the Freightliner Sprinter.
This large cargo van type vehicle has been the market leader for the last five years in Europe, but was only introduced into the US market last year, with Freightliner of Knoxville being one of the first US dealers to offer this product.
Other truck types represented at the dealership include dump trucks, vocational-type trucks and Thomas built buses which are sold through Emerald Specialty Vehicles, one of their related businesses.
"Commercial products are a changing field. It is based on the changing nature of the commercial vehicle business," says Patrick Carroll. "This is a different environment than in the consumer market. There are different needs for different trucks, and there are very few truly custom-truck builders."
"Freightliner is a market leader and an innovator in products, marketing and ideas. Knoxville is a market leader, offering customer support, which reflects our personal efforts on a customer's behalf."
"The guy who pulls a four-horse trailer or a hot rod on the weekends, for example, gets tired of pulling a trailer up Jellico Mountain at 35 mph based on what he can get somewhere else," explains Gary Conleay, general sales manager. "People are continuing to want things that automotive industry does not provide, but Freightliner is working to fill those needs."
"Freightliner is a custom-truck builder," Carroll confirms. Just about any way you want it built, it can be done."
EXPEDITING TRUCKS A SPECIALTY
Echoing those thoughts about personalized equipment is Dan Tilley, Freightliner of Knoxville's Expediting Truck Specialist. "I have customers who only require a "bare bones" truck, while others want every available option included. Fortunately, we're able to service both ends of the spectrum, and at a price which the customer happy with."
Tilley, who comes from a background in expediting - both on the road and as an expediting company owner - says he has an appreciation for what the people in the just-in-time freight business experience on a daily basis:
"Expediting can be summed up in the phrase, 'hurry up and wait.' A race to the pickup and then the delivery, followed by waiting for hours, even days at times, for the next load.
"I can well understand that a team in a Class 7 expediting truck quite often will stay on the road just as long as their cousins in the Class 8 tractor-trailers and that they need and desire all the creature comforts that the big trucks enjoy."
Tilley has been with Freightliner of Knoxville a little over a year now and laughingly talks about the time period he chose to enter truck sales: "I had to pick one of the worst truck sales cycles to get into this business!
"I say that somewhat humorously, because it hasn't been bad at all. In fact, my expediting customers have been calling; there are a number of them interested in replacement trucks and many are upgrading."
Freightliner of Knoxville was one of the first heavy duty truck dealers to begin designing and building expediting-specific trucks for the emergency freight owner/operators. The dealership features Class 7 and Class 8 trucks, from the class leader FL 70 to the Columbia - the purpose-built Century Class platform with integral condo sleeper.
For the custom ordered truck, Tilley features sleepers from Bentz Custom Products - one of the most respected manufacturers in the business.
Knoxville was one of the very first dealers in the US to offer the new Freightliner Sprinter - the Class 2-3 cargo van which has been the European market leader for the last 5 years.
"There's been a tremendous amount of interest in the Sprinter," says Tilley. "I've delivered a number of these trucks already, and I've been taking orders for them on a regular basis. We offered Sprinter test drives at the Expedite Expo last August, and we had those trucks running non-stop the whole day of the show! These vans have really caught the attention of the expediting and vocational-truck world."
BRAND NEW FACILITY
Freightliner of Knoxville has been an East Knoxville staple providing new and used truck sales and 24 hour-a-day, 7-days-a-week service since 1990. In 2001, it completed a two-year expansion project located at the opposite end of their county on a pastoral 25-acre parcel.
A fence surrounds the complex and a three lane road wraps around the facility, allowing for two-way traffic and a lane for customer stops. The space can accommodate about 300 new and used trucks with ample room left for customer and employee parking.
The new facility features two state-of-the-art glass, brick and concrete buildings, including the 25,000 square foot main building. Patrick Carroll says of the complex, "it's one of the best designed truck dealerships in the country. It is also the most thoroughly designed, both for our present needs and any growth we may experience in the future."
He continues, "The interstate visibility and accessibility is key. It lies inside the split between the I-40 and I-75 branches of the interstate, offering maximum truck traffic possibilities."
The main building's top floor has administrative, accounting and sales offices. The basement will stay empty until is is needed for expansion. This bottom floor faces the second building, a 100,000 square foot shop. The two are connected by a 30 foot high canopy which offers weather protection.
The impressive shop structure features 47 service bays; extensive parts and service departments and such traveler conveniences as showers, laundry facilities and lounges.
"We have amenities for our customers which are necessary for someone away from home," says owner Buddie Carroll. "When trucks are being worked on, it can be two hours or up to four days before they are ready, depending on what needs to be done."
"Before, customers would come in and bring their trucks for servicing and they wouldn't have anywhere to go. Now, we have lounges, TV, showers, vending and entertainment to offer them. We have 14 La-Z-Boy loungers where they can go sleep, or we will put some up in motels, if necessary."
The shop building's core is it's parts department. The space in this department marked "a tremendous gain for us," says Patrick Carroll. Where we once had the capacity to store only 25 pallets, we can now store 460, all of it under one roof."
"Our capacity and the exclusivity of parts is tremendous in this business," he continues. "We have more than double the parts inventory of most dealers, and it is in response to trucks becoming more integrated from a parts perspective."
The entire facility is air-conditioned and the technicians have top of the line equipment to service Freightliner products and other name brands.
"The changes from the old to the new facility are apparent when our customers drive up," says Bruce Hager, director of parts and service. "It has a spacious, well-lighted lot with ample parking and well-laid out parts, service and body shop departments that are twice the size of what we had before."
"We have also had to hire additional employees since we have opened to help us handle the volume."
Overhead indoor bridge cranes are positioned at each end of the general service bays and in the body shop. A state of the art engine dyno diagnoses engine problems, vehicle vibrations and other trouble. A quick lube area and a dirty and clean wash bay round out the general service garage.
In the body shop garage is a high-tech paint booth, a paint mixing room and six service bays.
"This is an opportunity for us to have a facility large enough to invite more customers in and to get their trucks back on the road," say Hager.
Freightliner of Knoxville - Expediting
Freightliner of Knoxville - Corporate