A major expansion effort that stated a couple of years ago is beginning to wrap up for Grace Trailer Service LLC. The owners predict that there is a lot more growth to come, though.
The growth spurt began in 2011 when the Memphis, Tennessee-area tank trailer repair and cleaning specialist bought a former pipe warehouse on Presidents Island (just south of downtown Memphis) and turned it into a six-bay repair shop. Growth continued into last year with a significant expansion of the company's primary repair and tank cleaning complex in West Memphis, Arkansas.
Grace Trailer Service also began construction of a repair shop in North Little Rock, Arkansas during 2012. The new shop should be open by August, and the owners hope to move forward soon on a wash rack for that location.
“We're growing to keep up with our customer needs, and we see more locations in our future,” says Chris Fox, co-owner of Grace Trailer Service. “In addition to adding more facilities, we're steadily expanding the range of services we offer.
“We're focused on the tank truck sector, and we've developed a broad portfolio of services. We can handle virtually any tank trailer repair, and we can clean a wide range of products. We also offer new and used trailer sales and online parts sales.”
Fox points out that cleaning isn't the primary focus at Grace Trailer Service, but it is an important part of the operation. “Our West Memphis wash rack has chemical and foodgrade cleaning capabilities,” he says. “Whether you need a detergent wash, acid wash, caustic wash, or tank steaming, we can accommodate your needs. On the dedicated foodgrade side, we offer kosher-approved washes.”
Co-owner Chris Boak agrees with Fox that they want more expansion for Grace Trailer Service. “We see plenty of opportunities across the mid-South,” he says. “Once we finish the North Little Rock, shop we'll be ready to move on to the next project.”
Boak and Fox started Grace Trailer Service in 1998, and they have worked hard to make it a success. “We started with nothing,” Boak says. “We opened a small tank repair shop and wash rack (in West Memphis), and our objective was to do good work at a fair price. We treated customers the way we wanted to be treated.”
What customers want most, according to Boak, is to get their equipment serviced and repaired quickly and back on the road making money. Meeting that desire has brought steady growth for the company.
Fox adds that another key to success was the ability of Grace Trailer Service to attract quality workers with a commitment to service. “We resolve equipment problems in a timely manner at a fair price,” he says. “We fix problems the first time around.”
That first shop in West Memphis changed significantly as the company grew. The facility occupies 15 acres, and the most recent expansion added 7,200 square feet in the shop and 2,200 square feet of warehouse. The company also expanded the driver lounge, restrooms, and locker space. The facility now has seven service bays and five tank cleaning bays.
Just to the east of the West Memphis shop across the Mississippi River is Grace Trailer Service's second location (a shop on five acres) that opened two years ago. “Our West Memphis shop was so busy that we had been looking for another Memphis-area location for some time,” Fox says. “Presidents Island is a very good location.”
Construction is just beginning on the new 13,500-sq-ft facility in North Little Rock. While the facility is being built, Grace Trailer Service is operating from a leased location.
The three shops serve customers across most of Arkansas, western Tennessee to about Jackson (86 miles east of Memphis), northern Mississippi, and southern Missouri. “We see plenty of growth potential within that region, and we see opportunities to expand into new areas,” Fox says.
The primary focus is on vehicle repairs, and cargo tanks account for around 80% of the work. The company specializes in repairs to aluminum and stainless steel tanks and pneumatic trailers.
Grace Trailer Service mechanics are experts at cargo tank repair and modification. The company provides a full range of cargo tank inspections and tests, including hydrostatic testing. Mechanics also have the instruments needed diagnose problems with antilock braking and roll stability systems.
Mechanics can handle everything from rebuilding wrecked trailers to installing power take-off units to rewiring overfill systems to replacing brake linings. In addition to tanks, the mechanics also work on trucks, van trailers, flatbeds, and heavy-equipment trailers.
To make the maintenance operation more efficient and more responsive to customer needs, Grace Trailer Service added a new shop management system last fall. Developed by TechniSoft, an Australian software company, the Service Manager program ties into Grace Trailer Service's accounting platform.
It tracks all maintenance performed on every vehicle serviced at the three Grace Trailer Service shops. “It is a well-designed product that didn't need much modification to meet our needs,” says Allen Floring with Grace Trailer Service. “For instance, we were able to make the HM-183 inspections and tests a line item. One of the biggest benefits is that this system is giving us the ability to develop a detailed maintenance history on every vehicle we service.”
In addition to its maintenance operations, the company sells and leases tank trailers. Grace Trailer Services sells the full line of Polar tank trailers.
“We're also constantly buying, selling, and trading used tanks,” Floring says. “We sell a lot of petroleum tanks and some tank trailers for agricultural applications. For several years, the oilfield generated quite a bit of business for us. Oilfield customers were taking anything they could get. The oilfield business has cooled down somewhat, but we're still selling some trailers to that sector.”
Parts sales are growing steadily for Grace Trailer Service. The company stocks a large parts inventory at each of its locations, and customers have the opportunity to order parts online through tankertruckparts.com. n