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Driving Suits Him Well

By on November 1, 2017
coolbreeze

Extended Family Thrives at Service One

When it comes to lights, chrome, accessories and paint schemes, owner-operators run some of the sharpest looking trucks on the Interstate. When you consider drivers’ industry accomplishments, many—such as TA-Petro Citizen Drivers, Goodyear Highway Heroes, and hundreds of others—standout. Thinking about the ways drivers dress, perhaps only a few standouts come to mind. If that’s true for you, most likely, you haven’t had the privilege of meeting Edward “Cool Breeze” Bledsoe, Jr.

A 41-year professional driving veteran, including five years at Service One Transport working out of the firm’s Memphis terminal, Cool Breeze single handedly gives new meaning to the term, ‘best dressed.’ Before hitting the road on every trip, he selects his wardrobe from a closet full of three-piece suits, shoes and hats. Check that, wherever he goes, whatever he does, 365 days a year, he dresses in a matching suit, shoes and hat. Some might say, “He’s a bit eccentric.” Others who actually know him say, “He’s super professional.”

“I like staying clean, fresh and focused.”

“In everything I do, I like staying clean, fresh and focused,” said Cool Breeze. “Suits put me in the right frame of mind to do my job. Wearing them has become a habit that dates back 30 years. When I step out of my truck, the reactions are immediate and amazing. Drivers, truckstop personnel and others I encounter tell me they’ve never seen a professional truck driver who wears suits. Most of the time, I receive a thumbs-up, a hug or a headshake. Photo requests are common. I experience these same reactions on customer loading docks.

“Dress shirts and ties are rarely part of my outfits. On a typical two-week trip, I’ll take 10 suits, four or five pairs of shoes, and five or six hats. I like colorful, single- and double-breasted suits, with matching accessories. Some people think I’m an entertainer, a musician, or a company owner. They’re quite surprised when they learn I’m just a company driver in a for-hire fleet. I love my 2016 Fitzgerald Freightliner Coronado and take great pride in keeping it clean and well maintained at all times. It’s part of the Service One image I like to project.

“The thing I like about working for Service One is the family atmosphere. Mr. Walker (Robert) and his daughter, Kelly (Robinson), work as hard as anybody in the company and set great examples. He drove for years and knows what it’s like to run over the road. He’s like a brother to me, been there to provide support when I’ve been sick or in the hospital. He’d never seen a driver who dressed like me. He’s the one who started calling me Cool Breeze and declared the next new truck would be named in my honor. Everybody at Service One is like family. There isn’t anything I wouldn’t do for the people I work with.”

Pink Truck Part of Identity

Although Randy Spriggs signed on with Service One little more than one year ago, he wishes it had been 30, when he began his professional driving career. Upon seeing the pink 2017 Kenworth T680 sitting unassigned in the yard at the
Muscle Shoals, AL headquarters, he volunteered to drive it. He was pleasantly surprised and readily admitted that Kelly’s idea for theming the truck was much better than his. That’s how the ‘Proud Mary Keep on Rolling for the Cure’ truck was introduced into the fleet. Randy is proud to be the driver, helping create awareness for breast cancer treatment and research.

“You’d be surprised at all of the people who are quick to give a big thumbs up, when I’m running down the Interstate,” said Randy. “They wave, ride alongside, take pictures, shoot videos and are just carrying on when they come up to pass me and see the pink paint job and the theme that many can relate to. Breast cancer has been an unwelcome visitor that has impacted my extended family. Makes me feel good that I can help create awareness and assist with the fund raising that fuels the search for a cure.

“At truckstops, people come up all the time to tell me how their moms, aunts, sisters and friends are breast cancer survivors. People ask to take pictures of the truck and me all the time. I’m really proud to be driving this T680. The favorable feedback makes me feel like I’m doing one small thing for the greater good of others. It’s great to see that Service One and other drivers are being so proactive about using our rolling stock to advance the work of worthwhile causes such as St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital.

“The family atmosphere that Robert and Kelly encourage at Service One runs through the entire organization. Their doors are always open. If you’re having a professional or personal problem, you can go to them. If they can help you, they will. They’re genuinely concerned about home time and give drivers some flexibility in determining our schedules. If a driver wants a good home and is willing to work, you can’t ask for a better place than Service One.”

Color Choices in Skittles Fleet

The trucks driven by Cool Breeze and Randy Spriggs are good examples of the choices drivers are offered in specifying the colors and graphics applied to their new trucks. With a wide range of color preferences, Service One trucks are commonly referred to as the Skittles fleet. Service One utilizes a four-year replacement cycle to keep its rolling stock fresh and technologically up to date. About a quarter or 20-22 trucks in the mixed fleet are upgraded each year.

Half of the fleet consists of Peterbilt, Kenworth and International trucks. The other half is based on various makes and models offered by Fitzgerald Glider Kits. Fitzgerald provides a wider range of colors than the OE manufacturers and usually has an extensive inventory of different models and colors available for immediate delivery. Drivers frequently travel to Fitzgerald’s Byrdstown, TN assembly plant to take personal delivery of their new trucks.

Any graphics, names or themes done in good taste are acceptable. Favorites include military service branches, college sports teams, charitable causes and other topics near and dear to drivers’ hearts. About half of the drivers choose to participate. The pride underlying these personal connections results in improved care, cleanliness and maintenance for the participants’ trucks. In addition to the commitment to a regular replacement cycle, the personal identification with a truck make, color and graphics helps recruiting and retention. Average tenure is in the seven-year range, and more than 40 drivers have recorded at least a million miles with Service One.

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Father-Daughter Team Leads the Way

Based on a 36-year career in trucking, including 18 as a driver, Robert Walker founded Service One Transport in 2004. His daughter, Kelly Robinson, joined him later that year to begin learning the ropes and preparing for larger responsibilities. From humble beginnings, Robert, Kelly and a team of dedicated professionals have grown the firm to be the largest motor freight carrier in northern Alabama. Service One is based in Muscle Shoals with a terminal in Memphis and operations in Huntsville and Greensboro, NC. Like all of his professional initiatives, including family succession, Robert is known for developing detailed plans.

While working at his side, Kelly has developed a broad background in frontline and back-office responsibilities including HR, payroll, billing, accounting, finance, safety, operations, dispatch, maintenance, customer relations and leadership. Kelly recently implemented a Fantastic Five recruiting program with designated drivers, including Cool Breeze, Randy Spriggs and three others. They and all Service One drivers can earn financial rewards for driver referrals. Adding to her credentials outside the firm, Kelly recently became a board member of the Alabama Trucking Association.

Kelly has developed her own style and complements her father’s interests in overseeing operations, fostering driver relationships, developing the image projected by the company’s fleet and its drivers, and handling community-outreach and charitable activities. In addition to helping drivers and their families in times of need, Service One supports local charitable causes, particularly those that benefit the surrounding communities where drivers frequently live. Volunteer fire department and first responder fundraisers are top priorities. In addition to handling normal customer needs and priorities, Service One was recently able to allocate approximately 20 trucks for trips to FEMA and locally designated hurricane relief staging areas in Texas and Florida, following the devastation of Harvey and Irma. This effort is just another indicator of the dedication to extended family evident at Service One.

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