During the Great Depression, William R. Timmons saw a bright future for long-haul operators and a niche for his insurance agency if he could solve their insurance issues. To that end, Timmons and his manager, T.J. Mims, worked together to help the South Carolina Motor Transportation Association set up its own insurance company. The Wm. R. Timmons Agency was successful, but coverage was limited to South Carolina. When North Carolina and Georgia enforced “insure or else” laws, Timmons and Mims lobbied in the three-state area to place long-haul business with responsible insurance firms. Mortality among insurers was alarming, and four collapsed in an eight-year period. However, Mims was always vigilant, looking for danger signals and pulling his clients before each collapse. In the end, not one Timmons client went without coverage or paid extra premium when these insurers failed.
In December 1942, seeking a stable truck insurer, William Timmons acquired Canal Insurance Company from the First National Bank of Columbia for $17,500, the surplus at the time. Canal had been formed in 1939 to insure autos financed by the Bank, but WWII frustrated both its purpose and growth. Car production resources were being redirected to the war effort, and the Bank was happy to sell a non-performing asset. In early 1944, the Timmons Agency wrote its first policy with Canal, finishing the year with $118,000 in written premium. Canal continued to grow steadily, but the business suffered a loss with the passing of its founder in 1948 when Timmons was tragically killed in an automobile accident. However, true to its pioneer spirit and perseverance, the stockholders of Canal elected Mims as President, and the second generation of the Timmons family rallied around the company and assumed leadership roles including Bill Timmons, Jr. taking the role of Chairman and Secretary and Charles Timmons, Sr., serving as Treasurer.
Prior to William Timmons’ death, Georgia was at the top of Canal’s expansion list. In less than one year, Georgia was added to the firm’s operation, followed by Florida and Alabama. By 1953, business was booming, and Canal was licensed in nine southern and border states. For the next six years, Mims was constantly on the road selling Canal as a solid transportation insurer – a rarity in that day and age. By 1958, Canal was licensed in 27 states, writing $4.7 million in premium with surplus just past the $1 million mark.
The 1960s saw steady expansion of territory, premium and surplus. In the 1960 Best Insurance Report, Canal was listed as operating in 42 states and garnered an “excellent” review for growth, sponsorship and investments. Assets were close to $6 million, and policyholders’ surplus was well over $1 million. The 1960s also brought augmentation of public safety and service programs, and Canal advertised and delivered fast, efficient client service from their new and improved home office facilities in Greenville.
Despite fluctuations in the nation’s economy in the 1970s, Canal continued to grow by adding personnel, technology and facilities; and never recorded a year without significant growth. Premium was at $32 million, with $17.5 million surplus – 1000 times the original surplus and purchase price. As a result of this performance, Canal received a rare A+ rating from A.M. Best.
Canal experienced great success in the 1980s and 1990s. Surplus rose to $400 million, and premiums reached just under $200 million. In February of 1989, Canal celebrated its 50th Anniversary. For Canal’s loyal executive staff, each of whom had been with the company for over 40 years at this point, this was an especially significant milestone.
Canal continued to grow throughout the 1990s. In 1992, the headquarters moved to the current Stone Avenue location to accommodate the now 155 employees. It was during this time that Mims was replaced as President by Charles M. Timmons. After Charles’s death in 1998, his son Charles M. Timmons, Jr. replaced him as president, and William R. Timmons, III, Senior Vice President of Investments, assumed the roles of Secretary and Treasurer.
In 2000, the hard market hit and Canal tripled its trucking business over the next five years with surplus increasing by $185 million. Over the course of this growth, Canal added to and improved its technology and processes to accommodate increased business. By 2005, Canal employed more than 210 people. Starting in 2007, the commercial insurance marketplace started softening its pricing, especially for trucking. However, despite market challenges, Canal continued to be a steady, strong insurer committed to the continual improvement of its systems, products, and services.
Canal entered the second decade of the 21st century as a well-established, privately owned company with legendary tenure in the transportation insurance marketplace. Responding to the significant market changes that began during the previous decade, Canal focused on profitably achieving sustainable growth by broadening and diversifying its transportation portfolio. Today, Canal remains dedicated to serving its insureds by providing high quality products and exceptional customer service. Canal is excited to celebrate its 75th anniversary in 2014, and is looking forward to many more years ahead.