75th Anniversary: Commitment to a Founder’s Vision

The 21st century started with a jolt, when a hard market hit in 2001 and the truck insurance industry constricted.

In the midst of this turbulent time, Canal managed to triple its trucking business by taking advantage of a constricted marketplace. During this time, it also invested in technology, processes and talent necessary to manage this growth. By 2005, Canal employed more than 210 people.

Then, another systemic disruption occurred in 2008 with a global financial meltdown. Gas prices topped $4.00 a gallon and the number of shipments decreased dramatically in the transportation industry. Lower exposure bases caused insurance premiums to plummet, and with excess capital resulting in intensified market competitiveness, prices fell further. 

But Canal persevered.

Investment continued in systems, products and services, and David Firstenberg was recruited as the second president and chief executive office from outside the family and executive staff.

And now Canal has reached 2014. A lot sure can happen in 75 years. But at the same time – as the saying goes – the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Here’s some proof positive:

  • In 1939, Canal began as a privately owned company with William R. Timmons at the helm. In 2014, it remains privately owned by the Timmons family, and despite expanded leadership, the company has always included a Timmons family member in some capacity.
  • Canal’s first client base was long-haul operators trying to find adequate insurance during the Depression. The interstate system grew, transportation options multiplied, truck designs became more sophisticated and technology became more accessible. To this day, Canal’s focus remains on the transportation industry.
  • The company was founded in Greenville, South Carolina. While it has expanded operations and added staff, the company remains firmly rooted in the Greenville community.

As Firstenberg explains, “What’s really distinctive about Canal is its ownership – which over the years has repeatedly risen to the occasion at times of stress, and which continually creates an environment in which managers naturally act with the commitment of owners. That’s the spirit that built Canal and energizes it to this day.”

Even as things may change, that mindset remains. “Canal continues to be committed to providing solutions for transportation accounts of all sizes at a fair price with access to top tier services and underwriting expertise,” says Tim Horgan, vice president – transportation and chief marketing officer. “Also critical to achieving our goals is maintaining the incredible relationships we have with our general agents. They not only provide valuable frontline underwriting, but also expand our geographic reach and connect us to an impressive network of retail agents.”

It is with commitment, discipline, perseverance and most importantly, appreciation of our partnerships – with general agents and transportation clients alike, that Canal’s ride continues. Here’s to the road ahead!