One of the longest tenured employees at TEC, second only to founder and CEO David Thompson himself, is Merril South. He joined TEC at 20 years old. Before TEC was even a Mack or Volvo dealer, Merril was part of the team, repairing trucks and supporting TEC customers.
Merril has spent his life around trucks. His father worked as a mechanic at the Kenworth dealership next door to TEC’s current Columbia Blvd location. On his mother’s side, his grandfather had a fleet of 38 trucks, two uncles had 18 trucks between them, and a third uncle worked at a Freightliner plant. Merril recalled riding along with his uncle during summer breaks. He was even allowed to pull the truck away from the docks. “I’d start the truck, release the brake, pull up about 50 feet and close the doors. He’d come back and down the road we’d go.”
More than three decades later, Merril remains a vital part of the service team at our Portland location. Randy Scott, former service manager in Portland says, “Merrill is one of our most productive technicians in the Portland shop. He is never late to work, arriving before 4:30 a.m. nearly every morning to open the shop. Merrill has TEC in his blood.”
Over the 32 years he’s worked at TEC, Merril has seen and worked through massive changes in the industry. Back when he started, “there were no computers on trucks,” he says. “The fuel systems on the trucks were all mechanical. You don’t think about it really, because it happens so gradually, but then when you look back, yeah, a lot of it’s changed.”
Throughout all the innovations and upgrades, both at TEC and in the trucking industry, one thing has kept Merril going. “My favorite part of the job is making things work right or better,” he says. That passion for the job comes from his commitment to our customers and his love of all things mechanical. “When I’m working on something, I’ve always tried to think about it as if it was me or my truck, because I don’t want to be the guy broke down on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere.”
His passion for vehicles doesn’t end when the work day is over. Merril enjoys making cars go very, very fast, like the 12-second Chevelle he owned in his younger years. When we asked him what job he’d like if he wasn’t a mechanic, he’d like to race cars. But now, if you visit him at home, you’ll probably find him taking his time around the track, mowing his 5.5 acre property or the neighboring airstrip where he takes care of grounds maintenance. Whether he’s opening the gates at 4 a.m., fixing trucks or mowing lawns, Merril is a perfect example of what makes TEC so successful – its people.