Team Member Has a Way with Machines and People

May 2022 — Rock trucks, front-end loaders, forklifts, cranes, locomotives, and railcars. As the maintenance supervisor at Watco’s large Port Birmingham terminal on the Black Warrior River in Alabama, Charlie Estes takes care of 30 pieces of terminal equipment.

“We have 182 acres that he is basically responsible for,” said Terminal Manager Joel Wilmoth. “Charlie has to keep up with the daily maintenance records, all the inspection sheets the guys do – he logs it into E-Maintenance, keeps up with repairs.”

It’s true that the equipment responsibility is part of Estes’ job. But he goes out of his way to make sure all goes smoothly. The terminal is a 7-a.m.-to-7-p.m. operation, yet “Charlie shows up at 6 every morning to visually inspect the yard before the shift begins,” said Wilmoth. “Before the shift ever starts, he’s written a list of new railcars that came in overnight for our other supervisor so that we know how to line up jobs for the day. He is the first team member on site most mornings and stays with our team until the work is finished. He’s the last one to go out the gate. He’s made sure the equipment is lined up, and he’s got a plan for the next day.”

Wilmoth came to the terminal in 2018 and has relied on Estes ever since. “When I was hired as terminal manager here, I needed help,” Wilmoth said. “And he was the first go-to guy as far as knowing the yard and keeping it running. I promise I could not do this job without him being by my side.”

It’s not only Wilmoth who leans on Estes. “He involves himself with all team members and makes sure they have everything they need to work safely. Even with all of his daily responsibilities, he is always an open ear for our team members.” He says Estes can read people’s faces and sense when it’s good to pull them aside to talk. “He has no issues taking time out for team members,” said Wilmoth. “It’s rather commonplace.”

Also commonplace for Estes is assisting the stevedores who are moving into operator positions. “He is really the frontline trainer. He oversees all operator training. So he’s always encouraging, pushing, and coaching operator trainees. It’s a very in-depth process. He takes those guys by the hand and basically says, ‘You’re not going to fail. We’ll train till you’re trained, or until you turn down the job.’”

Wilmoth is clear about Estes’ value at the terminal.

“Charlie Estes shows what dedication means every day on the job. This place would not run without him.”

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