Daniel's Charters owner Jimmy Cantrell with four new J4500 56-passenger motorcoaches just bought from MCI. Photo by MCI
LULA, Ga. ‒ Family-owned, faith-based and trend-setting Daniel’s Charters, based in Lula, has added four 2014 MCI J4500 luxury coaches to its fleet of 32 vehicles and plans to open a second location in Duluth, Ga., by the end of the year.
Jimmy Cantrell, who with his late brother, Rickey, founded Daniel’s Charters with one new coach in 1998, credits the company’s success to faith-based business practices, highly skilled professional drivers, and a newer fleet of coaches featuring the latest entertainment options and safety advances. All of Daniel’s coaches feature satellite TV, power plugs, Wi-Fi and GPS.
Daniel’s four new MCI J4500s are also equipped with Cummins engines, Allison transmissions, back-up-cameras and higher-end interior options including plush, leather-trimmed seating and wood-grain flooring. Standard features on the MCI J4500, the industry’s best-seller, include three-point passenger seatbelts, Electronic Stability Control, tire monitoring and a fire detection and suppression system.
“When we started, every time a coach became 60% booked, we would buy another, and we’ve held to that practice,” Cantrell said. “We run a newer fleet and like the J4500 for its curb appeal.”
Named for Daniel, the Biblical character driven by faith, with a nod to Cantrell’s middle name, Daniel’s is devoted to its customers and employees alike. “The biggest thing is our customers and drivers.” Many of Daniel’s drivers are retirees who formerly worked in people-oriented professions. “We’re fortunate to be located near Lake Lanier, where many professionals retire,” Cantrell said. “They like the opportunity to keep working. You can’t teach people-skills as easily as you train someone to be a good driver. We have a former judge and three preachers.”
Daniel’s drivers, who dress professionally in shirt and tie, go through extensive driver training. And there are rewards, as well. In a recent 20-coach move to Daytona, Cantrell arranged a tour of the Daytona racetrack, deep-sea fishing and a night of bowling to show his appreciation to his drivers. “They are why we’re successful,” he said.
Two of Cantrell’s children are also active in the company. His son, James Cantrell, is the director of motorcoach maintenance, and his daughter, Shelly Echols, left a teaching career to lead human resources and coordinate Daniel’s Educational Tours, a company division that has taken more than 5,700 students on field trips this year alone. Daniel’s Discovery Tours, another division of Daniel’s, offers escorted tours throughout the U.S. and Canada; and Daniel’s Charters arm holds contracts with many of the area’s colleges and athletic teams.
An education advocate, Cantrell remarked: “I tell my family: ‘You may lose your good looks or your husband, but you’ll never lose your education.’”
Cantrell, a life-long learner, sharpened his management skills at Milliken, working his way up from floor-sweeper to plant manager. While there, he saw how the adoption of emerging automation technologies doubled production. The lesson stuck. “It’s important to keep ahead. We are one of the first to have electronic logs for our drivers and the first to have Satellite TV. When we went with plug-ins, it was 100%. All our coaches have them.”
Daniel’s received a United Motorcoach Association 2006 Vision Award, presented to companies that embody the vision to lead the industry and raise the standards for operators everywhere.