A Culture of Connections
The strong bonds that drive Co’s Traffic Control, Inc.’s success
For Colleen Bechtel, President of San Diego-based Co’s Traffic Control, Inc., traffic control has been a labor of love for over two decades. She founded the company in 1998 as a one- woman shop, building it cone by cone into one of Southern California’s premier full-service traffic control providers.
Beyond the signs, barriers and comprehensive surveys that form the basis of the company is a mutual respect and connection between “Co” and her employees.
Bechtel knows all of her employees and addresses each one by first name, taking a genuine interest in personal lives as well as work-related challenges. It’s an internal connection that directly translates to customers. One relationship at a time, Bechtel’s company has become the top choice of public and private entities throughout Southern California for everything from utility and construction work zone control to major city events and traffic management for movie premiers.
Business in the Boom
With parents who owned and operated an electrical contracting company, Bechtel, who is one of seven children, has long been familiar with the construction industry and running a business.
After earning a degree from California State University, Fullerton, Bechtel set out to make a name for herself. “My parents encouraged me to start a business. They said they would mentor me but would not help financially, which turned out to be the best gift they could have given to me. At the time construction was booming—and I liked to be outside,” she says.
She learned all about work zone traffic control while working for her parents’ company. “I learned on the job about Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) guidelines, activity transition areas and optimal taper lengths,” she says. She also researched the Federal Highway Administration’s Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices for Streets and Highways standard, which enabled Bechtel to get her contractor license.
Further research and discussion with industry experts reinforced her skills. She applied her love of drawing to traffic control plans, figuring out ways to optimize traffic flow with speed and safety—and then delivering those plans in accordance with the specifications acceptable to permitting authorities.
With confidence and a willingness to learn, she established Co’s Traffic Control. Bechtel says, “I didn’t have any money, but I had good credit and was able to borrow enough to rent equipment as needed—then it was just a matter of knocking on doors.”
In her first year, she spent a considerable amount of time visiting job site trailers and construction company offices throughout the San Diego area. Persistence and quick responses helped to build the company’s reputation and, by early 1999, the company employed five people and owned two Ford F-250 traffic control trucks. Bechtel says, “I’ve never been an office person, so my first hire was someone to handle the books and administration of the business.”
She’s particularly proud that those same people who joined her company in 1999 are still with her today, including her administrator. “I believe employee retention is a reflection of our culture and opportunities for professional growth,” Bechtel confirms.
“I feel like we are making a difference in the lives and well-being of thousands of people every day of the year.” Colleen Bechtel, President, Co’s Traffic Control, Inc.
Over the past 22 years, the certified women-owned business enterprise (WBE) has earned a reputation for outstanding and professional traffic control services and is recommended by various cities within San Diego County and by the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans).
Co’s Traffic Control is also a Caltrans-certified WBE and is certified with The Supplier Clearinghouse for the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) as a diverse business enterprise, which has helped open doors to customers such as AT&T and other utility companies.
Part of that growing reputation is the turnkey services that the company offers. Right from the start, Bechtel recognized that contractors, in particular, would value a traffic control firm that could not just provide work zone safety, but also handle all of the associated plans and permits.
“We have built a team of experts in traffic plans and associated permit requests,” Bechtel says. “Our team understands traffic management and has the skills to customize plans that meet established procedures. We’ve also spent years developing relationships with local agencies, so there’s trust that we’re submitting detailed plans that are acceptable to a jurisdiction’s parameters.”
In 2008, the company became a signatory member with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local #47, which Bechtel says has enabled the company to grow exponentially by expanding its service territory.
Along with its employees, Co’s Traffic Control now owns a fleet of 110 trucks (including special event, attenuating and crash vehicles) and every cone and barrier imaginable for traffic management. The staff comprises flaggers, flagger instructors and traffic control supervisors certified through the American Traffic Safety Services Association (ATSSA) as well as several experienced work zone and traffic management planners.
Nearly every employee is cross-trained at flagging, performing job surveys, developing traffic control plans, etc. “I believe our training certification and education programs set us apart,” Bechtel says. She points to the hands-on defensive driving, fire watch, first-aid and CPR programs as examples of going beyond the norm.
Over the years, Co’s Traffic Control has provided traffic control services in support of construction, pipeline, paving, cable-pulling, environmental and entertainment companies. Project examples include airports, university campuses, fire/police stations, roads/highways, community centers, parking lots and more. One of the firm’s frequent types of contracts is with local and regional utilities in support of maintenance and repair crews working in the public right of way.
This year, the company was proud to serve the Tri-City Medical Center Carlsbad Marathon . For this popular event, Co’s Traffic Control had to close a number of major streets and freeway ramps along the route and reroute vehicles and pedestrians in other areas to accommodate the entire course.
“We developed the plan for permitting event zone safety and provided the flaggers to direct traffic throughout the daylong event,” Bechtel recalls. “This was a milestone event for us because of the vast amount of equipment that we had to put up and take down along the 26-mile route—and the entire job had to be done in a 24-hour span.”
Looking back at all that she and her team have accomplished in the last 22 years, Bechtel adds, “I can’t believe how far the business has come. I credit my parents with giving me the tools, the work ethic and an awareness of the importance of relationships and the many, many individuals—too numerous to mention—who have helped us along the way.”
She’s especially proud that she knows every person in the company. “I have watched my people get married, have children, and grow in their careers while performing an important public service,” she adds. “We are like a family and care about each other, and we care about our clients and the people that they serve, which includes motorists, pedestrians, runners, long-haul truckers, bicyclists, first responders, workers in hard hats and hazmat suits—everyone who has occasion to use our roads.”
That care translates into the company’s safety record, which she says is the best in the business. Bechtel concludes, “I feel very blessed to be a part of a company that protects construction crews and the public through comprehensive safety programs. I feel like we are making a difference in the lives and well-being of thousands of people every day of the year.”