Risk Management for Truckstop Operators


By Nate Oland, Federated Insurance

When it comes to risk, the devil you know is better than the one you don’t. So the better you understand the specific risks that your truckstop or travel plaza faces, the better prepared you will be to cast out that devil.

A NATSO member once told me, “Every successful travel plaza operator knows that their business is a consolidation of many separate profit centers, each working in tandem, like the fingers on a hand to produce the strength of a fist.”

What are the fingers in your operation’s fist — fueling stations, food and beverage services, scales, car/truck washes, service/repair and tire operations, leases, motel, shower facilities, laundry? The list could go on. Certainly these and other unique operations contribute to your profit, strength, growth and business stability.

Those same unique operations, however, can also change the type and increase the level of risk your firm is exposed to. Successful businesses understand the importance of taking deliberate steps to minimize risk in all areas, both for customers and employees.

Take a comprehensive approach
Mary Eriksen of Nebraska-based Sapp Bros. Travel Centers takes a multi-pronged approach to risk management. “We have three major avenues to improve safety. One, managers at every level are committed to keeping safety as the first value of our company. Two, we do daily, monthly and quarterly safety inspections to find and fix hazards. Three, we have mandatory monthly safety meetings for all employees to reinforce our commitment to safety and keep awareness high.”

You buy insurance to protect your interests in certain situations, but it doesn’t mean you have to file a claim. It’s no secret that your premium is directly affected by your claims experience, so it naturally follows that eliminating risk lowers premiums. Lower premiums equal more money in your pocket.

The first step toward lowering premiums is to minimize and remove risk. The best way to do that is to have a system in place that utilizes tools and techniques available through a variety of resources.

“We discovered there were several methods posted on the Internet on how to beat a urine drug test, so we put the hair testing program to work here,” said Steve Klingman, general manager of Trail’s TA Travel Center in Albert Lea, Minn. “It’s more expensive, but much more effective. We have saved more than $25,000 in workers compensation, accidents, absenteeism and turnover costs related to drug use. All employees are fully behind this program because nobody wants to work with someone who abuses drugs.”

Make safety a priority
For added guidance, NATSO and Federated Insurance co-created a loss-control guide to address the common risk exposures of travel plazas. Available free to all NATSO members, this guide is meant to support locations’ dedicated risk managers and provide resources to help them make informed decisions about how to best manage risks.

I think you will agree with me that if your business was going up in smoke, that’s not the time to wonder if your employees know where the fire extinguishers are or if they know how to use them. The same goes for all areas of risk prevention. After a mishap, it’s too late to do anything to prevent that particular incident. But, it’s never too late to stop it from happening again.

Klingman said his company has a passion for safety. “We have RoadSquad service trucks and technicians who help truck drivers repair their vehicles on the side of the road, so we are very serious about driving safety. That starts with employee screening, motor vehicle records and Federated’s insurability reports. Additionally, we require all employee drivers to watch the “In the Blink of an Eye” video. There is no substitute for good training and review. We want all drivers alert and attentive.”

Assign responsibility
Best practices for small businesses don’t have to be costly.

They can include written policies and procedures to promote employee and customer safety. Locations can watch for training opportunities for all employees, especially new hires. Companies can also define and assign responsibility for monitoring policies and procedures, and enforce actions or consequences for a violation or occurrence. It is also helpful to have a feedback mechanism for front-line employees to support and make recommendations to policies.

Designating a risk manager is an important step in developing a quality safety program. Equally important is ensuring that person is properly trained. To help with the training, Federated provides designated risk manager seminars for petroleum marketers twice a year at the corporate office in Owatonna, Minn. NATSO members are invited to attend free of charge and do not need to be Federated clients to attend the comprehensive session. As seminars are announced, information will be available on NATSO’s website.

To help assess your company’s risk exposure, your local Federated representative can use the Risk Control ReviewSM, which was designed specifically to help you find and address the risks unique to your business. To find your marketing representative, visit Federated Insurance's website, call 1-800-533-0472, or call me directly at (507) 455-8935. After all, It’s Our Business to Protect Yours®!



This article originally ran in Stop WatchStop Watch provides in-depth content to assist NATSO members in improving their business operations and provides context on trends and news affecting the industry.

The magazine is mailed to NATSO members bimonthly. Are you a NATSO member and not receiving Stop Watch? Submit a request to be added to the mailing list. Not a memberJoin today or submit a request to receive additional information.

Jerry Leemkuil

Stop Watch Magazine
Supplier Focus:
Federated Insurance
Retailer Featured:
Sapp Bros.Trails Travel Center

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