Upgrades at Travel Plazas Mean Business Opportunities for Their Suppliers


Whether it is installing new equipment to meet government mandates or adding a fresh coat of paint to increase curb appeal, truckstops and travel plazas are always reinvesting in their businesses.

Operations that are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, require constant maintenance and upgrades, which is good news for their suppliers. Knowing what locations are looking for can help industry vendors better meet their customers’ needs, so Highway Business Matters talked with truckstop owners to learn more about the major investments they plan to make in the near future.

Delia Moon Meier, vice president of Iowa 80 Group, estimates that most truckstops spend about $250,000 on regular maintenance each year. “That is just to keep the toilets flushing and all the lights working and potholes filled. Truckstops are extremely high-use buildings and everything wears out quickly,” she said.

Meier said truckstops can defer some maintenance, but eventually it has to be done. “Defer $50,000 of it this year and you have to spend $300,000 next year. Defer it for several years hoping for a better economy, and you will spend $600,000 just to bring your place back to acceptable,” she said.

Iowa 80 is in the midst of a $7 million expansion and reimaging project at its Joplin 44 Petro and is redoing all of the customer lobbies and public restrooms within its Truckomat chain. Iowa 80 just finished spending $10 million at its Kenly 95 Petro and $1.6 million at its Oak Grove Petro. “You can see photos of each location and there is a construction progress tab on some of the websites at www.iowa80group.com,” Meier said.

Dirk Binnema, owner of Planeview Travel Plaza in Oshkosh Wisc., said his next major expense will be placing containments underneath pumps and fuel dispensers to be compliant with 2012 environmental mandates. “It is money I rather would spend somewhere else, but there is nothing you can do when you have an older station like mine,” he said.

Both Binnema and Jim Goetz, Jr., vice president of Goetz Companies that owns the Petro Travel Plaza in Portage, Wisc., said they plan to make improvements to their parking lots. Binnema is planning to resurface part of his lot and Goetz will seal coat and re-stripe his. “We had been doing that every three to four years and then extended it to about six. If we do all of our asphalt, you’re talking $70,000,” he said.

The biggest investment Binnema has planned is for a hotel he’d like to add to his property. He is currently awaiting approval on the building plans. “Our goal is to be able to offer another service to the professional driver as well as travelers,” he said.

As new products come on the market, operators sometimes have to make changes indoors in order to better merchandise them. In the next year to two years, Goetz plans to add more walk-in coolers to the travel store. “That category continues to grow for us and the products within that category continue to grow,” he said. “The extra cooler space will also provide back stock for busy weekends.”

Drivers want to stop at locations that are well-lit, which means the lights are always on inside a truckstop and at some locations outdoor lights are on upwards of 14 hours a day. To increase energy efficiency, Goetz is planning to replace all of his outdoor lighting fixtures — something he has already done inside. “We want to be proactive and we’ve captured all of the energy savings we can inside the facilities with lights. Now we’ll look outside,” he said.

{HBMHighway Business Matters is a brief semi-monthly newsletter created exclusively for companies that provide products or services to the truckstop and travel plaza industry. Highway Business Matters will keep you informed on trends, tactics, and tips to help you connect to the $65 billion truckstop and travel plaza industry. 

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Mindy Long's photo

Mindy Long

Before launching a full-time freelance career, Long edited NATSO's Stop Watch magazine. Prior to that Long worked as a staff reporter for Transport Topics, a weekly trade newspaper, covering freight transportation, fuel and environmental issues. In addition to covering the transportation sector, Long has written, reported and edited for a variety of media outlets. She was the Washington correspondent for WCAX-TV (CBS) in Burlington, Vt., a criminal court reporter in Chicago and a freelance copy editor for Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine in Washington D.C. Long hold a master’s degree from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism in Evanston, Ill., and a bachelor’s degree in Communications from Westminster College in Salt Lake City.More
Highway Business Matters (HBM)
Retailer Featured:
Goetz CompaniesIowa 80 GroupPlaneview Travel Plaza

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