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How to Use Billboards to Drive Your Travel Center's Profits Up

Posted in: Truckstop Business, Marketing & Retail


Next time you drive down the Interstate to your facility, look at your signage from the point-of-view of a customer who is visiting for the very first time. Signage is a crucial piece of your business as it serves as an invitation for a customer to stop into your site versus your competitors’ sites! 

Interstate billboards give you exposure to large numbers of travelers every day and night. I believe that this is one of the most effective forms of advertising.

Billboard Pricing and ROI
Billboards range in price. Small non-illuminated units may cost $150 to $350 per month. Large illuminated billboards can range from $1,500 to $4,000  per month or more depending on traffic counts and several other factors such as the number of units available in the market, demand for those units and if it is a left- or right-hand read.

Ideally, I‘d like to see billboards within a few miles of your exit. However, some locations advertise at quite a distance.

Let’s look at this from a financial perspective. If a billboard is $3,500 per month, divide that by 30.4 days per month, which means you're paying $115 per day. That $115 divided by a pool margin of say .15 cents-per-gallon would require you sell an additional 766 gallons a day to break even.

That, of course, does not take any additional revenue for store sales, food sales, etc., into account.

Billing is another item to make sure you understand. Some companies like to bill in four-week cycles, which effectively turns your contract into 13 billings per year (52 weeks divided by four-week cycles = 13).

Design Best Practices
What makes the best billboard design? Most people put way too much on a billboard. It's a billboard for Pete's sake, not a Readers Digest condensed story, (which, admittedly, I like to read)! 

What you put on your billboard is going to determine your conversion rate.

People driving their vehicles and reading your billboard have limited time, which means you have three to four seconds to get your message across. If there is a passenger, then you might have an additional one to two seconds.

I believe that you can put two or three messages max, and pictures say it so much better than words!

Typically yellow, light blue and white work well. Darker colors sometimes don’t work well at night unless they are illuminated well.

Another consideration to look at would be if you can add gas and or diesel price signs to your billboard.

While we made a mock billboard to get your attention (see above), let’s take a look at some real-life examples to help illustrate my point.




Next time you design your billboard copy, print it off and hold it up at arms’ length for three to four seconds and pull it away. This will better demonstrate the view that customers are going to see.

Billboard Contracts 
Billboard contracts are typically three years with renewal clauses.

If they are illuminated, make sure the hours that the lights are on are spelled out. You want dusk to dawn unless you are not open 24 hours.  Many billboards are poorly illuminated, so do a drive by at night to see how it looks in the dark. What’s more, some colors do not show well at night, so take a good look at your other billboards and see what color combinations work best.

LED lights are an excellent solution for billboards as they save energy and save on maintenance costs, which the billboard company likes. It is great for the operator as you can outshine your competitors!

If a strong wind damages your billboard copy, who is going to pay to replace it? Will billing stop until it is replaced? Make sure you read the details of your agreement, and there is no better time to negotiate than when first entering into the contract or upon a renewal term.

Interstate Business Logos
These are the blue signs that feature logos, which are usually separated into the categories of food, fuel, lodging and camping.

There are usually three types of Interstate Business Logo signs available.

  1. Mainline – These are signs located adjacent to the Interstate usually before the one-mile exit signs.
  2. Ramp Signs – Located on the exit ramp with an arrow telling drivers which way to the service.
  3. Trailblazer- These signs help guide drivers to businesses located further from the exit ramp.

These signs deliver your message at the time when drivers are making their decisions, and I believe them to be very cost effective.

Availability varies from state to state, and there are other restrictions as well. Contact your State Department of Roads or do the Google search!

I hope this blog post helps you to become a better advertiser and maybe negotiate better terms on your next renewal. If you would like to discuss this or share your success story, please send me an e-mail at

Tell us in the comments - what metric do you use to measure to success for your billboards? 

// Contact Don Quinn, NATSO Services’ Vice President at (703) 739-8572 or to get information on a Travel Center Profit Toolbox.  A Travel Center Profit Toolbox is a custom assessment of your truckstop that includes recommendations for every aspect of your facility, from actionable ideas to improve revenue to tactical ways to improve your net operating costs. Don Quinn, NATSO Services’ vice president, or Darren Schulte, NATSO’s vice president of membership, spend either one or two days at your location reviewing every aspect of your truckstop business from store layouts and product placement to ideas for growing your sales. After the review is complete, you receive a personalized, highly-detail report of next steps. Learn more about a Travel Center Profit Toolbox here.


Contact Quinn at (703) 739-8572 or for more information.

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About the Author

Don Quinn

Don Quinn

Don Quinn joined NATSO after serving as president of Sapp Bros. During his 30-plus year career at Sapp Bros. he held almost every job, which gives him deep insight into the multiple profit centers within a truckstop and travel center. He also served on NATSO’s Board and served as chairman for three years.