Key Phases for Planning a Truck Stop or Travel Center New Build

Investing in a travel center new build or remodel starts long before ground is broken. Gather the key planning phases.
Key Phases for Planning a Truck Stop or Travel Center New Build

Article created for the digital issue of the NATSO Foundation’s magazine 

A 2023 poll from NATSO members found that 63 percent are ‘likely’ to invest in a rebuild or remodel during the next 12 to 18 months. To help NATSO member travel center operators develop new locations, the NATSO Foundation has articles like this one, created a toolkit and offered a workshop at NATSO Connect.

Investing in a travel center new build or remodel starts long before ground is broken.

Here are the key planning phases:

  1. Select a Site. Choosing the best site for a truck stop requires careful consideration of various factors. For more information on site selection, see Key Considerations in Selecting a Site for a New Travel Center Build. 
  2. Conduct a Feasibility Study. The feasibility study should also look at not only which competitors are nearby but also how they operate.
  3. Site design: Several factors influence site design, which is covered in the toolkit.
  4. Permitting: Obtaining the necessary permits from local authorities can take months. Permits needed may include land use permits, building permits, environmental permits, stormwater management permits, and health and safety permits.
  5. Ordering equipment: Many supply chain challenges have eased, but some critical equipment can have a significant lead time. Necessary equipment includes fuel tanks, fuel dispensers, food-service equipment, point-of-sale systems, signage and more.
  6. Selecting inventory: You’ll want to work with industry vendors to determine what products to stock and the lead time needed to get them.
  7. Construction: The construction process includes finding contractors, creating timelines, preparing the site for construction, working with utilities to ensure essential services are available, the actual building phase, and final approvals and inspections once work is complete. Construction can take months or even more than a year. Unforeseen events, such as weather conditions, labor shortages or equipment delays can add to the timeline.
  8. Hiring and training: Within your timeline, leave adequate time to recruit, hire and train staff members.
  9. Marketing and promotion: You can determine when to start marketing and promoting the location once you have your estimated opening date. You’ll want to develop a marketing plan.
  10. Creating a punch list: Before you open for business, you’llwant to create a punch list—a checklist of items that need to be completed or addressed before opening to the public. Items to address in the punch list include checking fixtures, displays and signage, verifying all products are correctly placed and labeled, ensuring all technology and point-of-sale systems are functioning, verifying the entire store is clean, and confirming all lights, pumps and other fixtures are working properly.
  11. A soft opening: Consider holding a soft opening to test operations and gather customer and employee feedback before holding the grand opening.

Are you embarking on a new travel center build?

The NATSO Foundation’s Travel Center and Truck Stop New Build Toolkit was created to help travel center operators develop new locations. Access the NATSO Foundation’s Travel Center and Truck Stop New Build Toolkit here. 

Download the Travel Center and Truck Stop New Build Toolkit

The toolkit was made possible with support from Zippin.


// This article was created for Stop Watch magazine, the magazine of the NATSO Foundation. The NATSO Foundation is the research, education and public outreach subsidiary of NATSO, Inc. The NATSO Foundation provides programs and products to strengthen travel plazas’ ability to meet the traveling public's needs through improved operational performance and business planning. Visit for more information. (Donate to the NATSO Foundation here.)

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