NATSO Mourns Industry Icon Jack Cardwell

A legend in the truckstop industry, Cardwell is credited with developing one of the first truck stop chains and establishing what serves to this day as the modern-day model for a truck stop. 

NATSO today expressed its deepest sympathies and condolences on the passing of industry icon Jack Cardwell. 

A legend in the truckstop industry, Cardwell is credited with developing one of the first truck stop chains and establishing what serves to this day as the modern-day model for a truck stop.  

Actively involved in NATSO throughout his career, Cardwell served as Chairman of the Board from 1983 to 1984. NATSO bestowed its distinguished Hall of Fame Award on Cardwell in 1997.

He died January 23 at the age of 89. 

“Jack was an innovative thinker and leader who, in many respects, was ahead of his time in evaluating what customers want and need,” said NATSO President and CEO Lisa Mullings. “He was a friend to many and to our industry who will be deeply missed.”

Cardwell began his 68-year career as a service station owner with Jack’s Super Service, which led to the Chevron-built El Paso Truck Terminal. In 1975 Cardwell built the Petro truck stop, which was hailed as the first self-service truckstop in the United States, at the intersection of Horizon Boulevard and Interstate 10 in El Paso. 

In public interviews given throughout his life, Cardwell said his innovative idea with Petro was to treat truck drivers with dignity and “build them a place where they feel like they’re appreciated.” Cardwell’s model of service focused on offering truck drivers the personal amenities that made a truck driver’s life easier, ultimately leading to the “home-away-from-home” model that truckstops utilize today. 

Cardwell’s customer-friendly innovations included self-serve fuel, private showers for truck drivers, improved dining options and a large, truck driver-oriented general store. 

Cardwell continued to grow the chain of Petro Stopping Centers. When he sold the chain in 2007, the company consisted of 69 truckstops in more than 30 states. Cardwell owned 44 locations and franchised the others. 

He sold the majority of his company to TravelCenters of America. As part of the transaction, Hospitality Properties Trust, a Massachusetts real estate investment trust, purchased the property of 40 of Petro's 44 company-owned truckstops for $630 million plus $25 million in closing costs. The transaction involved 1,036 acres of property in 25 states. 

TravelCenters of America, paid $70 million for the operations at all Petro's company-owned truckstops and for the sundry property that was left over. Hospitality Properties Trust immediately leased the properties it purchased from Petro properties TA.

Additionally, Cardwell’s C&R Distributing has provided petroleum products to customers in West Texas and Southern New Mexico for 60 years. Jack was recently honored in 2021 by Chevron for his 60 years as a Chevron dealer and marketer with C&R Distributing. 

He was preceded in death by his wife, Martha Evonne Emmett Cardwell. He is survived by his three children, Cindi Andrews, Tina Hatch, Jim (Julie) Cardwell, grandchildren and great grandchildren.

The family will receive friends for visitation from 2-4 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 10 at the Westside Church of Christ, 100 Crestmont. Jack requested a private funeral service with his family. In lieu of flowers, Jack requested that any donations be made to your favorite charity or to the El Paso Community Foundation, PO Box 272, El Paso, TX 79943 or at

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