It is a disruptive time in the fuel business, but NATSO’s new The Truck Stops Here podcast is packed with critical analysis on what to expect as well as ideas to propel your travel center business into the future. You'll hear from experts on and off the NATSO staff and directly from NATSO members on what techniques they use to excel. Pull up, grab the fuel nozzle and get ready to fuel up with NATSO's newest educational offering!
NATSO is always scanning for the latest trends impacting the trucking industry. In this NATSO’s The Truck Stops Here Podcast, hosts Amy Toner, NATSO’s vice president of publishing and digital content, and Tiffany Wlazlowski Neuman, NATSO’s vice president of public affairs, sat down with Darren Schulte, a 30-year industry veteran and NATSO vice president of membership, to learn more about how the industry has changed.
Here are some of the questions answered:
Question: What did the industry look like 20 years ago and what have we seen in the past 5 to 10 years?
Answer: If you looked at the truckstops and travel centers in the late 80s or early 90s, essentially you had a landscape was made up of a lot of large truckstops that had tremendous amounts of parking for the trucks. They had restaurants and they may or may not have done a lot of fuel for four-wheel customers. As you moved into the 90s, Pilot and Love’s began to grow you started to see them having more customers on the gasoline side. You started to see transitions in terms of there being fewer restaurants and more quick-service restaurants popping up. As you get into the 2000s, you see food going to robust grab-and-go food programs. Also, the products started to change it wasn’t unusual to see a Wii, an Xbox or a Play Station. You’d see Vera Bradley purses, perfumes, Sony products, Toshiba products. There started to be significant changes in product offerings.
If we fast forward to today, you have a tremendous amount of competition up and down the interstate whether it be restaurants putting in gas stations, QSRs putting in gas in the front, or convenience store superstores, such as KwikTrip, QuikTrip, RaceTrac, Caseys, that are getting into the travel store industry and adding diesel fuel in the back. So, the landscape looks a lot different than it did 20-30 years ago.
Question: Can you tell us more about international players that are entering the travel plaza business?
Answer: Our industry is seeing a significant increase in international players. British Petroleum and ArcLight, an investment company out of the East Coast, recently purchased Thorntons. Enex out of Chile purchased Road Ranger. Mapco Express was purchased by a great operator out of Chile called Copec. These folks are bringing innovation and change to our industry. I’m always impressed when I see their operations overseas at how they manage their SKUs, how they manage the customer experience and so forth. If it hasn’t already, I think that will begin to enhance our offerings. We will become that much better at servicing our primary core customer, which is the truck driver…
Question: Can you tell us more about the customer experience?
Answer: I think the customer experience begins even when you’re driving down the road to find a truckstop or a travel center. How easy is it to find? Does it have the traditional stuff? Is the location up-to-date in Google Maps? When you exit, is it easy to get in and out of the location? How easy it is for them to fuel and go about the payment process, use the restrooms and get the food? I think today you have to look at the whole picture. The entire experience will improve sales and profitability. You can’ t just build a store and put a couple pumps in the back and have a driver wait for 20 to 30 minutes to get their fuel. You have to think about how you make that entire process easier.
Listen to the whole episode in the player above or on:
The Truck Stops Here podcast launched in early 2020 and will be out every other Tuesday. Don't miss an episode. Subscribe now! Be a Podcast Guest: Want to be a guest on the show? Fill out the form here.
Subscribe to Updates
NATSO provides a breadth of information created to strengthen travel plazas’ ability to meet the needs of the travelling public in an age of disruption. This includes knowledge filled blog posts, articles and publications. If you would like to receive a digest of blog post and articles directly in your inbox, please provide your name, email and the frequency of the updates you want to receive the email digest.