TravelCenters of America Sets Forth Growth Strategy
NEW YORK -- TravelCenters of America LLC (TA) will use many competitive advantages to drive its growth in the future, CEO Thomas O'Brien said this morning during the Stephens Spring Investment Conference at the New York Palace Hotel.
O'Brien outlined every competitive advantage he says the truck stop operator has vs. competitors. Chief among them are its full-service truck stop model, including clean showers, and the largest facilities, meaning TA has many more parking spaces than others.
According to O'Brien, TA's truck stop competitors are "pumpers only," meaning most solely offer fast food, fuel and a convenience store. TA, by comparison, knows that companies need to get as many miles driven out of their drivers as possible. Hence, the truck stop operator offers a wide range of amenities, such as video game rooms, Verizon Wireless cell phone services, fitness facilities, casinos at five Nevada locations and even a basketball court that just opened last month.
"If a driver is out on the road for 11 hours a day, there are 13 hours remaining. They are not going to sleep that entire time," he said. "We want to make sure we provide all services possible for them."
Foodservice is another way TA separates itself from the competition. "Truck stops don't often offer healthy food," the chief executive noted. "Admittedly, our No. 1 seller is chicken fried steak, [not a healthy option]. But we've launched a great thing called the Stay Fit Program as a way to keep drivers healthy. We haven't completely overhauled our menu, but we now offer many healthy options for drivers."
TA also plans to distance itself from competitors via its massive truck repair business, which features 3,000 technicians and 1,000 repair bays nationwide. "Oil changes are a big business for us," O'Brien said. "And we just added auto alignments."
Even when drivers exit TA truck stops, the company offers services as well. TA has more than 400 emergency roadside assistance vehicles nationwide, the most of any truck stop chain, according to O'Brien.
Looking ahead, the chief executive said TA is considering acquisitions. "Sites were being sold from between $10 million and $15 million a few years back," he said. "Now, they are $3 million to $4 million each. We think there is an opportunity there."
He added that TA is also looking into natural gas as a fuel alternative to diesel -- which composes 90 percent of its fuel sales -- and gasoline.
"We're evaluating if the price of natural gas will stay as low vs. diesel as it has been in the past year," O'Brien reported. "It's something we're definitely keeping an eye on."