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Fuel for Thought

“Friggin’ crooks”

By Greg Huggins
Posted Apr 27th 2018 4:00AM

“Friggin’ crooks”. “Too much bio in their fuel”. “Outdated and overpriced”.

If you are an owner operator and have spent any length of time on the road, you probably recognize the above sentiments. You can probably even tell which truck stop, or travel center as they are calling themselves these days, that each one references.

“Friggin crooks”, most drivers will recognize as a Pilot/Flying J description and while many remember or have learned why the chain earned the title, is it still relevant?

“Too much bio in their fuel” most drivers know this usually refers to Love's. I'm not sure where or when this started, my guess is years ago, clogged fuel filters from the old biofuels with older engines that were not designed to use biofuel could have led to Love's earning the moniker.

“Overpriced and outdated” obviously refers to TA/Petro locations. Of the big three truck stop chains, TA/Petro probably has some of the oldest locations and many could use some updating, but also many of them have been updated, yet the perception still exists. As for the overpriced part, while this may be descriptive of all truck stops, TA/Petro gets the nod for this more than others partly due to the recent growing percentage of paid parking in their lots.

There may be some truth to all of these driver's claims about the most popular truck stops in the U.S. today, or may have been true at one time, but times change and conditions change, although  perceptions are slow to evolve.

While PFJ has made many improvements for driver amenities and can be competitive on fuel pricing, the old badge of dishonor continues to adhere to them.

Today's biofuel is a better product than back in its infancy and the industry standard is 5 to 20 percent. For some reason, Loves still gets the credit from many drivers for more bio in their fuel than other chains. While there is a difference between the low and high end amounts of bio in the fuel, it is an acceptable range for today's engines.

TA/Petro can't shake the claim from drivers about pricing and aging amenities, but of the three, TA/Petro has more full service locations, generally larger parking lots (paid and free) and more amenities (old and new) available, which have a higher cost to operate, thus the overpriced claims will continue.

For those who have been out here on the road for a while, it is easy to get in a habit of limiting yourself to one or maybe two chains, but in today's competitive market, do yourself a favor and do a real comparison, you may be losing some revenue by overspending at one chain because of past perceptions or experiences.

Years ago, about 15, I bought a set of Goodyear tires. Worst tire wear I ever had on a truck. I would not buy another set of them for over 11 years. About 4 years ago I tried another set of Goodyear tires, and I am still running on them today, nearly 350,000 miles later. Point is, times change, companies change and products change.

It may do your bottom line some good to revisit your truck stop choices and see if there could be a benefit for you by choosing a place you may have considered “out of the question” years ago. I too, have been guilty of avoiding one of the big three chains, and seem to end up at one more than the other. Sometimes it is location, other times it is the amenities and yet other times it is just old habits.Taking the feelings out of what should be a business decision has improved my bottom line, opened up more choices and removed some of the bad experiences from memory that were keeping me from returning to certain truck stops. If your old grudges against certain truck stop chains are holding you back from returning, maybe it is time to give another look into some of the other truck stop options that you have been avoiding for years. Chances are, they aren’t as bad as you remember, it was just a particular location or they have improved over the years to stay competitive.

 

See you down the road,

Greg

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