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Truck and travel stops loom large in roadside breakdown business

Sept. 9, 2022
Truck stop companies may be the most visible providers of 24/7/365 help to drivers and fleets.

Travel plazas continue as large market players in the business of helping trucks and trailers—and their drivers—out of emergency breakdown situations.

Travel plazas and truck stop chains still play an enormous role in emergency breakdown service and the follow-on maintenance that needs to take place. They are the most visible oasis along the road and perhaps often first of mind with drivers. These chains—TravelCenters of America, Love’s Travel Stops, Pilot Flying J, Sapp Bros., and the like—are plugged in virtually to assure they’re available at all hours to help stranded truckers, but their brick-and-mortar reach is far and wide and much a part of the emergency breakdown assistance market.

See also: Roadside breakdown services: Lifelines that rescue truckers

TravelCenters, for example, runs “three buckets” of services for fleets and stranded professional drivers: a call center that dispatches wreckers and mobile technicians 24/7, traditional in-bay locations (245 TA, Petro, and TA Express facilities nationwide plus 40 or so franchise facilities), and a fleet of trucks that serve as mobile maintenance that service fleet vehicles at their own locations, said Homer Hogg, TA’s VP of truck service.

Hogg said most emergency help is booked through TA’s RoadSquad National Call Center, its app, or website, getting service to a trucker’s location and keeping them and their fleets updated in each of the steps of the breakdown process until the driver is rolling again.

TA generally dispatches the closest service truck but also “the best-qualified service provider for the repair,” according to the RoadSquad website.

After the rescue of a driver and recovery of his or her truck, TA’s repair locations can handle just about any kind of repair. “Anything other than opening a valve cover or opening a transmission, we do. If it straps on that truck somewhere … we are probably doing that type of diagnostic service and repair,” Hogg said.

See also: Hogg: The face of industry technicians

“We often say we’re like the emergency room on the highway,” he added in an interview with FleetOwner. “You don’t want to wait five to six hours to get into an ER, do you? That’s kind of what we’re like out on the highway. Uptime, that’s the name of the game. That’s the deal with everybody. Most people are [carrying] ‘hot loads.’ We have to manage our business like that.”

“Our value proposition is high,” Hogg continued. “Go on the app, go on the website, call, go into our facility. Typically, it takes about an hour to get into one of our bays, and only about two hours to get out. You go to a dealer, you’re nowhere near that three- to four-hour timespan. We manage our network so we can continue to have that as a value proposition.”

Another component of TA, mobile maintenance, is a “quick, growing part of [TA’s] business,” Hogg said. Much like Dickinson Fleet Service’s mobile offering, dedicated on-site, TA’s service comes to a fleet location and performs repairs and regular maintenance, though the service is right now relegated mostly to trailers.

“We have a whole fleet of trucks where we maintain their equipment at their facilities. If that trailer is not loaded and a driver is not hooked to it, they want us to come to them,” Hogg said.

See also: Why some fleets opt to outsource maintenance

Love’s also offers a complementary 24/7 dispatch center, which connects fleets or individual drivers to their closest Love’s Truck Care location or provides emergency breakdown service, according to Eric Daniels, who is the VP of truck care for that truck stop chain. Customers also can submit requests for service through the Love’s Shop Connect portal on its website or through the Love’s Connect app, Daniels noted.

The company offers tire and mechanical services, along with preventive maintenance that typically takes less than four hours to complete, Daniels said. Love’s locations don’t do engine or transmission repairs, similar to TA, but Love’s owns and operates its entire network of more than 430 truck care locations nationwide, including more than 1,500 maintenance bays and 1,000 emergency service vehicles.

“Love’s offers the largest emergency service and preventive maintenance network on the highway and is able to do so because we feel we have the best team in place,” Daniels told FleetOwner.

“Along with hiring the best technicians in the industry, we’re able to offer newer team members additional training opportunities like Love’s prestigious mechanic apprenticeship program and Love’s Truck Care Academy, which recently opened its first location in Amarillo, Texas. We’re opening our second location in Oklahoma soon, and the five-week in-residency training program will further help us provide industry-leading service to customers.”

Options. Drivers and fleet managers have them, in the event a truck is down somewhere far from a terminal. These emergency breakdown services are in business for such events and work to get tractors and trailers back on the road as soon as possible. The freight awaits.

About the Author

Scott Achelpohl | Managing Editor

I'm back to the trucking and transportation track of my career after some time away freelancing and working to cover the branches of the U.S. military, specifically the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps, and the U.S. Coast Guard. I'm a graduate of the University of Kansas and the William Allen White School of Journalism there with several years of experience inside and outside business-to-business journalism. I'm a wordsmith by nature, and I edit FleetOwner magazine and our website as well as report and write all kinds of news that affects trucking and transportation.

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