Andrew Uviedo will tell you that finding parking is a big deal for today’s truck drivers.
As the general manager for the four year-old Love’s Travel Stops & Country Stores facility in Natalia, TX, along I-35, he said that tractor-trailers start pulling into his location starting between 3 pm and 4 pm in the afternoon to secure one of his truck stop’s 150 slots for overnight parking.
And those that don’t get one of his spots or one at the other truck stops up and down I-35 will then spill out onto the highway on- and off-ramps to find parking space for their 10-hour off-duty period.
“My parking lot will be full but it’s still not enough,” he told Fleet Owner. “They’ll park on the access roads and the highway ramps, but it is still not enough.”
That’s why adding more parking spaces is becoming a major focal point for Love’s ongoing expansion efforts.
The company added 47 new stores this year across 20 states that included the addition of slightly more than 3,000 new truck-parking spaces.
“For new stores in 2017, we’re on track to match or outpace what we did in 2016,” Love’s spokesperson Kealey Dorian told Fleet Owner.
“For parking in 2017, it’s hard to tally because we don’t have completed site plans for all of our locations yet,” she said. “But approximately 3,100 new parking spaces in 2017 is a good estimate.”
Frank Love, co-CEO of Love’s, noted in a statement that after its 2016 expansion efforts are tallied up, the company now operates over 400 facilities across 40 states.
“We’re committed to serving our customers in as many ways as possible and part of that is adding more locations to provide services in areas where we didn’t offer coverage,” he added.
Offering more driver amenities represents another major investment area for Love’s, too, as truck stops try to become more all-in-one locations offering fuel, food, tire care and light repair services.
As part of moving further along the tire care trend line, Love’s rolled out TirePass, a digital tire-monitoring program that automatically checks and sets tire pressures while a truck refuels, early last year. Uveido said his location added a dedicated “TirePass lane” two years ago and after a few months it became one of the busier spots at his truck stop.
TirePass is but one of the ways Love’s has been expanding light maintenance services at its travel centers. For example, Love’s Truck Tire Care added more than 20 facilities in 2016 – bringing its nationwide total of tire car locations to 260.
Love’s tire care division also expanded its offerings in 2016 to include a focus on oil changes as well as transmission and gear box lubricant service, complemented by preventive maintenance checks of fluids and filters as well.
Uviedo said his location operates a three-bay tire shop that also provides light mechanical services and DOT inspections. “We don’t offer oil changes here yet but that’s coming soon,” he noted. “We’re just waiting for our [vehicle] lifts to arrive.”
His facility also operates two mobile service trucks to provide emergency roadside assistance when needed.
Uviedo is also focused on trying to provide anything else a driver might need after a long day on the road – including a friendly face.
“You have to have an outgoing personality,” he noted. “A driver’s been on the road all day, in traffic, dealing with loading and unloading issues. They don’t want to see sad faces when they pull in here.”
But that also means his workers need to be “ready for anything,” especially during his facility’s peak hours for truck activity between 12 noon and 1 pm followed by 3 pm to 4 pm. The Love’s Natalia location operates on three shifts and everyone is primed to jump in and help out wherever they may be needed. Even Uviedo said he’ll go operate the TirePass lane if his tire shop team is tied up with other work.
“We all need to multi-task to help our customers get what they need done – it’s just the nature of this business today,” he stressed.
Other notable additions to Love’s chain of facilities in 2016 include:
- The opening of seven new hotels adjacent to Love’s travel stops, giving customers convenient access to a place to rest. Love’s now owns 11 hotels in eight states.
- Love’s now operates 65 compressed natural gas (CNG) refueling sites as part of its acquisition of Trillium CNG earlier this year.
- Musket Corp., the trading and logistics arm of the Love’s Family of Companies, opened seven diesel exhaust fluid (DEF) wholesale bulk rack terminals across the U.S, “strategically located” near Love’s stores to easily provide round-the-clock access to DEF, the company said.
- Love’s introduced three new restaurant concepts in 2016, bringing Love’s total number of quick service restaurant or “QSR” partners to 19. Love’s opened two Dunkin’ Donuts at its sites in Sikeston, MO, and Canaan, NY; IHOP Express restaurants are now featured at six Love’s locations; and its travel stop in Liberal, KS, now boasts Love’s first Taco John’s restaurant.