Did you notice that the sign in front of most the facilities we visit for fueling and rest do not have truck stop as part of their title?
I did some research to see when we lost the title of truck stop for these facilities. Slowly in the 1980’s truck stop after truck stop chain started changing their names to travel centers. This happened without fanfare, as many of us did not notice the slight change in name. It turns out truck stops were not nearly the profitable industry that many of us would think they are. The decision was made across the industry to start identifying themselves as travel centers to attract more of the motoring public. The name travel center was simply used to attract additional revenue streams.
Over the years truck stops began to offer more and more amenities such as showers, full-service restaurants, shops, laundry rooms, driver lounges, and in some cases barbershops. Each one of these additions as they came along required cash flow to support their existence.
This action became so successful that it became necessary for the travel center restaurants to cordon off areas for professional drivers only. These sections were the first to be served due to truck drivers demanding schedules. In the past, it was common place for the motoring public to look for the restaurants and facilities where all the trucks were stopped as this was a sign of the best food while traveling.
I myself struggle to decide whether the front door traffic has diminished due to increased competition or from the public perception of our industry. It is interesting when you read how much an endeavor it is to build a travel center as the public outcry is “not in my back yard”. It seems as though the general public thinks a truck stop/travel center will destroy the neighborhood.
This reputation came from somewhere so it is up to us to change this perception. In the end, we need revenue sources other than our own to support the truck stop industry unless we either
a: be willing to support the travel center with more revenue-generating business
b: welcome the motoring public and their revenue to help support the facilities where we park
Today we are seeing more reserved/paid parking in facilities that offered these services for free in the past. None of us really wants to pay for parking, however, this could be the one revenue source that keeps the travel center/truck stop industry viable into the future. In the end, most truck lines do not have terminals in all of the locations their trucks need to park so these facilities are needed for our industry. What would we do without truck stops?