The Love's Travel Stops chain of truck stops has been in expansion mode of late, opening 147 new locations over the past five years including 36 new facilities in 2017 alone.
Now, for 2018, the family-owned company plans to open 40 more locations, with a focus on adding more truck parking spaces, more on-site truck and tire care services, and three new hotels through its Love’s Hospitality division.
“One of the reasons we’ve chosen to build new locations instead of acquire them is so we can maximize the number of truck parking spaces we can build,” Jon Archard, Love’s vice president of sales, told American Trucker. “We are investing where we can to do our part to help solve the truck parking shortage the industry is experiencing right now.”
The company noted that it added 2,600 truck parking spaces in 2017 through its expansion effort and expects to add 3,100 more this year.
That being said, Archard stressed that Love’s trucking customers – fleets and professional drivers alike – are not willing to pay to reserve parking spaces, so a “pay for parking” program is not in Love’s plans at this time.
“Everyone would love to have a reserved parking space, but a willingness to pay for it is another matter,” he said. “Right now our customers are telling us they don’t want to pay for parking so we’re not going to do that in a wide-scale manner.”
What fleets and drivers do want, though, are more maintenance services to be available at truck stops, especially as the imposition of electronic logging devices (ELDs) is putting a “premium” on drive and on-duty time, Archard noted.
“ELDs, hours of service changes and other regulations are putting more pressure of a driver’s time than ever before; everything is being affected by them,” he said. “So while a ‘one stop shop’ can sound like a bit of a cliché, that is what our customers are really demanding.”
That’s why Love’s bought Speedco’s chain of 52 locations last year, as part of an effort to widen the reach of that “one stop shop” effort, especially in terms of truck maintenance offerings, Archard explained.
“We got into the tire [care] business 10 years ago and started adding more light maintenance offerings three or four years ago, so the Speedco acquisition was not a ‘new’ effort – the timing just proved right to add those stores to our existing locations,” he said.
Love’s noted that all 52 Speedco locations will continue to offer the same services and tire brands as before, with the truck stop chain planning to add light mechanical services to those locales this year.
When it comes to the addition of hotels to Love’s truck stop properties, Archard said the focus is twofold.
On the one hand, it addresses the needs of Love’s “four-wheeler” traffic that often need overnight accommodations while traveling.
On the other, many long-haul drivers often want a break from their sleeper after spending weeks on the road. “And now we’re finding fleets providing hotel rooms as a reward of sorts to drivers as well,” Archard noted. “We look at [hotels] as a complimentary product to out offerings. We’re still new to it but so far, so good.”
Love’s also has a few other efforts on deck as part of its 2018 expansion plan:
- The company plans to add automated showers at nearly all of its travel stop locations this year.
- Love’s aims to build 42 more public laundry service locations as well.
- The company’s Trillium division will broaden its alternative fuel offerings this year to include electric vehicle charging stations, solar panel installation and hydrogen fueling, as well as additional compressed natural gas (CNG) refueling locales.