2017 was a busy year for Pilot Flying J. PFJ opened eight new travel centers and renovated 50 existing locations in 2017.
The company is now seeking to carry that momentum into 2018 as it’s planning to add more stores, perform renovations of existing locations, and offer parking availability notifications, among other initiatives.
Pilot Flying J is the largest travel center operator in North America with more than 750 locations in 43 states and six Canadian provinces. Based in Knoxville, Tennessee, the company headed by Jimmy Haslam has 26,000 employees serving more than 1.3 million guests daily.
PFJ Chief Merchant Brian Ferguson said that they focused on updating existing stores, adding parking spaces, building new shower facilities, and expanding their services at 50 locations last year.
For 2018, Ferguson says that they plan to open 20 new locations and renovate about 50 more. A few of the stores will include mini Bass Pro Shops as part of a partnership between PFJ and Bass Pro Shops.
Tyler Tanaka, Head of Digital Innovation for PFJ, told that the company started rolling out parking sensors at some of its West Coast locations last year. Through the MyPilot app, the sensors alert drivers of available parking spaces at a given PFJ location, Tanaka added.
Tanaka also added that the sensors provide real-time parking availability, which is valuable information for drivers so they can maximize their hours of service.
He says that his team is looking at making the MyPilot app the company’s primary point of contact with drivers to offer in-store savings and other services.
Also, PFJ is gathering feedback from truckers on what they consider as the biggest parking pain points on the road. The information will help them determine where to place the parking sensors.
Tanaka said: “We feel like we’ve solved the I-5 corridor with sensors at 33 locations so far on the West Coast, and we know the Chicagoland area, Texas and New England are huge parking pain points for drivers. We’re focusing on the biggest congestion areas.”
The truck parking issue
Truck parking is a crucial issue for the industry. In fact, the lack of available truck parking spots ranked fourth on the American Transportation Research Institute’s (ATRI) list of the most pressing concerns for the industry.
Transportation researchers have already started focusing on the shortage of truck parking spaces. Their recommendations include the creation of new parking spaces as well as investing in truck parking detection technology.
The TruckCare program
Meanwhile, Dave Latimer, PFJ’s Vice President of Shop Strategies and Operations, said that the company launched a program called TruckCare last year, which offers emergency roadside service and maintenance shops at some travel center locations.
Also last year, PFJ deployed 150 roadside assistance trucks to drivers. The company also opened seven service shops at travel center locations.
Latimer revealed that five more maintenance facilities would open within the next few weeks, along with 20 more this summer. The shops offer basic services such as preventive maintenance, DoT inspections, and light mechanical work.
“We want to be the urgent care facilities to get things done that a trucker needs in three hours or less. We’ll let the truck dealers and those facilities be the hospitals for major work,” Latimer said.
Buy the KeepTruckin ELD at Pilot Flying J travel centers
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