Love’s Travel Stops is not only celebrating its 60th year in 2024, but also planning to add 20 to 25 locations this year, remodel others, and expand services. The company now has 640 locations across 42 states, but the addition of the new locations will also provide 1,500 to 2,000 new truck parking spaces.
“We’ll start getting close to 50,000 truck parking spaces across our network,” said Shane Wharton, Love’s president.
Reinvesting in Locations
Last year, Wharton explained, the company announced a five-year goal of spending $1 billion to reinvest in the existing network of stores. Love’s completed eight strategic remodels, plus two raze-and-rebuild projects. More of those projects are coming, on a larger scale, in 2024.
The target this year is to remodel and update 35 to 40 locations and rebuild four locations, Wharton said.
There are still 65 of the smaller Love’s Country Store locations spread across Oklahoma, Colorado, and Kansas. Wharton said the company is still committed to those locations.
“There’s a lot of legacy there. Tom Love started the business with those traditional convenience stores,” added Wharton.
Serving Trucking Needs
Recently Love’s announced Freightliner ExpressPoint is available at more than 400 locations. The company partnered with Daimler Truck North America to add the new Freightliner service option, which provides light mechanical warrant repair work.
“Freightliner trucks are something close to 50% of the trucks that are running on the road. So, it's a really big opportunity for us and an opportunity for our customers. It gives them another option to get that work done,” Wharton said.
Love’s this year also plans to build 10 Speedco locations next to Travel Stops. That will add 50 maintenance bays and about 60 emergency roadside vehicles to its current fleet of around 1,000. Wharton also said about five locations will likely be remodeled this year. Currently, across the company, there are about 1,300 maintenance bays.
The company also offers retread tires and currently has six retread and distribution centers located in Georgia, Indiana, Arizona, Texas, Tennessee, and Oklahoma. This year the plan calls for adding a new location in Natalia, Texas, to replace a smaller location in Laredo, Texas.
Last year the company launched Love’s Truck Washes, and the number will double with the addition of new locations in 2024.
“This is a service that we knew that our professional drivers needed and wanted,” Wharton said. “There are not enough of those types of service facilities in the country. We’ve got six of those opened, we're looking at adding seven in 2024.”
The two most common things Love’s has heard from customers about the truck washes are “speed” and “cost,” he explained.
“Time is money for a truck driver, so the amount of time it takes to get through a truck wash is very important to them. Our facilities are designed with automated technology to get them through quickly. And then also from a cost standpoint, we've got a very good value proposition compared to our competition,” added Wharton.
Love’s Truck Care Academy
Wharton said the Love’s Truck Care Academy is expected to graduate 10 classes this year, which will provide about 1,000 new technicians. The academy is an accelerated training program to develop diesel technicians in 11 heavy-duty systems with classroom and hands-on experience.
Expanding Private Label
The head of Love’s said the company will be expanding on private label products, which he explained help the business better control its supply chain.
The company is launching a product line under the Amarillo Supply Co. brand that will cater to professional truck drivers with offerings such as air hoses. Other products Love’s will be adding are lenses, bulbs, fuses, and other small items.
Plus, the company is launching a new lifestyle brand with things like hats, backpacks, and travel pillows.
Wharton said the company will also roll out an open-concept format in its Fresh Kitchen so customers can see that the food is prepared fresh and on-site. A few prototype locations are in place already, but the new food area look will be further expanded in 2024.
“We're listening to our customers in terms of what they want,” explained Wharton.
Love’s is also adapting its Fresh Kitchen concept because of feedback from customers on offering fresh, healthier, and diet-specific food options. Additions to this line include a new omelet bowl, upgraded snack trays, elevated mac and cheese bowls, and more new choices.
The company also plans to continue partnerships with brands Subway, Arby's, Hardee’s, and Carl’s Jr. as they build new stores. The company now has four Dunkin’ Donuts locations and Wharton said they have received good customer feedback and will be adding about five more locations in 2024.
Musket Corporation, owned by Love’s, is one of the largest trading and logistics companies in the U.S., according to Wharton. He said all gasoline and diesel fuel at Love’s locations is provided by Musket, which is also one of the top producers of diesel exhaust fluid.
“We'll continue to see Musket grow as Love’s grows in their third-party business. So, they'll continue to build out their network of fuel procurement capabilities. We've had some terminal acquisitions in this space, and we'll continue to look at additional terminal acquisitions,” Wharton said.
Wharton said Love’s, through its alternative fuels company Trillium, has been involved in the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure plan and the related federal grant program and has been approved for light-duty EV charging at 29 locations across nine states. The company has received $16.6 million in grant funding.
Prior to the NEVI funding, Love’s already had installed EV charging at more than 25 locations.
Wharton pointed out 2023 was the company’s single largest year for acquisitions and he expects to see one or two more in 2024. A key acquisition last year was TVC Pro-Driver, a subscription-based CDL protection service.
“For the professional driver, obviously if they don't have a CDL, they don't have a job. And so if they get a ticket for some sort of DOT violation or a speeding ticket, TVC is the entity that can help them with that, TVC has a network of attorneys across the nation,” Wharton said.
He used the example of a driver stationed in Los Angeles, California, who might have to deal with a citation for a light that was out while passing through Chicago, Illinois. It would be difficult for that driver to make the trek and be in Chicago for the court date. That is how TVC helps, by handling such matters on behalf of the driver.