Editor’s Note: Adds comments from Love’s and Pilot
TravelCenters of America (NASDAQ: TA) is laying off more than 3,000 employees because its full-service restaurants are closed and stay-at-home orders have all but dried up business from non-trucking motorists.
TA, which operates 260 TA, Petro Stopping Centers and TA Express travel centers in 44 states and Canada, is furloughing approximately 2,900 field employees and about 122 corporate employees. Total company employment is 21,000.
“This decision was very difficult, but these are unprecedented times,” said TA CEO Jon Pertchik, a veteran turnaround expert hired in December 2019. “We believe this step is necessary to preserve the long-term success of our company and to ensure our essential services remain available for the millions of professional drivers who rely on us daily,”
The coronavirus pandemic has caused many state and local governments to close or severely limit non-essential services, including full-service restaurants. TA said in March that parts of its business may not be considered essential during the health crisis. That is playing out for its full-service restaurants.
All TA locations remain open, providing fuel, showers, restrooms, quick-serve restaurants and convenience stores to truck drivers hauling essential freight like food for grocery stores and medical supplies.
All furloughed employees currently enrolled in TA’s benefits programs will continue to be eligible for healthcare coverage based on their plan. Impacted employees are eligible to apply for enhanced unemployment benefits under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
TA is the only publicly traded travel plaza operation among the three largest truck stop operators.
Love’s and Pilot Company
Love’s Travel Stops & Country Stores said it has not furloughed or laid off any workers due to the coronavirus pandemic. The company said April 3 it is seeking to hire up to 2,000 people for several of its businesses including Musket, the trading and logistics arm of Love’s, and Trillium, a developer of alternative fueling systems.
“We are proud of the dedication our employees have shown in taking care of America’s professional drivers and four-wheel traffic during this crisis,” Love’s spokeswoman Caitlin Campbell told FreightWaves.
The Pilot Company, which operates ravel plazas under the Pilot and Flying J brands, did not comment directly on layoffs at its travel plazas or its energy division, which operates the nation’s third-largest tanker fleet.
“During this difficult time, Pilot Company remains focused on protecting the safety of team members and guests,” Chief People Officer Paul Shore said in a statement.
“We are working hard to keep our more 780 Pilot and Flying J Travel Centers open and operational in order to provide the essential products, services and food that professional drivers and guests need to keep North America moving.”
Pilot this week donated $100,000 to the St. Christopher’s Trucker Development and Relief Fund that helps pay basic living expenses for semi-truck drivers who become ill or are injured on the job.
Truckstops and travel plazas are adapting to hundreds of varying orders from state and local jurisdictions, said Lisa Mullings, president and CEO of NATSO, the trade association for travel plaza and truckstop operators.
“These orders influence all aspects of their business, including their hours of operation and whether they may serve local residents or offer sit-down dining,” Mullings said. “As essential businesses, truckstops and travel plazas across the United States are navigating these myriad economic challenges, but remain open and continue to provide food, fuel, showers and other amenities needed by professional drivers.”