Trucking is an isolated job. A trucker may only have one or two human interactions in a day which include loading or unloading the truck, and stopping at a truckstop, so it’s important to make them as pleasant as possible. Whether it’s a genuinely sincere greeting, a friendly cashier, or a kind person serving a hot meal, positive interactions will generally lead to repeat business. When it comes to keeping drivers coming back, you have to make these visits count.
At the Ambest 34th Annual Meeting driver panel last week, drivers Frank Jackson, Kenyette Godhigh-Bell, Rusty Moss and Idella Hanse agreed the perfect ‘unicorn’ truck stop had many requirements but, above all else, customer service is what will keep them coming back.
“At the end of the day, I like to talk to somebody,” said Hanse. “Human contact is important.”
A genuine warm welcome will be remembered by a driver, but it’s not the only way to garner repeat business. Clean amenities, hot food, safe parking, and fast service are also very important, the drivers said.
Other merchants echoed the same sentiment during the event’s carrier panel. Prime Inc. fuel manager Sam Messick said all truck stops compete on price these days, which makes discounted fuel table stakes. This means, according to Messick, that “other little things matter too.”
“Put yourself in the shoes of drivers,” he advised. “Basic amenities should not be low on your priority list. Once drivers have it bad, they’ll never go back.”
So what makes the perfect truck stop?
“Parking is the most important thing at a truck stop,” said Hanse. She also places good signage high on her list, “so I know which gate to go in, and which gate not to go in.”
It’s no secret that truck parking is one of the biggest challenges drivers face every day. However, the panel also highlighted that truck stops and parking spaces must be easy to access. (No potholes!) Godhigh-Bell concurred, revealing that she consults Google Maps regularly before visiting a new location to make sure she can easily maneuver her rig inside.
The drivers also agreed that competition for limited spaces can make matters worse. According to Moss, drivers typically look for parking at the same time of day, which exacerbates the scarcity of available spaces. This leads to lots of wasted time looking for somewhere to rest. “Everyone’s on a stopwatch,” he said.
The panel suggested that pre-paid parking could help address the issue. In fact, they suggested they’d happily go off route to a truck stop that offered paid parking that they could book in advance to eliminate search-related stress.
Drivers want hot and healthy food options available around the clock – and they’d give extra points to stops where they can dine in and be served by friendly faces. Night drivers are too often starved for choice at both big travel centers and mom-and-pop shops. By the time they can stop to rest, most restaurants have closed, which makes hot options limited at best. “Here we are making $100K a year and the only option we have is to eat crackers,” said Moss. He even said he’d be willing to pay ‘a bit more’ to have better options available and dine-in service.
Drivers spend 70% of their time in their trucks now and driver’s lounges aren’t as prevalent as they used to be. Despite this, drivers have high standards for clean showers.
“Once I go into a place and I have issues [like] a dirty shower [or] a dirty restroom, then normally I check that place off,” Hanse shared. She prefers to seek out mom-and-pop independent truck stops because she’s found more consistency in their offerings than some of the big-brand travel centers.
Efficiencies at the Pump and Inside the Store
Time is money. Ensuring quick refueling and seamless payments leads to repeat customers. “Efficiency is what we want, because we have to get in and get out and get back on the road in a certain amount of time,” said Frank. Drivers don’t have the luxury of time, so waiting for a pump or waiting in long lines in stores all have a negative impact. “If I get held at a truck stop because you have one cashier and 20 drivers standing in line, it just ain’t happening.”
Download the Relay mobile app, designed specifically for drivers to make life on the road easier with fast payments, on-route fuel discounts and the ability to find and book parking.
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