GREAT IDEAS IN ACTION, Where: Petro Travel Store #353


The trucking business never sleeps, which means truckstops and travel plazas have to keep their doors open around the clock. That can create a challenge when scheduling employ­ees, particularly around the holidays.

Travel center operators have the challenge of balancing a schedule to handle the holiday workload and granting time off for team players to be with their families. At the Petro Travel Store #353 in Portage, Wisconsin, each team player chooses to work three of the five holidays—Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas, New Years Eve and New Years Day.

This gives the team players the chance to plan for holiday traditions and events as they know when exactly they will work during the holidays. The three of five days strikes a fair balance between work and personal time and boosts morale for employees while they are working the holidays. Plus, the team players appreciate having some time off with their families.



Send a high-resolution picture of your location’s great idea and the story behind it to Amy Toner, NATSO's vice president of publishing and digital content, at

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NATSO has planned a detailed post-election analysis and preview of the next Congress and Presidential Administration for lunch on Monday, Jan. 23, during The NATSO Show.

NATSO has provided a “deep dive” into the 2016 election results and what they mean for the various public policy issues that affect the truckstop and travel plaza industry at

Here NATSO examines how the election results alter the national political landscape.


Defying expectations among pundits and pollsters alike, President-elect Donald Trump won the 2016 presidential election by breaking open Hillary Clinton’s “firewall” in the Midwest. High turnout and unprecedented Republican support among rural voters in states such as Pennsylvania, Michigan and Ohio provided Trump with the electoral votes he needed, despite his losing the popular vote. Meanwhile, Clinton’s gains in traditionally Republican suburbs were weaker than anticipated. Clinton’s support among urban non-white voters was less than expected.

As the map on the right indicates, Clinton outperformed President Obama’s 2012 results in southwestern states such as Texas, Arizona and California. However, the shift was not enough to flip Arizona, and California and Texas were not competitive, negating any potential electoral college gain


Conversely, Trump dramatically improved upon Mitt Romney’s numbers with rural non-college white voters that are disproportionately located in the Midwest. Clinton could not overcome these losses with smaller gains among suburban, college-educated voters, and as a result Trump won key battlegrounds such as Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin.

President-elect Trump does not have a traditional cadre of Washington insiders and donors to build out his cabinet and circle of advisers.  It appears as though his transition team is in the process of putting together one of the more eclectic and controversial presidential cabinets in modern history, comprised of some old-time Washington insiders who have been loyal to Trump throughout his presidential campaign industry titans and conservative activists.


Republicans maintained control of the Senate, defeating numerous Democratic challengers who polls showed were leading going into Election Day. Although many pundits had predicted that Trump would harm down-ballot Republicans, just the opposite occurred. In fact, many Senate incumbents were pulled along by President-elect Trump's unanticipated strength in several key battleground states that Trump won.

Patrick Toomey of Pennsylvania, Richard Burr of North Carolina and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin all made late comebacks to win reelection and help ensure Republicans maintained control of the Senate.  Other Republican incumbents, such as Marco Rubio of Florida and Rob Portman of Ohio, fared well in the face of a climate of high voter dissatisfaction with the "Washington establishment."

Democrats did gain two seats, however: Tammy Duckworth of Illinois defeated Sen. Mark Kirk and Gov. Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire defeated Sen. Kelly Ayotte.  In Nevada, Catherine Cortez Masto defeated Republican Rep. Joe Heck to retain the seat held by retiring Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

As a result, although Republicans retain control, the Senate will be narrowly divided 52-48. Given that several Republican senators—most prominently Jeff Flake of Arizona and Susan Collins of Maine—have publicly opposed Trump, the soon-to-be-president may find it difficult to get some of his top priorities through the upper chamber.


Republicans retained control of the House, although Democrats picked up a handful of seats. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) will have a difficult time, however, maintaining control of a divided caucus, as traditional, “establishment” Republicans who favor policies such as free trade deregulating Wall Street will have to contend with a growing segment of the Republican caucus and Republican voters who have more populist views.




Overall, state control will remain unchanged in 38 states. Republican governors will control three additional states: Missouri, New Hampshire and Vermont. The North Carolina governor’s race is still being disputed, and control of New York’s state senate remains up in the air as well.

Missouri, New Hampshire, Kentucky and Iowa have divided government, but their legislatures and governor will be under Republican control in 2017. Washington state will technically be under full Democratic control, though Republicans will control the state Senate because one Democrat joined their caucus.

Connecticut and Vermont will be divided after having full Democrat control, as will Louisiana and Nevada after Republican control. Both chambers in Nevada switched to Democrats. Minnesota and New Mexico now have Democrat and Republican legislatures, respectively, but remain divided overall.



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Improve NET OPERATING COST by increasing SALES

For truckstop and travel plaza operators, net operating cost provides insight into their locations’ profitability, efficiency and success, which explains why operators are constantly looking to improve their net operating cost.

Darren Schulte, vice president of membership at NATSO, said there are a number of ways locations can works well for one location may not be the solution for another. “You can reduce or improve the cost of your food or your retail items, your labor or your supplies while your sales remain the same, you can work to increase sales, or you can increase your sales and also reduce your costs,” Schulte said.

Regardless of which area operators focus on first, Roger Cole, editor of the NATSO Foundation’s Biz Brief and a former chairman of NATSO, suggested operators remove fixed or semi-fixed costs they can’t control, such as property tax and depreciation, when examining their net operating cost so they can focus on things the managers have control over.

For more tips and insight, NATSO sat down with operators to learn how they have improved their net operating cost. 



Holding expenses constant while increasing sales, gross profits and centsper-gallon margins is the preferred method of improving net operating cost percentages, said Tom Heinz, president of Heinz Inc. and Coffee Cup Fuel Stops & Convenience Stores Inc. “Focusing on increasing average transaction amounts by simply selling more to each customer is going to be crucial,” he said. “With lower gasoline prices, a renewed focus on the gas customer and training all employees on how to upsell should pay future dividends as well.”

Schulte said, “If there is a magic bullet everyone would agree it is to increase your sales. Most people believe if you can drive your topline sales it has a double benefit. It increases the revenue, which leads to increased profits. It also improves your economy of scale. If you’re growing sales, you’re buying more, which comes with its own cost reductions.”

Heinz said simply maintaining a product mix with high double-digit margins while mitigating out of stocks can be helpful in increasing average customer transaction amounts.

To help increase sales, Herb Hargraves, director of fuel and retail sales at Cash Magic Truck Plazas and Casinos, has implemented a suggestive selling program, which he said is a key driver in stimulating additional sales. He launched his company’s suggestive selling program several years ago and has seen it grow year over year.

“The first year we made an additional $10,000, the next was $20,000 the next was $35,000. When I look at my year over year, it is a 1.5–3 percent increase,” Hargraves said. “Those incremental rings can add up to the bottom line. As companies, we want to increase our sales and profits.”

Butch Stucky, vice president of retail operations at Triplett Inc., said Triplett runs promotions to try and spur sales and will tie in a contest as a way for cashiers and store teams to win something. “That keeps the cashiers selling and incentivize them to ask for the sale,” he said.

Triplett works with vendors to find a way for them to participate, whether it is a cost reduction or rebates. “There are all different ways to slice the pie. Different vendors like to work in different ways,” Stucky said, adding that it is important to come up with a price point that will incentivize customers to take advantage of the special and make it easier for cashiers to pitch the deal. “The more the cashiers do it and have success doing it, the less resistance there is to do it.”

Hargraves agrees that finding the right item at the right price can make the program more successful. “It is all about the smart suggestions. If you make the item too expensive, it just doesn’t make sense,” he said.

To help boost sales, some operators are making the most of their parking lots, turning extra space into an innovative profit center. Schulte said adding revenue sources to a parking lot enables operators to improve their net operating cost by using parts of location that may not be producing any value to the operation.

An innovative kiosk or vending machine could also help a location change its customer demographic. “For example, if your current location demographic is 99 percent male, a drive-through popcorn kiosk may just change that up,” Schulte said. “What about a drive-through cupcake kiosk or cosmetic kiosk?”

Increasing sales is just one of several ways operators can boost their net operating cost. NATSO has created an online toolkit with a dozen additional ways operators can improve costs, including making smart marketing spends, minimizing shrink and reducing supply costs. Access the toolkit at NOCtoolkit. In addition, Schulte will delve deeper on the topic during

The NATSO Show 2017. 


via Business Feeds


Where: White’s Travel Center


White’s Petro Stopping Center in Raphine, Virginia, has its own currency—Bobby Bucks.

Bobby Bucks are employee rewards that are printed to look like a dollar. “I especially like that the picture of me on them is an old one,” joked Bobby Berkstresser, owner of White’s.

An employee can earn a Bobby Bucks when a customer satisfaction card comes in with an extraordinary comment about an employee on it or if the manager sees them do something especially great. “They are meant to acknowledge when our employees have gone above and beyond,” Berkstresser explained.

They are also given out as awards when a department hits a noteworthy goal. Managers are given Bobby Bucks to give out at their discretion. They can be used anywhere in the travel plaza.

Where: Dodge  City Petro


Being a new employee can always feel overwhelming, but that is particularly true at truckstops and travel plazas where there are a number of profit centers as well as customers who may be in a rush and impatient.


“In our business, you might have a driver who isn’t in the best mood asking a travel store cashier if we work on turbos in the service center,” said Keith Wade, operations director at Dodge City Petro.

To help take some of the stress off of new cashiers and set customers’ expectations, Wade has new hires wear big yellow buttons that say, “Be patient. I am in training.” Wade said he has found the buttons encourage customers to be understanding if the cashier is moving a little slow or needs to seek out the answer to a question.


Miller Oil Co.


During lunch on Wednesdays at the truckstops of Miller Oil Co. in Norfolk, Virgina, customers are treated to the unusual luxury of having their fuel pumped.

From 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., staff don their bright We Pump Wednesday t-shirts and pump fuel for professional drivers and four-wheelers.

This is a creative way of showing their customers their appreciation by offering extra customer service without having to staff fuel jockeys every day. It is also a good way to keep folks to stop in for gas during the week. 

Note from Stop Watch Editor Amy Toner

HAVE A GREAT IDEA YOU WANT TO SUBMIT?  I love to hear your great ideas and the stories behind them.  If you are attending The NATSO Show, you can find me either in the back of the center stage producing the keynotes, collecting testimonials in the Great Ideas Bar or wandering around with a notebook furiously scribbly down the great ideas shared. I hope you’ll introduce yourself and share your great ideas with me in Savannah. 

via Business Feeds

Rebranding Success on HAT SIX ROAD

Hat Six Travel Center, based in Evansville, Wyoming, has embraced the local flair, capitalized on convenience and identified three distinct customer bases, which is boosting sales and driving loyalty.

The location, which was previously known as Eastgate Travel Plaza, underwent a 21-month rebuild and rebranding. Tiffany Gamble, advisor for the location, said the name change resonated with customers because they already identified the travel plaza with its location on Hat Six Road. Gamble said, “When you would mention Eastgate Travel Plaza to people, they would say, ‘Oh, out there on Hat Six?”

The location sits on just over 17 acres and features 150 truck parking spaces, 90 car parking spaces, a playground, two dog parks, two picnic areas, fast food, a c-store, a bar and a drive-thru alcohol lane.

Hat Six has identified three primary customer groups, and the customer base has shifted since the rebuild. “We’re about one-third truck drivers, one-third locals and one-third travelers. We didn’t have that many travelers before, but with our new store we’ve become a destination,” Gamble said, adding that the traffic on the car side has increased “tremendously.”

Gamble said the number of travelers with campers and four wheelers have increased as well, and many of those travelers use the dog park. “We started out with one dog park, then we decided to add a second. One is on the trucker side and the other is more on the car side,” she said. “I think there is a big increase in the truck driver population having animals with them.”

Hat Six also sells dog treats, dog food and toys inside the store. “We put in good signage all around the location to direct customers to the dog park, which keeps the dogs off of our landscaping,” Gamble said.

For customers traveling with children, the location features a playground with a teeter totter and the Sinclair dinosaurs, which Gamble said are popular.

The location had a number of commuters who would park there each day to carpool. “We blocked off an area in our back trucking area just for commuters and we have 20-30 commuters who park with us every day,” Gamble said. The location doesn’t charge commuters to park, but has implemented paid parking for commercial drivers spending more than 24 hours at the location. “You pre-pay for how many days and there is a permit to place with in truck.”

Hat Six began to charge because some customers would drop trailers at the location for weeks at a time. “This was our solution,” Gamble said.

As part of the re-build, Hat Six opted to eliminate its sit-down restaurant and opened branded franchises, including Schlotzky’s, Cinnabon and Moe’s Southwest Grill. “Our sales in the food court compared to our sit down restaurant two years ago are more than double,” Gamble said, adding that the location ramped up the menu in its bar. “We have ribs, chicken strips and burgers. They can sit down and order and have the meal delivered.”

Hat Six also has open grab-andgo coolers with homemade sandwiches and salads that are all done in house. The location features a mini-grocery store, which appeals to locals and travelers alike. “We have lettuce, tomato, avocados, rotisserie chickens—things for your dinner,” Gamble said. “In our freezer section we have Wyoming beef, packaged chicken breasts, steaks and hamburger so you can grab that.”

In Wyoming, drive-thru alcohol lanes are legal, and Hat Six has had success selling liquor and beer and has added three alcoholic slushie machines. “We also sell salty snacks to go with the beer,” Gamble said.

Gamble said one of her favorite things has been all of the additional merchandise the location carries. “We’ve increased our inventory. We have gifts, home décor, more jewelry,” Gamble said. “We have a couple that drives an hour and a half to shop in our store. We’re realizing people want things that they don’t see anywhere else. The more we do that, the more we can sell.”

Hat Six also expanded its Wyoming section, which features local honey, lotions and soaps, and it has added more boots. “We’ll change out our merchandise with the season,” Gamble said.

To help attract customers, Gamble invested in nine billboards. “I had zero before. I have them coming from every which way and that has increased our traffic,” she said.

via Business Feeds

NATSO Foundation Launches Park My Truck Mobile App

On Oct. 3, the NATSO Foundation launched the mobile app Park My Truck, a new highway
safety initiative to help professional drivers find available truck parking.

The app was created by the Truck Parking Leadership Initiative, which includes the NATSO Foundation, NATSO Inc., the American Trucking Associations (ATA) and the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI).

“Park My Truck was developed by the truckstop industry in conjunction with our trucking partners based on feedback from professional drivers and trucking companies who often describe truck parking availability as a critical need,” said Lisa Mullings, president of NATSO and the NATSO Foundation. “The NATSO Foundation and its allies are committed to providing America’s truck drivers with easy, up-todate information regarding available truck parking. Working together, we can advance safety on the highways for all drivers by sharing information and helping truck drivers more easily find and utilize existing capacity.

Park My Truck includes the total number of truck parking spaces for nearly 4,500 truckstops in the United States and some rest areas. Participants reporting available truck parking information include independent truckstops as well as chain locations representing 150,000 truck parking spaces.

“Finding a safe place to park is a consistent issue for drivers in our industry,” said ATA President and CEO Chris Spear. “While we would love to see the number of spaces increase, tightening state and federal highway budgets will limit the opportunity to expand parking capacity for the foreseeable future.  It is important we have ways to let drivers know where the spaces currently exist, which is why this app, developed in cooperation with ATRI and NATSO, is so important.  Directing drivers to safe parking spaces will give them the rest they need and the off-duty time they are required to have."

The success of the initiative hinges on the nation's truck parking providers working in partnership to supply drivers with current, reliable data on available truck parking.  Truck parking providers can contact the NATSO Foundation at (855) 650-6935 or to establish an account to provide truck parking availability.



In addition to being an important industry initiative, Park My Truck is an exciting new way for drivers to find your truckstops or travel plazas.  Reasons to participate include:

  • Participation is free and simple - all you need is the ability to count.
  • Participation in the app shows your commitment to provide safe, reliable parking for your customers.
  • The success of this initiative hinges on the nation's truck parking providers working in partnership to supply drivers with current, reliable data on available truck parking.


What You Need.  Truck parking operators need only to have internet access and the ability to count available spaces, whether by observation or by electronic means.*

Specifically you need:

1. Username and password

2. Internet access of any speed and on any device to visit

Update Your Parking Availability.  The NATSO Foundation recommends parking providers updated their availability at a minimum every two hours between 3:00 p.m. and 11:00 p.m.

Get Started.  Truck parking providers can contact the NATSO Foundation at (855) 650-6935 or to establish an account to provide truck parking availability.

*There is also an application program interface (API) to submit your parking availability electronically.


Truckstop and travel plaza operators can watch an app demo at

The demo covers:

  • What the app is and why we created it
  • How to participate as a parking provider
  • Frequently asked questions

via Business Feeds


For more than 50 years, NATSO has focused on one thing: advancing the success of truckstop and travel plaza operators just like you.


By achieving the industry's public policy goals and delivering solutions to travel plaza operators' very unique problems.


Problem: Processing payments is expensive.

NATSO Solutions:

  • NATSO members get reduced credit card processing rates through FirstData.
  • Only NATSO members can sign up for the Check-Link™ Check Verification Program to cut the risk and associated costs of bad checks.
  • Stay tuned! NATSO has an exciting new payment processing program in the works.

Problem: Good employees are hard to find, hire and train.

NATSO Solutions:

  • NATSO members receive a deeply discounted rate on NATSO’s Training Manual specifically designed to help train travel plaza employees.
  • NATSO provides human resources best practice webinars as well as articles in Stop Watch magazine and on NATSO’s blog.
  • NATSO members get discounts on recruiting and hiring help from CareerCo.
  • Members also receive reduced rates for FASTPORT’s assistance with hiring military personnel.

Problem: You need new ways to solve operational problems, but you don't have resources to waste on ideas that don't work.

NATSO Solutions:

  • Discounted registration for attending The NATSO Show, where travel plaza operators share “Great Ideas” that have actually worked at real truckstops.
  • Deep discounts on NATSO Foundation Study Tours where best-in-class retailers show visitors exactly how their truckstop is solving everyday problems.
  • Only NATSO members can work with retail expert Darren Schulte, who has over 25 years of travel plaza industry experience, to fine tune operations to improve revenues and profitability.

Problem: It's tough to find business intelligence that's relevant to truckstops and even harder to apply it.

NATSO Solutions:

  • Special alerts from NATSO’s regulatory counsel provide an early warning and analysis of government action that will affect travel plazas like yours.
  • Biz Brief e-newsletter identifies the business trends that are specifically relevant to travel plazas.
  • Stop Watch magazine provides in-depth articles on ways you can improve operations.
  • Only NATSO members can attend our Fall Leadership Meeting where top travel plaza executives brainstorm responses to trends that are changing the industry.

Problem: You can't find supplier partners who understand travel plazas' unique needs.

NATSO Solutions:

  • Access to NATSO Chairman’s Circle members and allied members who have shown their commitment to the industry by joining NATSO.
  • Time to meet with more than 100 vendors on the show floor during The NATSO Show.
  • Points to Partners Inc. has joined with NATSO to offer a customized loyalty program specifically designed for travel plazas and truckstops.
  • Allied Brand Capital has designed underground storage tank and franchise financing programs exclusively for NATSO members.


KimberlyRobertslowres.jpgKIMBERLY ROBERTS serves as NATSO's manager of travel plaza member services.  She provides customer service and support to travel plaza and Check-Link customers.

How to Contact Kimberly:  (703)739-8573

Kimberly's Favorite Thing About Working with NATSO Members: My favorite thing about working with NATSO members is that they are so passionate about their business, so creative, energetic and willing to give and receive ideas. It's a pleasure to work with them.

DarrenSchulteNATSO138.jpgAs the vice president of membership at NATSO, DARREN SCHULTE directs recruitment, retention and customer service to travel plaza members. He travels extensively and is always eager to visit with membersand share his insights into the industry.

How to Contact Darren:  (915) 526-5820

Darren's Favorite Thing About Working with NATSO Members: NATSO members care so much about their small communities and their core customer, the truck driver. It is amazing to witness in person just how much our organization's members work towards participating, encouraging and deeply appreciating these two stalwarts of America.


This year NATSO launched a number of exciting new member programs created to reduce the significant costs associated with operating a travel plaza and help members successfully market their businesses.


Truckstop Financing with Allied Brand Capital  

NATSO created a partnership with Allied Brand Capital, a provider of NATSO entered into partnership with FASTPORT capital equipment financing and leasing for a number of truckstop to help NATSO members recruit and hire military and travel plaza’s needs, including pumps, underground storage veterans and transitioning service members. tank equipment, credit card processing technology, LED lighting, FASTPORT’s mission is to educate, motivate, hire and inspire veterans and franchise fees and more. NATSO and Allied Brand Capital launched transitioning service members into great careers with great employers an underground storage tank (UST) financing program and a within the transportation industry. NATSO members receive a special rate franchise financing program. Both programs are available to NATSO based on the number of locations. members only.

Recruit And Hire Employees With CareerCo

NATSO and CareerCo have created a partnership to help truckstop and travel plaza operators recruit and hire employees.  CareerCo is a successful online recruitment leader, providing NATSO members with a risk-free, performance-based system to recruit and hire for a variety of positions.  NATSO members receive a 10 percent discount on all CareerCo services.

Recruit and Hire Veterans with FASTPORT

NATSO entered into partnership with FASTPORT to help NATSO members recruit and hire military veterans and transitioning service members.  FASTPORTS's mission is to educate, motivate, hire and inspire veterans and transitioning service members into great careers with great employers within the transportation industry.  NATSO members receive a special rate based on the number of locations.

Discounted Custom-Embroidery, Garment Printing with Logo Droppers

Logo Droppers, a custom-embroidery, screen-printing and direct-to-garment printing provider, joined NATSO as a Chairman’s Circle and travel plaza operators recruit and hire employees. CareerCo is a member in September. As part of its membership, Logo Droppers is offering a discount for NATSO members.

Problem: Policymakers in Washington, D.C. don't always know how their decisions could threaten your business.

NATSO Solutions:

NATSO leads and builds coalitions to promote our industry’s position on: 

a. Sustainable funding for roads.

b. Tolling existing Interstates.

c. Commercializing rest areas. 

d. Truck parking.

e. Fuels issues, such as underground storage tanks, the renewable fuels standard and the biodiesel tax credit.

NATSO participates in coalitions to ensure our industry's perspective is represented on:

I. Labor issues, such as minimum wage, overtime rules, joint employer/unionization.

II. Swipe fees and payment system data security.

III. Health care reform.

IV. Food issues, such as SNAP retailer eligibility and menu labeling requirements.

V. How best to combat human trafficking.

VI. Tax reform.

VII. Trucking issues.

NATSO monitors issues that could affect truckstops and travel plazas.

I. Tobacco/E-Cigarettes

II. Americans with Disabilities Act

Visit for more information on these member benefits.








via Business Feeds


More and more businesses are expanding their services and creeping into territory that was once served primarily by the truckstop and travel plaza industry. Interstate convenience stores are adding diesel fueling lanes and expanding services, big box retailers are adding quick-service foods, interstate restaurants are adding gasoline fueling lanes and confectionary products, and motor carriers are adding driver services and conveniences to their distribution centers. 

“You hear about different and or new adjacent competition, but sometimes it doesn’t sink in until you really see it,” said Darren Schulte, NATSO’s vice president of membership. 

During a recent presentation for NATSO’s board of directors, Schulte compiled photos of businesses that are expanding their presence on or near the interstate high-way system, such as WaWa and Buc-ee’s. “When you see a Buc-ee’s and you see 80 to 120 fueling stations, you understand its significance,” he said.

Thinking about the competition can be overwhelming, but it is also necessary to know how to prepare and to fully understand the choices both existing and potential customers have available to them.

Throughout the year, Stop Watch will look at specific categories, including dealerships, carriers’ distribution centers, big box retailers and turnpikes, how they’re changing and what NATSO members need to know about the category. In this issue, we will kick-off the series with a look at interstate c-stores.


In many areas, convenience stores are expanding their reach and pulling in professional drivers, passen-ger vehicles and locals. Especially those located directly on interstates.

“There are a lot of convenience stores that are adding diesel and trucker merchandise and calling themselves travel centers,” said Roger Cole, editor of NATSO’s Biz Brief and a former NATSO chairman. “It isn’t at all of their facilities but it is at some of them.”

Cole cited the Rutter’s chain, which also offers a fleet card that provides several benefits to users, including a discount, built-in controls that can limit fueling by the day of the week or the time of the day, online account management and exception reporting via email.

Schulte said new players are entering the industry within the U.S. from abroad. Copec, one of the largest companies in Chile that operates in the fuel and c-store industry, has entered into an agreement to acquire full equity interest in Mapco Express, a convenience store chain with 348 corporate stores operating primarily in Tennessee, Alabama and Georgia. The company has additional presence in Arkansas, Virginia, Kentucky and Mississippi. Mapco Express currently has a handful of travel centers and Schulte expects that number to grow over the next few years based on their travel center expertise in Chile.

In Chile, Copec has more than half—about 53 percent—of the entire Chilean gasoline market share with 626 company and dealer-operated service stations, 82 Prontobranded convenience stores and 220 Punto-branded convenience stores. The company has also created Pagoclick (mobile pay) and Zervo (a selfserve fueling dispenser).

Lorenzo Gamuri, the chief executive officer of Copec, said acquiring Mapco represents an important step for the company’s entry into the U.S. market. “Mapco’s assets are located in a geographic zone with interesting demographic attributes and with the size for a proper competitive operation in the U.S. market,” he said.

In October, the Wall Street Journal reported that Amazon has plans to enter the c-store industry. Restaurants are even embracing change and adding fuel and convenience offerings, further expanding the reach of c-stores into the travel plaza and truckstop market. Rudy’s Barbeque in Texas has gasoline fueling lanes and Chef’s Point Cafe is a gourmet restaurant located within an operational c-store. Fuel, a 20-ounce soda and lobster macaroni and cheese with a Bloody Mary anyone? Ruby Tuesday is in the process of adding Tesla charging stations and there are Tesla charging stations adjacent to Chipotle properties and other fast casual restaurants.

“Understanding who the competition is, who their customers are and how that overlaps with a truckstop or travel plaza’s existing and future customers is the first step in understanding how the industry is changing and how we can change along with it,” Schulte said. 


via Business Feeds


Darren Schulte, NATSO vice president of membership, frequently visits NATSO members to review their locations and offers impactful merchandising and operational improvements.*
He periodically shares stories about the great retailers he visits on the blog. Here is snap shot
of just a few. Be sure to check out the full blog posts to see all of the photos.



I have had the pleasure of witnessing some great ideas in the field that are distinguishing independents from the competition. Today’s innovation comes from Fontana Truck Stop in Fontana, California. During my visit, I was tickled beyond giddiness to see so many cool services already in place and many more lined-up for the future. Innovation is their calling card and their highway to future success.
■ Do you need propane for you motor vehicle as well as your grill? They’ve got it! Yes some vehicles do run on propane. I discovered this first hand in taxis in Bogota, Columbia.
■ Do you want CNG and LNG together at the pump along with diesel and bulk DEF?
Check again! Yep that is right, they offer all of this on the same fueling island. It is just a bit longer fueling station than normal.
■ How about a CAT Scale drive-through so truck drivers do not have to get out of the truck?
Check again. Not only is this convenient it also presents the opportunity for an upsell.
“By the way, can I get you a cup of coffee and a donut as well sir?” The Full Blog Post:


Wendy Johnson, vice president of operations for Clearwater Travel Plaza, and her team operate one fantastic travel center! The independent Petro franchise location, which is located northwest of Minneapolis and is owned by Joel Nelson, indulges all the senses. Your ears, your eyes and your sense of smell are treated to a smorgasbord of delights. But it is the way the location embraces the seasons and the local surroundings as part of the marketing strategy that set this location apart from so many other well executed and operated travel centers throughout the USA. While many locations understand the importance of seasonal marketing and do a rather good job of it, seeing Clearwater in action is special.

The Full Blog Post:



Eddie’s Travel Center in Mascoutah, Illinois, has taken promotions to a new level. They do a phenomenal job of promoting products through their day-to-day marketing and also take advantage of seasonal opportunities. Even better, they’re focused on marketing the same message throughout the location. They start their promotions on the outside of the location and carry them through to the inside.

Part of what makes their promotions so fun is their emphasis on celebrating the holidays. Their staff gets behind seasonal and holiday promotions, which adds to the excitement. They decorate the store and add to the end caps. I was there around St. Patrick’s Day, and they’d added shamrocks and decorations throughout the store and created a display of beer.

Seasonal promotions don’t have to mean you’re discounting your prices. You can use the theme to draw attention to products. Even if the sales aren’t great on the promotional items, they can make people feel good and boost ancillary sales.

The Full Blog Post:




via Business Feeds


Think your truckstop is safe from tolls just because you aren’t located on a toll road? Think again. 

The federal government generally prohibits placing tolls on existing federal interstate lanes and has since the inception of the Federal Interstate Highway System in 1956.

But recent changes to a tolling pilot program called the Interstate System Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Pilot Program have a number of states scoping out the possibility of tolling their interstates when program slots open up next year. 

For 18 years, the federal government allowed up to three states to place tolls on an existing interstate through the pilot program. For nearly two decades those three states have been Missouri, Virginia and North Carolina. None of these states has actually exercised its right to toll interstates under the pilot program.

In the fall of 2015, however, Congress passed a five-year federal transportation bill, referred to as the FAST Act, which placed a “useit-or-lose-it” provision on the pilot program. In essence, it means that the same three states cannot hold “slots” in the program forever without actually implementing tolling.

Now, Missouri, Virginia and North Carolina are in the hot seat to either implement interstate tolling or “lose” the slot to another state, opening the door to additional state applications in the future.

If new states are allowed to implement or expand tolling, such policies will hurt NATSO member businesses. Increased tolling can create onerous economic barriers, such as traffic diversion and substantial traffic problems for customers. 


Tolls are bad public policy. Tolling facilities are expensive to maintain, operate and enforce. They are inefficient and raise substantially less money for highways than the motor fuels tax. On major toll roads, toll collection costs can exceed 30 percent of revenue. 

But tolls are also bad for business.

■ Tolls increase the cost of delivering goods and services, putting local businesses at a competitive disadvantage and increasing the cost of living for residents.

■ Tolling existing interstates forces truckstops to increase wages to attract and retain a workforce.

■ Tolls create traffic diversion whereby drivers avoid tolls by utilizing secondary, less safe roads that bypass truckstops located at the interstate exits.

■ Tolling existing interstates forces motorists to pay taxes twice for the same road: a gas tax and a toll tax, leaving motorists with less discretionary income.

The list of states interested in tolling will only grow as the pilot program slots open up and as more state legislatures struggle to pay for infrastructure. We have already begun to see governors, legislatures and transportation officials across the country start laying the groundwork for new tolls. 


Virginia: While Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe has said he will not act to keep Virginia’s existing pilot program slot, other public officials have contradicted the term-limited governor.

Missouri: In the summer of 2016, Missouri Department of Transportation Director Patrick McKenna began making a media push to drum up interest in tolling Interstate 70. 

North Carolina: North Carolinians rejected the prospect of tolling existing interstates in 2013. Despite past rejections, faced with more tough funding decisions, legislators are again floating the idea of tolling.

Rhode Island: In early 2016, Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo proposed and passed RhodeWorks, a new transportation plan that will create a burdensome new network of tolls across 14 different bridges. This controversial and unprecedented plan uses a federal exemption that is meant to repair ailing bridges to instead create a statewide tolling system. Most disconcerting is that the tolling plan exclusively focuses on tolling trucks. Despite being signed into law, RhodeWorks still faces constitutional, legal and implementation hurdles.

In October, NATSO and the Rhode Island Trucking Association hosted a rally at the TravelCenters of America in West Greenwich, Rhode Island, to oppose RhodeWorks.

Indiana: During its 2016 state legislative session, Indiana legislators proposed legislation that would require Indiana to seek a waiver from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) to toll lanes on Interstate 65, Interstate 69, and Interstate 80/94. The bill also required the department to conduct a feasibility study of tolling on those interstates. Thankfully, both of these tolling provisions were stripped out of the final version that was eventually signed into law. However, once tolling is floated as an option, it rarely goes away. As of press time, a task force called “Funding Indiana’s Roads for a Stronger, Safer Tomorrow” planned to host a private meeting to draft a long-term road funding proposal that will go before the legislature in 2017.

Wisconsin: In 2015, the Wisconsin legislature funded a tolling feasibility study that is currently underway. The study will reportedly function as a tolling “how-to” document to implement tolling in the state, including suggested legislative language and policy guidelines, as well as a traffic and revenue analysis of the entire Interstate system in Wisconsin. Wisconsin is a likely candidate to seek a slot in the pilot program if and when slots become available in 2017.


Co-founded by NATSO and the American Trucking Associations, ATFI is a coalition of individuals, businesses and organizations that advocates for solving our growing transportation needs without tolling existing interstates. ATFI is focused on combating emerging issues in state governments.

Tolling hurts truckstop and travel plaza owners and operators because it hurts your bottomline.  We encourage all NATSO members to join ATFI and say NO to tolls.


Voice your opposition to tolling during NATSO’s annual Day on Capitol Hill,  May 15-17, 2017.

Members of the truckstop and travel plaza community will travel from across the United States to Washington, D.C., to educate their elected officials about the critical role the truckstop industry plays in the U.S. economy as well as to discuss key industry challenges  such as tolling.

NATSO’s annual Day on Capitol Hill marks the biggest opportunity for members of the truckstop and travel plaza industry to speak with lawmakers before they vote on legislation that’s bound to impact your future success.

For more information or to register, contact David Filkov at (703) 739-8501 or

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How Truckstops Help People
Online Learning Initiative

The NATSO Foundation launched a new online learning initiative designed to strengthen the nation's truckstop and travel plaza industry by delivering comprehensive educational and safety training materials to truckstop owners, operators and employees. The first two courses, The Role of Truckstops in Combating Human Trafficking and How Truckstops Help the Homeless, were released in January.


The NATSO Show

Travel Plaza and truckstop operators and industry vendors meet in Lake Buena Vista, Florida, Feb. 22-25 for The NATSO Show 2016.  



Tiffany Wlazlowski Neuman Promoted

Tiffany Wlazlowski Neuman was promoted to vice president, public affairs in April.  In this new role, Wlazlowski Neuman serves on the association's senior management team, develops communications strategies to advance NATSO's goals, and develops and oversees partnerships related to the NATSO Foundation's public outreach initiatives.




NATSO Day on Capitol Hill

The truckstop and travel plaza industry stormed Capitol Hill May 16-18 as part of NATSO's annual Day on Capitol Hill.  In 2016, attendees pushed for sustainable highway funding and voiced concerns with several labor initiatives being pushed by the Obama Administration.  The industry also tackled payments security amid the switch to the EMW technology for chip cards and the shift in liability fraud to retailers.

New Overtime Rules Member-Only Regulatory Toolkit

In May 2016, the Department of Labor finalized new rules governing which employees are eligible for overtime pay.  To prepare members for the new rules, NATSO prepared a New Overtime Regulations: Summary And Compliance Guide For Truckstops And Travel Plazas. Visit to view this regulatory toolkit and many more available to NATSO members only.




Congressional Visits to Truckstops

This year, NATSO launched a program to facilitate Congressional visits to NATSO truckstop and travel plaza members.  Visits put NATSO members in direct contact with Congressional leaders and allow Members of Congress to hear and experience first hand the challenges and issues facing the truckstop and travel plaza industry today.  NATSO facilitated visits in February, June and October 2016.




New Truckstop

Financing Programs

NATSO and Chairman’s Circle member Allied Brand Capital rolled out two new financing programs designed to help truckstop and travel plaza operators. The Underground Storage Tank (USTs) Financing Program is designed to help operators maintain and upgrade USTs and the Franchise Financing Program offers special financing and guidance for truckstop owners and operators investing in a franchise operation. Learn more on page 20. 



Reversal of Visa, MasterCard $7.25 Billion Settlement

Marking a major victory for retailers who have been seeking reform to the broken credit card system that costs them billions of dollars each year, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit reversed the $7.25 billion antitrust settlement that Visa and MasterCard had reached with millions of retailers over the high transaction fees that retailers pay each time a customer uses a credit card.

Human Resources Webinar

NATSO and NATSO Chairman's Circle member CareerCo offered a NATSO member webinar, Attracting, Hiring and Retaining Truckstop and Travel Plaza Talent, on Sept. 8. NATSO members can watch the webinar at


2016 Domestic Study Tour

More than 30 truckstop and travel plaza operators and Chairman’s Circle members met in Lexington, Virginia, for the Domestic Study Tour. Attendees learned best practices and new ideas while touring Fairfield BP, Lee Hi Travel Plaza and White’s Travel Center.


How Truckstops Help People



Online Learning to Help Drivers in Distress

The NATSO Foundation launched the next course in How Truckstops Help People series on Helping Drivers in Distress. All three courses can be taken at



Park My Truck Mobile App Launched

A group of trucking and travel plaza leaders, including the NATSO Foundation, NATSO Inc., the American Trucking Associations and the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI), created a free mobile app called Park My Truck to help professional drivers find available truck parking. Launched on Oct. 3, Park My Truck allows any parking provider—whether public or private—to share parking availability information for free to the nation’s professional truck drivers. Learn more on page 22.

Biodiesel Blending Webinar

NATSO and NATSO Chairman's Circle member Renewable Energy Group offered a NATSO member webinar, Grow Your Business With Biodiesel Blended Fuel. NATSO members can visit NATSOInc to watch the video.


Rhode Island Trucking Association, NATSO Hold Informational Anti-Tolling Rally

The Rhode Island Trucking Association and NATSO hosted an informational rally and press conference Oct. 18 to discuss the devastating effects that “RhodeWorks”— the Rhode Island Department of Transportation’s truck-only tolling plan—will have on local businesses and commercial truck drivers that operate within the state of Rhode Island.


NATSO launched a number of exciting new member programs in 2016. Visit page 20 to learn about these new programs that were designed to reduce the significant costs associated with operating a travel plaza and help members successfully market their businesses.

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Where: White Petro Stopping Center


 In the fall of 2015 White’s Petro Stopping Center in Raphine, Virginia, added a number of new amenities including a pharmacy. Owner Bobby Berkstresser first began thinking about adding the pharmacy when they added a doctors’ clinic in 2012. The truckstop is in a rural area and so is about 15 minutes away from the closest pharmacy. This year with the clinic seeing as many as 70–80 patients a day and of course giving many of those patients prescriptions, he felt it was time to pursue his idea. Their first step was to do a demographic study, which found that a pharmacy at their location could be profitable with local traffic alone. Their pharmacy is a franchise through Medicine Shoppe Pharmacy. Medicine Shoppe provides them with support for everything from choosing their computer system to filling out the monthly state reports. It is a 30- day process before you can really begin filling prescriptions. In addition to being open 30 days, the pharmacy has to have a DEA number and state license, then you can sign contracts with each healthcare company.

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Great Ideas from Sapp Bros.

On September 16–17, 2015 more than 30 travel plaza and truckstop operators and NATSO Chairman’s Circle members came together in Omaha, Nebraska, for NATSO’s 2015 Domestic Study Tour. The two-day workshop provided NATSO members with an opportunity to tour best-in-class retail locations, gather ideas during presentations by successful truckstop operators, and network with other truckstop and travel plaza operators in attendance. September’s attendees toured and learned from Sapp Bros. Travel Center locations, Shoemaker’s Travel Plaza and Boss Shops truck service centers. What’s next? Wawa and Speedway! Following The NATSO Show 2016, the NATSO Foundation is offering a Post-Show Mini Domestic Study Tour, which will feature tours of Wawa and Speedway. As the editor of Stop Watch, I attended the tour to gather the locations’ best ideas to share with Stop Watch readers. The first day of the tour was spent at two Sapp Bros.’ locations, which I’ll share about in this issue’s member profile. While no stranger to the magazine or even the member profile department, Sapp Bros.’ had plenty of new ideas to share. Before we delve into the ideas, let’s set the scene.


Sapp Bros.’ History


In 1960, brothers Ray, Dean, Lee and Bill Sapp pooled their money and purchased a Ford car dealership in Ashland, Nebraska. Five years later, they purchased a GMC truck dealership in downtown Omaha and in 1966 they purchased 52 acres of ground at the juncture of I-80 and US Highway 50 in Omaha. Even with the opening of Interstate 80 three years away, the Sapp brothers realized the business potential of the nation’s largest super highway and decided to build a truckstop on the ground. They opened the first Sapp Bros.’ location on June 7, 1971, in Omaha, Nebraska. By 1978, a second truckstop had been constructed in Council Bluffs, and the company was on its way. More locations followed and today there are 16 travel centers located in eight states across the country from Pennsylvania to Utah, along I-80 and I-70, with a few sprinkled on Nebraska highways.


Ten Great Ideas From Sapp Bros.


CLEAN BATHROOMS. Sapp Bros. has a companywide strategy to have very clean and modern bathrooms. They have a button outside the restrooms to push if the bathroom is not in satisfactory condition. If a customer pushes the button, a light illuminates at the fuel desk. The women’s restrooms have bidets and there are TVs behind the mirrors in the men’s bathrooms.


WALK-THE-STORE CHECKLISTS. They extend this focus on cleanliness to the outside and inside of the store. They do this because women weigh in heavily to determine where families stop and cleanliness is a big factor in their decision. Fulfilling the brand promise of excellence in cleanliness costs a lot of money and takes a big commitment. The managers are required to the walk their store daily following their “Walk the Store” checklist. They take pictures of any problems and delegate out the issues. They find taking a picture is very helpful as it is hard to argue with a picture. Each month each location performs its own full “Walk the Store.” Every quarter management visits each location to do a “Walk the Store” and they give the stores a score. Those monthly scores are combined for a yearly contest. The winners receive a trophy and bonuses.


TELEDOC. Sapp Bros.’ health insurance plan covers Teledoc, which is a health insurance plan that let’s you book an appointment on the internet to have a doctor call you. The doctors can prescribe some things. The doctors are available 24 hours, seven days a week. It has been a huge savings for them.


LOYALTY PROGRAM. The company has a loyalty program for the drivers. Loyalty program participants receive a penny a gallon towards purchases in the store, restaurant and shop. They also award rewards for shop work. They administer the loyalty program using the PointstoPartners software.


PROFIT-SHARING PLAN. Sapp Bros. has a profit-sharing plan. They share profits with the employees, creating strong partners in their business. Also, most of their general managers are stockowners in the company, which means they own a piece of the company. Their employees are essentially working for themselves, which creates a strong sense of ownership.


BAG THEIR OWN ICE. They bought extra big ice machines and bagging machines so that they can sell their own ice rather than buying it. This allows them to aggressively price it, which then drives other retail business.


FREE STEAK. The shop offers a free steak with a full-service oil change. They make sure to advertise this with consistent messaging throughout the location. This has really driven up shop sales.


GRAB-N-GO. Sapp Bros. has invested in openair coolers and hot cases to showcase their grab-n-go items, including cold and hot sandwiches, pudding, Jell-o, salads and wraps. They believe offering a quality product made fresh is the selling point to make this profit center succeed. They also believe the placement of the hot cases and openair coolers is very important.


AGGRESSIVE EMPLOYEE SALARIES. With unemployment at 1.6 percent, competition for employees is tough. They did a wage analysis at their company to make sure they are paying above the competition.


EMPLOYEE REFERRALS. Lastly, Sapp Bros. has changed the way it recruits employees. They don’t advertise in papers or online. Instead they recruit using referrals. A large percentage of their hires are from referrals. They pay well for referrals. They think this is money better spent than an ad in the paper.

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8 Tips for Success from Entrepreneurial Leader Bill Taylor

As an entrepreneur, co-founder of Fast Company magazine and a bestselling author, Bill Taylor has shaped the global conversation about how business owners can compete. Taylor is an expert on how owners can thrive in today’s competitive market and not only will he be sharing his expertise as a keynote speaker at The NATSO Show, he sat down with Stop Watch to share insights he has gained while researching his latest book, Be the Only: Thriving in a World Where Best Isn’t Good Enough .


ACKNOWLEDGE THE COMPETITION In the current operating environment, business owners face a plethora of competition. “Fundamentally the job today is no longer trying to be the best at what lots of other people do. It is to be the only one who does what you do,” Taylor said. “The real opportunity and the real challenge is to admit to yourself that we’re in a world that is more fiercely competitive than ever and your competitors are more competent than ever.S

SET YOURSELF APART Once operators understand the fact that they are facing increased competition, they should ask them - selves what they offer that their competitors don’t and identify the experiences they’re creating for their customers. Taylor said, “What are the promises you’re making that only you can make?” To identify what they are best at, Taylor suggests business owners ask themselves what their customers would miss if the company were to go out of business tomorrow. “In almost any in - dustry there are so many competitors that if company A goes out of business Company B, C and D would be happy to serve their customers. You have to ask yourself, ‘What are we doing that if we stopped doing it our customers would feel that absence?’ That is the beginning of understanding what are the kernels of distinction that make us different and compelling,” he said. Taylor told Stop Watch, “Ultimately successful companies today are willing to do what other companies can’t or won’t do.”

GO BEYOND CURRENT CIRCUMSTANCES Too many business owners allow themselves to believe that if they’ve been successful in the past, maintaining the status quo is risk free, but that isn’t true, Taylor said. “Playing it safe may wind up being the riskiest decision of all. If you’re open to what is going on, you see in industry after industry that new entrants, new experiences and new technologies are changing the logic of business. So we have to assume that simply doing more of the same is not a prescription of more success but instead a formula for eventual failure,” he said. To remain successful, business owners need to create a sense of “positive dissatisfaction with the status quo” so they become comfortable with experimenting. Taylor suggests operators start with small changes. “Over a few years, taking little bets might create a line of sight into how they can create big change in the future,” he said.

 LOOK PAST THE NUMBERS Data and analytics are important, but they don’t always tell business owners the full story. “You can’t let what you know limit what you can imagine,” Taylor said. “We worship at the altar of information, but my sense is what is in short supply today are provocative sets of imagination.”

 BE OPEN TO POSSIBILITIES One of the most important roles within an organization is to reshape what is possible and to look for dramatically new ways to solve an old problem, Taylor said. “Look for services and offerings and experiences customers don’t know they want until you provide them to them,” he explained. A challenge within any business, particularly those that have experienced leaders, is that it can become harder to see new opportunities and recognize important patterns because expertise and knowledge can get in the way of innovation, Taylor said.

COMMUNICATE ACROSS THE GENERATIONS Particularly in family businesses that include multiple generations, it is important that different age groups communicate with each other. “There needs to be conversations where the new, young crowd says to the predecessors, ‘We want to make sure you don’t get too comfortable with the formula of success you’ve had up until now. We’ve grown up with a different technology and with different expectations of customer service,’” Taylor said. “They have to be the force that tries to get the older generation dissatisfied with the status quo and open their mind to a new willingness to experience new opportunities.”


INVEST IN TECHNOLOGY WISELY Technology can be a powerful force in any company, but it is best used when it enriches a company’s capacity for human connection and interaction with their customers, Taylor said. “Don’t look at technology as a way of eliminating the human touch but to provide it,” he explained. Technology, such as self-serve kiosks, can enhance the customer experience because it eliminates the opportunity for error. “Customers who order their own stuff are more accurate,” Taylor said. “The question then becomes, ‘With that staff resource freed up, what does it allow our employees to do to add to the experience to make it more fun, interesting and colorful so now customers are pleased that they got the sandwiches they wanted and the experience is more memorable?’”

 OFFER A PERSONAL TOUCH Taylor said that in a world with increased focus on technology, anything business leaders can do “to infuse their organization with small gestures, little touches, modest symbols or rituals to show customers that we’re treating them not as a data point as a demographic or market segment, but as a real life flesh and blood human being” holds value, adding that for business owners, it is just as important to be kind as it is to be clever. “We cannot loose sight of the human factor in business and you have to look for opportunities to go the extra mile, so do a little something your customers will give you extra credit for,” Taylor said.

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Unleashing the Power of Meetings: A Well Planned Meeting can Increase Productivity, Boost Morale and Generate New Ideas

In February during The NATSO Show 2016, three members of the Future Leaders Steering Council will facilitate what for many has become the highlight of The NATSO Show— the Great Ideas! for Independent Operators Workshop.Corey Berkstresser, general manager at Lee Hi Travel Plaza, Gerald Daniel, chief operating officer at Liberty Petroleum Distributors, and Herb Hargraves, director of fuel and retail sales for Cash Magic, will come together to guide conversations that will help show attendees uncover their next great idea. To help them prepare for their facilitation gig, they met with NATSO staff and Jeffery Cufaude, a meeting facilitator, to learn more about managing group dynamics and maximizing attendees’ contributions.  Berkstresser, Hargraves, Daniel and Cufaude sat down with Stop Watch to share their insights on what contributes to an effective meeting—whether it is with staff, peers or customers.



As director of fuel and retail sales for Cash Magic, Hargraves understands the value of regular meetings—both with upper management as well as the front-line employees. Hargraves said team meetings can bring everyone up to date on the most current way of thinking within the organization as well as how the property and the company is doing. “That makes them more comfortable and more productive employees,” he said. Not only are meetings an opportunity for employees to learn from management, they give management an opportunity to learn from employees who are down in the trenches. “Because they are listening to the customers and interact with them, it gives the executive level and mid-level executives a chance to talk with the other supervisors in the ranks and the front-line staff,” Hargraves said. While business meetings can be valuable tools within an organization, simply calling a meeting doesn’t mean it will be effective— planning and preparation does. To make the most of everyone’s time, truckstop and travel plaza managers said they spend time establishing the goals of a meeting, drafting agendas and creating talking points.



Hargraves said effective meetings start well ahead of the actual event. “Spending more time on pre-planning the exact flow of how you want the meeting to go is crucial to leading a successful meeting,” he said, adding that identifying what the meeting should accomplish, what attendees are going to talk about, how the meeting facilitator will transition from topic to topic and what he or she will do for roundtable settings are important elements of the pre-planning process. The timing of meetings can be important, Daniel said. He suggests meetings start at five minutes past the hour. “Why do meetings always start on the hour? It takes five minutes to get off a previous meeting, hence meeting should start at five minutes on the hours,” he said. In work meetings, Berkstresser said it is important to determine which staff members truly need to attend. “Only include employees that need to be a part of the topics being discussed. Before the meeting starts, make sure you give them the information they need so they understand why you’ve included them at the meeting,” he said.





 Hargraves said that it is important for everyone attending a meeting to understand what the expectations are. Utilizing an agenda, outlining the timing of breaks and taking care of housekeeping items, such as where the restrooms are, can help with this. “It is important for the human element,” he said. Berkstresser said it is also helpful to set the tone for the meeting as soon as it starts. “The opening of the meeting is the best time to get everyone excited about being there. You can let them know it is going to be an energetic meeting and that you’re looking for their feedback to make it a success,” he said.



 It is not surprising that within a group setting, meetings can sometimes get off topic, but Daniel said keeping the meeting on track is crucial to its success. “Stay flexible but have an agenda,” he said. Hargraves said it helps to be assertive if a conversation gets too far off course. “You can’t just sit and listen to the conversation happening,” he said. “You can say, ‘I don’t want to be rude, but I’m the facilitator and it is my duty to interrupt the meeting,’” he said, adding that a white board or presentation notepad can be an effective tool to help the group regain focus. “If we get off of topic, I’ll say, ‘That isn’t what we’re here to talk about today, but I think that is a great point. Let’s put it up here so we don’t forget about it. We can discuss it after the meeting is over.’” Simply taking a five-minute break can keep a meeting from getting off track, Daniel said. So can taking a few minutes to go over what has happened so far. “Summarize the conversation, check for accuracy, pose a question that allows for some level of agreement, and ask if they all agree to this,” he said.  Cufaude said, it is important for those leading a meeting to keep an eye on the clock. By planning how they’ll manage the time throughout the meeting, they can keep control of the clock, which can be particularly important during interactive portions of a meeting.



To encourage participants to speak up during the meeting, Daniel said he provides verbal cues, such as, “Who has an idea on _____?” and “Let’s hear from someone who has shed some light on _____?” Daniel also checks in on how the meeting is going, and asks participants to chime in and give their input while providing some guidance. “When asking a question, give them an example to better understand the question being asked,” Daniel said, adding that it can be helpful to use real-life examples rather than hypothetical situations. Both Daniel and Hargraves said it is important to find ways to include attendees who aren’t as comfortable speaking up. “Introverts participate too. Just because they are not speaking, does not mean they are not engaged or participating. Give them space to gather their ideas,” Daniel said. To encourage participants to speak up during the meeting, Hargraves walks through the room of attendees rather than standing up in front. “When I’m talking about a subject, I’ll make eye contact with someone in the back of the room. That way it makes them more comfortable if they have a question,” he said. Cufaude said it could also help to let people reflect and write responses on their own before sharing with others and allow participants to “opt-in” to when they share rather than always going around the room in order.




There are a number of times when it is important for truckstop and travel plaza managers to hold meetings. Daniel utilizes weekly face-to-face meetings with staff, which last about an hour and a half. He also holds daily 15-minute calls in the morning with key individuals in the company. “These are line-up calls, where we try to start the day off with positive messages, and highlight the most important thing that we need to do today. We try not to solve all the world’s problems on this call,” he said.

Hargraves regularly takes part in meetings with his peers as well as meetings with upper management, regional management and front-line employees at the store. In addition to sharing information, Hargraves said he learns about new product and service ideas during the sessions. He suggests that management meet at least quarterly with employees, which will increase their comfort level with what is going on in the business and provide regular opportunities for sharing ideas. To make the most of the different types of meetings he has, Hargraves said he adapts his communication style depending on the meeting. “At a regional meeting you give a global view. With the store manager, you’re talking about what the region is doing. With the front line, it is about their key job functions on a daily basis and more of a hands-on view,” he said. It can also be helpful for travel plaza employees to meet with drivers. “We have tried to bridge the gap between consumer and retailer. If there is a complaint, we say, ‘We’re glad you brought that to our attention. We’re going to address it and this is what we can do,’” Hargraves said. “Sometimes it is a hard bridge to gap between the retailer and the consumer, but we do it by ensuring the driver’s concern has been heard.”



Once the meeting is coming to a close, Berkstresser said it is helpful to clarify what’s next. “If you spell out the next steps, it makes follow-up more likely. You can agree on what needs to be done, when it will be done and who will do it,” he said, adding that you can make a list and distribute it after the meeting. “Then you can follow up with the employees who are responsible and see how it’s going and if they need support.”

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Top Economist Shares His Outlook for the Year Ahead

Truckstop and travel plaza operators attend The NATSO Show to gain insights into the trends that will affect their business. At this year’s show, Bob Costello, senior vice president and chief economist at American Trucking Associations will share his insights during a keynote address, offering predictions on the economy, the trucking industry and the year ahead. Stop Watch sat down with Costello to get a preview of what’s to come.


Q:  What do you anticipate from the economy in 2016 and how will that affect the trucking industry? COSTELLO: The economy was growing at 2.5 percent or lower in the second half of 2015 as an inventory adjustment became a drag on the overall GDP figures. For 2016, GDP can accelerate some, increasing slightly more than 2.5 percent. Once we get through an inventory adjustment— i.e. too much inventory throughout the supply chain—the decent economic growth will have a positive impact on the trucking industry.


Q:  What indicators within the trucking industry should truckstop and travel plaza operators look at to gain insight into their markets?

COSTELLO: If NATSO members want to look to trucking data and compare that with their data, they should look at Not Seasonally Adjusted trucking data. The best numbers would be loads and miles. If NATSO members want to see the underlying trends in trucking data outside of normal seasonality, like holidays, then they should look at Seasonally Adjusted data. The best numbers would be loads and miles. If NATSO members want to see the underlying trends in trucking data outside of normal seasonality, like holidays, then they should look at Seasonally Adjusted data. Loads and miles and revenue are good ones. In terms of driver spending power, they should look at driver wages.


Q: What type of growth do you expect to see in alternative fuels? Do you expect that to alter demand and/or the cost of diesel fuel?

COSTELLO: With the large drop in diesel fuel prices over the last year, alternative fuel vehicles are not as attractive, especially in the over-the-road irregular route truckload industry. There are still opportunities in the dedicated truckload market where the shipper helps pay for the equipment and with private fleets.


Q: What are the top issues the trucking industry is facing in 2016? Can you share your predictions on what that means for your members and do you have any thoughts on what it could mean for the truckstop and travel plaza industry?

COSTELLO: It is still the driver shortage from my perspective. ATA estimates a shortage of between 35,000 and 40,000 drivers, with new drivers entering the profession slower than drivers are leaving. Driver retention and recruitment will be the difference between growing as a company or shrinking. For NATSO members, it translates into higher pay for drivers, which means they should have more money to spend at travel centers.


Q: What present-day challenges within your sector of the industry do you see influencing truckstop and travel plaza operators?

 COSTELLO: There is a technician shortage in the U.S. It might provide more opportunities for value-added services from NATSO members. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that trucking will need to recruit 67,000 new technicians by 2022 due to growth or to replace those currently working in the industry. That figure is in addition to the more than 75,000 new diesel engine specialists BLS anticipates will be needed by 2022.

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The Americans with Disabilities Act presented one of the most significant federal civil rights law in decades and it impacts millions of businesses. The rule took effect in 2012, and there are several provisions within the Act that apply directly to truckstops and travel plazas. Although ADA makes some exceptions for businesses built before the rule took effect or those that would face an undue burden to comply with certain provisions, operators need to ensure their facilities in full compliance with the law.


Look at your checkout counter and sales counter. The ADA maximum height for the counter is 36 inches. Is yours too high? Additionally, the counter should not be covered with impulse sale items, which might block people with disabilities who need the lower counter for making their purchases or signing any paperwork.


Look at all self-serve dispenser controls, such as those operating soda dispensers coffee and condiment dispensers and even fuel dispensers and ATM controls. The ADA requires that all are no more than 48 inches above the floor or ground, which is down from 54 inches. However, there is an exception for fuel dispensers on existing curbs, which can be as high as 54 inches. Additionally, the reach limits in the new rules apply to one of each type of fuel dispenser only. When considering fuel dispensers, note that the Department of Justice wants the accessible fuel dispenser to be on the shortest route to the entrance of the facility.

At least one of each type of every non-pre-packaged food and drink item designed for self-service use by customers, including all sizes of cups, lids and utensils, must be accessible. Also, at self-service food stations, at least 50 percent of shelves housing open, self-service food items, such as donuts and hot dogs, should be within the 48-inch reach range and a full range of choices should be available on the accessible shelves.


Check out your accessible parking spaces. The regulations require that they be on the shortest accessible route to the entrance of the facility. The Department of Justice interprets that to mean the closest spaces to the entrance. You are also required to provide an accessible route to the entrance from public transportation stops on or adjacent to the property, and from the public streets and sidewalks.


In single-user toilet rooms, the water closet now must provide clearance for both a forward and a parallel approach and, in most situations, the lavatory cannot overlap the water closet clearance. The in-swinging doors of single-use toilet or bathing rooms may swing into the clearance around any fixture if clear floor space is provided within the toilet room beyond the door’s arc.

Locations are also required to provide reasonable accommodations for customers and employees.

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Where: Anew Travel Center, Zeeland, Michigan Great Idea: Dedicated Pump for Rv Traffic

Anew Travel Center, which is located in Zeeland, Michigan, is a family-ownedand-operated company with more than 65 years in the transportation industry. The Meeuwsen family decided to build their truckstop in 2013 to offer renewable energy sources, including ethanol and biodiesel blends, to end consumers.

                 After noticing that at other stations large recreational vehicles (RV) and trucks pulling trailers had a dif- ficult time getting in and out of the pumps to fuel, they decided to add an innovative feature of a dedicated pump for RV traffic.

                In an effort to make their pumps easily accessible and convenient for the customers, they placed the RV pump in a location that did not require any sharp turns and was a straight pull through.

                The truckstop is located near a lake where a lot of travelers drive RVs, pull boats and tow campers. Once the word spread that they had an easily accessible pump, it drew travelers on their way to the campsite at the lake. It has been a great success and RVers all agree it is a huge advantage to be able to easily pull in and out of the station.

                The pump offers regular gasoline (E10), as well as E15, E30 and E85. This allows their customers to choose how much ethanol that want to put in their vehicles and RVs.

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Fuel, Fun and Root Beer Flavor in Knoxville, Tennessee

With 175 parking spots, five service bays and 300 to 500 drivers coming through the door every day, Knoxville West TA Travel Center in Knoxville, Tennessee, keeps busy. “You know, we have a big piece of property, but my general manager and I make sure we touch each department every day,” said Sam Smith, vice president of operations. In addition to the service center, the location features a retail store, diesel and gas sales and a food court. Smith shared a few of the things that have kept the location thriving since opening in 1989.



“The truckstop business is a challenging business, but we make it fun,” Smith said. For example, each year the location participates in a national, annual event called Run for the Wall. On Memorial Day, primarily veterans ride their motorcycles across the country to convene in Washington, D.C., stopping at the truckstop on their way. On the Wednesday before Memorial Day weekend, the truckstop has a band to entertain the motorcyclists when they stop for gasoline and coffee and donuts. Smith said, “Our general manager, Randy Smith, is a 21-year retired Master Sergeant in the Marine Corps and he put this together 10 years ago. It is a fun day!”



A year ago the truckstop started treating their fuel tanks on a regular basis. “With the introduction of ultra-lowsulfur diesel (ULSD) and biodiesel, you are more likely to have bacteria and fungus in your tank, which can be a big problem if you don’t treat it properly,” Smith said. “I take this on personally,” he added, even calling himself the mad scientist of diesel fuel. They test the fuel monthly and treat it with Tank Clean. This focus on the quality of their fuel has been successful and many regular customers comment on it.



“We have tried many different things over the years. Some haven’t worked, but we make sure to try new things all the time,” Smith said. When it comes to new projects, Smith takes the lead. “I am the guy that keeps our financial balls in the air. I create the budget, bid it out and oversee the project. I also measure its results to make sure we’ve gotten a good return on our investment. We’ve really come far in 18 years,” he said. A recent venture was turning their TV room into more of a movie room. “We have leather chairs and Blue Ray discs,” he said, adding that they also converted their game room into a sports bar for their professional driver customers. It has a bar with root beer on tap, peanuts and three big televisions. While they started their food court in the 1990s, they have expanded it. They recently reimaged three out of four brands in food court, where they offer Burger King, Pizza Hut, Popeyes and Subway. They also expanded their location’s offerings to include Dunkin Donuts three years ago.



Knoxville West TA Travel Center has a lot of long-term employees. “Our shop manager, for instance, has been there since the month it opened. We have mechanics that have been there for 15 to 20 years. We have a fuel desk cashier that has been there since the day place opened named Lucy. And my general manager has been there for 15 years,” Smith proudly shared. “These people really make us unique,” Smith said. Smith sees his role as the daily cheerleader. Every day he visits the front line staff and asks them about their day and their families and what he can do to make their jobs easier. He makes sure to act on the improvement suggestions he gathers. Smith’s final advice on employees? “Make sure you hire the friendliest person you can,” he said. Also, he encouraged fellow operators to invest in a full-time maintenance staff person. “We are an equipment intensive business, if something breaks down you have to hire to call a third party. Our full-time maintenance man cleans and maintains the equipment, which prevents things from breaking down so frequently. He also maintains good relationships with vendors so we get parts quickly,” Smith said.

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One –on-One with NATSO Staff: Which Items In The New UST Regulations Will Be Most Expensive For My Truckstop?

The new Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) revised Underground Storage Tank Regulations rules have left several truckstop and travel plaza operators wondering which items in the new UST regulations will be most expensive.

The answer is, it depends. There are several factors that will affect the final cost of compliance for operators, such as what type of equipment they have installed, what the status of their state regulations are, etc., but at a high level, these are the major takeaways from the final rule that equipment owners should be aware of:


Secondary Containment.Of interest to operators is that new and replaced tanks and piping must be secondarily contained with interstitial monitoring systems, and new dispenser systems must be equipped with under-dispenser containment. The rule also includes secondary containment testing requirements.


 Walkthrough Inspections. As part of the operation and maintenance inspection requirements, the final rule requires periodic walkthrough inspections to detect releases. For example, operators must check spill preventing equipment and fill caps every 30 days and containment sumps annually. The rule also includes additional requirements for periodic spill, overfill and secondary containment monitoring.


Spill Containment Testing. Spill prevention equipment must be tested every three years.


Overfill Containment Inspections.Ball float valves in vent lines have been eliminated as an option for satisfying overfill prevention requirements for new/replaced flow restrictors.


Operator Training. The rule requires owners/operators to designate at least one individual for each of three “classes” of operators, and those operators must be trained in certain areas.


One of NATSO’s primary roles is to deliver solutions to members’ challenges. Each day members tap into the expertise of NATSO’s staff for answers to some of their most pressing questions. If you have questions on the rule, be sure to reach out to me at or (703) 739-8501.

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Stay Current on these Regulations and Fuel Standards


 The trucking industry is constantly adjusting to and preparing for new regulations, and the coming years are no different. Two of the primary regulatory issues the trucking industry is monitoring are requirements to use speed limiters and electronic logging devices. The Department of Transportation is also considering altering regulations related to driver health.

                Speed Limiters: Nearly every Class 8 heavy-duty truck that rolls off the production line has a speed limiter built in, but use of the devices is voluntary. However, a proposed federal rule being produced via a joint rulemaking by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration would require carriers to use speed limiters. The rule was slated to be released in the Federal Register in August but was delayed. As of press time it was undergoing an extended review by the Office of Management and Budget. Once the rule is published, the public will be able to comment on it for 60 days. Once the public comment period closes, FMCSA and NHTSA will create a final rule, which will likely go into effect two years after it is published.

                Carriers that currently use speed limiters have said the devices increase fuel efficiency, improve safety and protect cargo within the trailer by minimizing the need for hard breaking events. However, some groups, including the Owner-Operator Independent Driver Association, oppose the rule. OOIDA said the devices would “decrease overall highway safety because the interaction between large trucks and passenger vehicles would increase.” The group also said an OOIDA Foundation survey found that 82 percent of the drivers responding said they would rather work for a company that does not have speed limiters.

                Electronic Logging Devices: A final rule mandating the use of electronic logging devices is expected to be published on October 30, and the rule would begin being enforced on October 30, 2017. Currently use of the devices is voluntary, but a growing number of carriers are using the devices, which they have said can help with CSA compliance, eliminate paper records to reduce driver admin time, provide more visibility into safe-driving behaviors and increase efficiency. The DOT reported that there are more than 350,000 ELDs in use today. DOT has also said most drivers are supportive of the devices.

                Diabetes Standards: The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is considering modifications to its qualifications to allow insulin-treated diabetics to operate commercial motor vehicles. Currently, insulin-treated diabetics are required to request an exemption from the medical requirements in order to drive a commercial vehicle, a process that requires additional evaluation by several medical specialists and must be updated at least every two years. FMCSA has issued over 1,000 such exemptions in the past year and a half. Under the proposed rule, drivers with insulin treated diabetes would no longer require an exemption, but would have to be examined annually by a medical examiner listed in the National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners. The examiner would have to receive confirmation from the driver’s treating clinician that the driver has had an annual exam and that the diabetes is “stable and well-controlled,” FMCSA said.



Fuel sales are at the core of every truckstop and travel plaza operation. They can also be heavily influenced by outside factors, including government regulations, the trucking industry’s adoption of new fueling technology and new engine designs by equipment manufacturers. The Environmental Protection Agency has recently released two standards that will likely shape fueling operations at truckstops and travel plazas going forward.



The Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Transportation have released new regulations that would increase fuel efficiency in heavy-duty trucks to nine miles per gallon, up from the current average of about six miles per gallon. The rule would apply to trucks built from 2019 to 2027, and it could affect the diesel throughput at truckstops and travel plazas. EPA estimates it would save carriers about $170 billion in fuel costs and about 1.8 billion barrels of oil. “Once upon a time, to be pro-environment you had to be anti-bigvehicles,” said DOT Secretary Anthony Foxx. “This rule will change that. In fact, these efficiency standards are good for the environment and the economy.”  Some truck manufacturers have said they can adapt to the new standards, but others have said it would be a challenge and require expensive new technology. EPA estimates that the improvements would cost about $10,000 to $12,000 per vehicle for Class 8 trucks, but said the costs could be recouped by fuel savings in less than two years. The proposed rule is open for public comment. EPA is expected to release a final version next year.



The Environmental Protection Agency has lowered the Renewable Fuel Standard volume requirements for 2014 through 2016 from those set by Congress “due to constraints in the fuel market to accommodate increasing volumes of ethanol, along with limits on the availability of non-ethanol renewable fuels,” EPA said. The EPA also issued 2017 requirements for the biomass-based diesel category. The RFS covers standards for cellulosic biofuel, biomass-based diesel and advanced biofuels. For 2015, total proposed RFS requirements are now 16.3 billion gallons compared to the 20.5 billion gallons originally required by Congress. For 2016, the EPA lowered the proposed RFS requirements to 17.4 billion gallons from 22.25 billion gallons. In light of the ethanol “blendwall,” which is the point at which adding the required volume of ethanol to gasoline supply would result in ethanol blends that exceed what the market can consume, EPA is relying on substantial amounts of biomass-based diesel consumption in order to satisfy even these scaled-back obligations.


EPA Issues Underground Storage Tank Requirements

 The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has issued final underground storage tank system testing and inspection regulations, marking the first significant revision to the regulations since they were issued in 1988. The rules cover several areas, including tanks’ compatibility with alternative fuel blends and emergency generators. Although the new rules impose enhanced obligations on tank owners, they are superior to the initial, proposed rules that EPA had released several years ago, including more limited burdens associated with monitoring interstitial areas and limiting the frequency of inspections. NATSO has drafted a 16-page memorandum outlining the key components of the lengthy and complex regulation (available at http:// view/157). Highlights of the rule include:


  • Secondary Containment—New and replaced tanks and piping must be secondarily contained with interstitial monitoring systems, and new dispenser systems must be equipped with under dispenser containment. Owners and operators must replace an entire piping run when 50 percent or more of piping is removed and other piping is installed. These requirements only apply to new and replaced systems – there are no retrofit requirements.
  • Operation and Maintenance Inspections—The final rule requires periodic walkthrough inspections to prevent and quickly detect releases, as well as additional requirements for periodic spill, overfill and secondary containment monitoring.
  • Spill Containment Testing— Under the final rule spill prevention equipment must be tested every three years to ensure that it will contain small drips and spills when the delivery transfer hose is disconnected from the fill pipe.
  • Overfill Prevention—Flow restrictors, or ball float valves, in vent lines have been eliminated as an option for satisfying the over- fill prevention requirements (a) for newly installed UST systems and (b) when flow restrictors in vent lines are replaced. Ball float valves may be used in USTs that have already been installed before the final rule takes effect.
  • Secondary Containment Testing—The final rule requires double-walled containment sumps to be periodically monitored (generally every 30 days), or else undergo periodic testing. It further requires testing of containment sumps used for interstitial monitoring of piping at least once every three years.
  • Release Detection Equipment— The final rule is designed to standardize the operation and maintenance requirements for release detection equipment by requiring owners and operators to follow a set of minimum operation and maintenance criteria for electronic and mechanical-based release detection equipment.
  • Operator Training—The final rule requires owners and operators to designate at least one individual for each of three “classes” of operators, and such operators must be trained in certain areas within three years of the final rule taking effect.
  • Tank Compatibility with Alternative Fuels—The final rule generally allows tank owners to demonstrate equipment compatibility with alternative fuels (e.g., blends containing greater than 10 percent ethanol or 20 percent biodiesel) (a) through a listing by a nationally recognized association (such as Underwriters Laboratories); or (b) based upon written equipment manufacturer approval.
  • Repairs—The final rule contains a number of requirements pertaining to repairs of leaking UST systems.
  • Emergency Generator USTs— The final rule includes requirements for release detection for UST systems that are storing fuel solely for use by emergency power generators.
  • New Technologies—The final rule adds steel tanks that are clad or jacketed with a non-corrodible material to the list of specific new tank design and construction options for UST systems.
  • Statistical Inventory Reconciliation—The final rule adds statistical inventory reconciliation as a permissible release detection method and provides performance criteria for its use.



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