More Drivers Taking to the Road During the Day

When Keith Wade, operations director at Dodge City Petro, held a driver appreciation day this year, he had hundreds of hot dogs to giveaway for lunch and two bands drivers could sit and enjoy. Unfortunately, drivers were in too much of a rush to stop.

"They were here and they’d honk their horns, but it was 1:00 in the afternoon and we had 1,200 trucks just waving at us,” Wade said, adding that the event proved how valuable drivers’ daytime hours have become. “Now if you have a customer appreciation day, you have to do it at night.” FACTORS INFLUENCING DRIVER STOPS How often, when and where drivers stop is driven by a number of factors, but one of the most important is the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s hours-of-service regulation. The agency issued new rules in July 2013, which have resulted in more daytime driving for the trucking industry as well as more driving on weekdays rather than weekends, the American Transportation Research Institute reported in its study Quantifying Impacts from the 34- Hour Restart Provisions.

                “This shift of drivers’ on-duty time to more congested driving periods is not unexpected. In fact, FMCSA’s new 34-hour restart regulation directly and indirectly advocates for this day-part shift,” ATRI said. “At a July 29, 2014, Senate hearing, FMCSA Administrator Anne Ferro touted the benefits of nighttime sleep vs. daytime sleep, saying the rule’s requirement that a weekly restart include two 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. periods pushes drivers to nighttime rest.”

                “For us, we’ve seen the driving habits change with more drivers Monday to Friday and fewer drivers on the weekends and fewer drivers at night,” said Dan Alsaker, president of Broadway Truck Stops. “It seems there has been an influx of trucks moving from the night to day.”

 

Alsaker said carriers are implementing electronic onboard recorders, which is also altering stopping patterns. “It does tighten up their range of flexibility and opportunity quite a bit,” he said, adding that he is seeing drivers pull over much earlier in the day.

                The same holds true for Wade who said the location’s drivers’ lounge starts filling up around 6:00 p.m. Dodge City Petro does 70 percent of its showers between 6:00 p.m. and midnight. “We’ve got to keep more custodians on at night and our staff is beefed up. We’re busy drying and washing towels,” Wade said, adding that truck service has also picked up at night. “The guys are here at night and that is when they’re going to do their oil changes.”

 CHANGES IN PURCHASING PATTERNS

 Yet despite the earlier stops in the evening, Alsaker said that isn’t translating into dinner sales in the sit-down restaurant, possibly because drivers are spending more time in their cabs, which are becoming more comfortable and have more storage space for cooking tools.

                “We’ve seen a number of manufacturers selling cooking skillets that you can plug into your cigarette lighters and Crockpots you can secure in your cab and plug into your cigarette lighter,” Alsaker said. “We sell a fair amount of that merchandise.”

                Alsaker said restaurant sales have picked up in the morning hours with drivers eating a hearty meal. Similarly, Jami Powell, restaurant manager at Big Boys Truckstop, said she sees a steady breakfast crowd from 7:00 a.m. to noon. Then sales die out until the evening.

                Like Alsaker, Beth Westemeyer, director of business development for Anew Travel Center, said Monday through Friday tend to be the busiest and the location has an early morning rush for breakfast between 6 a.m. and 9 a.m., and then another lunch rush between 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. “During the summer when there are outdoor sporting events and leagues, we see another late night rush about 9 p.m.—the kids all want ice cream after their games,” she said.

                To keep up with the morning rush, Anew Travel Center, has a full-time kitchen staff member to prepare breakfast and lunch, and the graveyard shift preps for breakfast, including baking donuts and pastries.

                Wade said the bulk of his daytime sit-down restaurant traffic comes from locals. To help attract them, Wade created a commercial that has helped the location achieve a 1 to 1.5 percent increase in revenue. “We had an advertising group come in and help us out. It was easier and not quite as expensive as you’d think,” Wade said (see the commercial at www.natso.com/ dodgecitycommercial).

 

DRIVERS RUSH TO GET BACK ON THE ROAD

Truckstop operators said that not only have they seen a shift in drivers’ peak stopping times, they’re also finding that drivers are pushing to get out on the road faster than they have before.

                Alsaker said drivers are eating fewer sit-down meals than they have in the past. “Remembering that truck drivers fuel once a day and we’re seeing the eating patterns go from 1.8 meals a day three-tofour years ago to 1.5 meals a day today, that means they are doing some grab-and-go in between,” Alsaker said, adding that while Broadway Truck Stops hasn’t seen an influx of drivers visiting the locations’ sit down restaurants, the deli case has grown enormously.

                For Wade, sales at the location’s Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen are doing well. “We targeted it so drivers see it right as they come in at the fuel islands and go to the fuel desk. It is tearing it up because they’re in and out so quick,” he said.

                To capture drivers who are eager to get on the road, Big Boys is adding to its grab-and-go items and prepares extra products in the restaurant that drivers can take with them on the road and eat later. “We want people to be able to grab homemade meals here and go down the road with it,” she said. “We know drivers’ time is extremely valuable, so we’re trying to make it a quicker experience.”

                Anew Travel Center has increased its grab-and-go selections and tries to make food as convenient as possible for drivers, such as hand-held sandwiches and take-out sides. “We are also seeing a shift in the requests for healthier options, so we have been offering on a daily basis a chef salad, veggie and fruit cups, yogurt and oatmeal. These items are top sellers in our deli,” Westemeyer said.

                Not only does Anew Travel Center offer a variety of options, the location tries to keep them available at all times. “We ensure we always have food out and it is fresh, because if a driver stops even once and we are out of an item they are looking for, we may have just lost a customer, and every one counts,” Westemeyer said.

 

 

               

 

 

 

 

 

               

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



via Business Feeds

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