TravelCenters of America (TCA) is in the fuel, food, and relaxation business for the long haul. The company's network of nearly 280 interstate highway travel centers in more than 45 US states and Ontario, Canada, is one of the largest of its kind in North America. Its TCA and Petro locations provide fuel, fast-food and sit-down restaurants (Country Pride, Buckhorn Family), convenience stores, and lodging. With professional truck drivers as its main customers, some outlets also offer "trucker-only" services, such as laundry and shower facilities, TV rooms, and truck repair. TCA leases 185 of its locations from Hospitality Properties Trust (HPT), its largest shareholder.
As part of its business, TCA operates and franchises travel centers under two brands: TravelCenters of America with more than 170 locations and Petro Stopping Centers (acquired in 2007) with more than 75 locations, about 60 of which are company-operated. TCA also operates "RoadSquad," the largest nationwide emergency roadside service network, with more than 430 heavy-duty emergency vehicles.
Sales and Marketing
TCA caters to professional truck drivers and travelers who rely on gas stations and convenience stores while on the road. Customers include trucking fleets and their drivers, independent truck drivers, and motorists. The company’s advertising costs were $22.7 million in 2013, $20.5 million in 2012, and $18.8 million in 2011.
Although the company’s revenues had increased from $4.7 billion in 2010 to $8.0 billion in 2012, it declined to $7.94 billion in 2013. The drop was due to a decrease in fuel revenues as the result of large declines in same site sales volume and fuel volume sold on a wholesale basis to franchisees and from lower market prices for fuel, partially offset by sales volume growth at sites acquired during 2012 and 2013.
TCA’s net income decreased by 2% in 2013 due to lower sales together and increased operating expenses (including site level operating expenses; selling, general and administrative expenses; real estate rent expenses; and depreciation and amortization).
The company’s cash from operating activities declined by $11.6 million in 2013 due to lower revenues, decreased net income, higher compensation expenses, and depreciation and amortization expenses, offset by the absence of distribution from equity investees.
The company is building its cross-country network of travel centers through acquisitions (by opportunistically buying up smaller competitors) and by opening new locations.
In 2014 TCA opened a new Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen restaurants in Gadsden, Alabama; Ontario, California; Lake Park, Georgia and one in West Greenwich, Rhode Island; it also opened a Country Pride Restaurant in Missoula, Montana. In the same year it also opened a food court in Effingham, Illinois followed by opening a TA Truck Service facility in Holbrook, Arizona.
With fuel accounting for such a large portion of its total sales (82% in 2013 vs. 80% in 2010), TCA is vulnerable to wild swings in prices. (About 90% of TCA's historical fuel sales are diesel, while 10% are gasoline. The company is looking into expanding into natural gas as a motor fuel.)
The company acquired eight travel centers for an aggregate price of $37 million in 2011 and in 2012 purchased eight more for about $32 million.
In mid-2012 TCA entered into a memorandum of understanding with Shell Oil Products US for the construction by Shell of a network of natural gas refueling lanes at some its travel centers located along the national interstate highway system.
A wildcard for the company is the 2010 merger of its two largest rivals: Pilot Travel Centers and Flying J to form Pilot Flying J, an operator of more than 650 travel centers across North America. The merger created a more formidable competitor and could hinder TCA's sales and profitability.
The real estate investment firm Hospitality Properties Trust owns more than 9% of TCA.