TravelCenters of America (TCA) is in the fuel, food, and relaxation business for the long haul. The company's network of more than 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 184 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.
While TCA offers food to fuel truck drivers and motorists, about 79% of the company's revenue comes from the sale of fuel for vehicles. The rest comes from human food and other items sold in it stores.
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.
TCA's revenue slipped lower for the second year in a row, dropping 2% in 2014 to $7.7 billion from 2013. On the flip side, the company's profit reached a new high, $60.9 million, in 2014. The company has now posted four years of profit after a five-year streak of losses.
Revenue is dependent on fuel prices and when fuel prices drop so does TCA's revenue. Fuel revenue was off 5% in 2014 while nonfuel revenue rose 11%. The market forces that depressed revenue unleashed the company's profit to a 93% gain as the company paid less for the fuel that it sold. The company buys fuel at daily market rates and works with multiple suppliers at most locations.
The company’s cash from operating activities increased to $161 million in 2014 from $71 million due to changes in inventories and accounts payable.
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 2015 TCA opened a new TA Truck Service facility in Columbia, South Carolina, and a Popeyes Louisiana Kitchens restaurant in Lincoln and Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and Coachella, California.
With fuel accounting for such a large portion of its total sales (79% in 2014), TCA is vulnerable to wild swings in prices. (About 90% of TCA's historical fuel sales are diesel, while 10% are gasoline. The company sells biodiesel at some locations and to offer liquified natural gas (LNG) at an expanded number of locations in 2015.)
Mergers and Acquisition
TCA in 2015 agreed to acquire Quaker Steak & Lube casual dining restaurants and other assets, including existing restaurant operations, restaurant franchise program and bottled sauces for retail sale business, for $25 million. Quaker Steak & Lube has more than 50 locations, most of them franchised, in 16 states, mostly in Pennsylvania and Ohio. TCA plans to convert some of its full service restaurants to the Quaker Steak & Lube brand and expand the number of franchises and the number of stand-alone company restaurants.