According to market data, the U.S. trucking industry generated a whopping 796 billion dollars in revenue in 2018. If you want to tap into this market, one way you can do so is by starting a truck stop business.
Truck stops are essential to truck drivers, as they provide them with essential services and a much-needed break off the road. However, before you start laying out money, there are a few tips you should know.
If you play your cards right, your future truck stop could turn into a revenue earning machine. However, a few mistakes might make it a money pit. Therefore, we recommend that you read on and find out some of the top pieces of advice for opening a truck stop.
1. Pick the Right Location for Your Truck Stop Business
The saying “location, location, location” has never been truer than it is for starting a truck stop business. While you might be able to open up a specialized restaurant in an out of the way location, and still drawn customers with your renown—truck stops rarely work like that.
A trucker cannot make a 25-mile detour just to enjoy an unusual truck stop. They have to stop along their routes.
The drawback to this is that a truck stop off of the main truck route probably won’t do so well. However, the upside is that you easily pinpoint major truck routes on which to locate your business.
2. Research Future Re-Routing Plans
Another important thing to consider is future re-routing. Imagine you open a humming truck stop on a major route and that’s flowing with trucks both day and night.
Then boom. Plans come into place to re-route that area, and suddenly your once-thriving truck stop business is now as dead as a doorpost.
As you can see, the impact of highway construction can be severe, so it is very important that you do thorough research into whether your state has any plans to construct a highway that will route traffic away from your future business.
3. Think of Services That Will Draw in Truckers to Your Truck Stop Business
The next thing you will need to focus on when starting a truck stop business is what truck stop products and services you can provide that will draw in truckers.
Here are some of the things that truckers love to see when they hit a truck stop:
- Competitive fuel prices (preferably for all sizes of companies)
- Easy-on, easy-off highway access for truck drivers
- Free, clean showers with privacy
- A 24/7 restaurant or diner
- Charging stations
- Truck driver’s lounge
- A truck wash
Besides these fundamental services, you can also focus on really going the extra mile and making yourself an indispensable truck stop by providing things like a parts store. Other handy services include nice-to-haves such as a gaming room, a gift store, and shipping services.
If you didn’t already know this, you may be surprised but some truckers travel with pets on board. If you want to make a dog-owning trucker’s heart very happy, then you can also consider providing grooming facilities or a walking area/service.
4. Focus on Visibility
Once you have decided what services you are going to provide to draw in business, you also need to think of ways to let trucking companies know that you are in business and that they should check out what you have to offer.
Marketing truck stops can be tricky, but you will need to draw up a marketing campaign directed at truckers. For this, you could take advantage of social media or, or local radio stations to start communicating with customers and letting them know you are open for business.
Another thing that you should put some thought into is how to achieve maximum visibility to truck drivers that are on the road. To attract the attention of truckers you will need to invest in some large-scale signage that makes it clear that you are a truck stop worth pulling into.
Don’t forget to plan some highway signs or billboards several miles out, as well as bright lighting for the signs so they are clearly visible at night.
5. Scope out the Competition
Ideally, you will want to be as far away from any hot competition as possible. However, if that means that you going to be located off the beaten route, that’s no good either.
If you can’t avoid competition, what you need to do is investigate the other truck stops around you and gauge how you can set yours apart from these. Is there a service you can provide that they don’t?
Could you beat the competition with things like a free cup of coffee with filling up? Not many truckers will say no to that.
Even if you are surrounded by large, franchised truck stops that have all the bells and whistles, if you think hard, you will undoubtedly be able to come up with an angle that sets you apart, such as family-owned, or outstandingly friendly service.
6. Create a Business Plan
When planning on starting a truck stop business or starting a trucking company, it is essential that you create a business plan. Business plans serve two important purposes. For one, they help you to secure financing in the form of investments and loans.
Not many investors will put money towards a business that does not have a clear business plan. Business plans state the planned operations, milestones, how these will be achieved, and also include key financial projections.
Besides this, business plans also help you with the running of your business. Having a business plan to refer to will inform you what business decisions are in keeping with your plan and whether you are on track to meet your goals and metrics.
7. Decide Whether to Buy or Build Your Truck Stop Business
Before you begin to draft your business plan, there are two key decisions you will need to make. One of them is whether to buy or build. Buying an existing truck stop might not feel as exciting as building one up from the ground.
However, some sources have stated that existing businesses have a better success rate than those started from scratch. One of the advantages of purchasing an existing business is that you will have access to immediate cash flow (in most cases). It’s also easier to get financing for an existing business.
Constructing a truck stop can also incur unplanned expenses. Research shows that up to 80% of large construction projects run over budget and take up to 20% longer than expected. If you choose to buy an already built truck stop, you can skip these issues.
At the same time, don’t completely rule out building your own truck stop. Perhaps you’ve hit on a prime location along a new route that is opening up? If so, providing you have done your research, opting to build could prove far more lucrative, even with unplanned construction-related expenses.
8. Don’t Rule out Franchising
Another key decision you need to make when starting a truck stop business is whether or not to buy a franchise. Franchises can be an efficient business model, with statistics showing their success rate to be 8% higher than for independent businesses.
If you buy a franchise license, you will be able to tap into the marketing and exposure that the brand has already created. When a trucker sees your sign, they will already know what to expect. Research has shown that customers love familiarity with a brand and that this can increases customer satisfaction.
However, this does not mean that you have to open a franchise branch to be successful with your truck stop. On the flip side, analysis of truck stop reviews showed that independent truck stops were the highest rated.
This goes to show that if you choose to open an independent truck stop, you can, by all means, make a roaring success out of it and garner a lot of happy and loyal customers.
9. Decide How to Fund Your Truck Stop Business
Most new truck stop businesses require a certain level of funding. If you need financing to start your truck stop business, there are a few options available to you. You can seek out investors, however, this will see you having to give up a portion of your business and a certain level of control.
If you don’t want to do this, you can also look into loans and other financing options. Securing a loan before you have been in business for a year or more can be tricky, especially if you go through a bank.
However, traditional lenders and smaller banks often have less stringent application processes, which may allow you to secure a loan in the early days. You can also consider taking out a business line of credit if all your need is a cash flow injection from time to time.
Are You Starting a Truck Stop Business and Do You Need Financing?
Do you need financing for starting a truck stop business? If so, you are in the perfect place to start comparing your options. Here at Your FundingTree, we offer a free application process designed to help you find the best loan for starting a truck stop business.
All you have to do is complete our free 90-second online application. Our financial advisors will then pair you with up to five lenders who work with truck stop businesses. It’s that easy.
If you have any questions about the process, please reach out and we will be happy to help or call 704-904-0774 to speak with a representative today!