The rush to restock U.S. shelves with food, toilet paper and hand sanitizer is boosting diesel sales at TA Petro.
TA Petro is publicly traded and therefore is required in some cases, expected in others, to disclose material events to the bottom line of the business. In a prepared statement released on Friday, March 20, TA Managing Director and CEO Jonathan Pertchik said diesel truck sales at the truck stop chain are “high year over year … which tells us that the US supply chain remains intact and functioning under these unprecedented circumstances. . “
The diesel demand statements correspond to data showing higher volumes passing through the system, as evidenced by SONAR’s outgoing tender volume index.
In the “forward-looking statements” section of the press release, TA said the increase in diesel sales this month “may not continue and may reverse, particularly if current economic conditions continue to decline or do not improve “.
The section on forward-looking statements also notes that higher volumes do not necessarily mean better profits. After recapping the current oil price war, TA states that “even if TA’s diesel fuel sales volume increases from the levels of the previous year, TA may not achieve any increase in revenues or margins. on fuel “.
However, based on the FUELS.USA data series in SONAR, retailers are expected to benefit from current market conditions. The FUELS series measures the difference between the national average retail price of diesel and the average national wholesale price. A company like TA would have several ways to pay for diesel fuel, but the size of the FUEL gap suggests that as long as this acquisition cost is somewhere in line with the average wholesale price of diesel, the current margins are far the strongest in years.
The forward-looking statement also notes that TA may “cease to be considered an ‘essential service’ despite its attempts to the contrary. “If this is the case, TA may have to close or scale down the operations of some or all of its travel centers indefinitely. But the National Association of Truck Stop Owners (NATSO) recently received a letter from Interim Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration chief Jim Mullen urging truck stops to stay open so that such a loss of the designation of “essential service” seems highly unlikely.
In other developments on Friday, the Pennsylvania Turnpike said it would reopen its 17 service centers on Friday. From Saturday, the toilets inside the squares will be open 24 hours a day.
A spokesperson for the Pennsylvania Turnpike Authority said the outdoor portable toilets that were installed when the indoor spaces were closed will remain, at the request of some truck drivers.
Not all dining options inside the plaza will be available, she said, noting that “one or two” fast food options per seat will be available for take-out. Dining options will be available from 7:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., except at the North Midway and Valley Forge locations which will operate 24 hours a day.
This is a separate step from what Pennsylvania has done by closing and reopening some of its rest areas on other highways. These are rudimentary facilities with bathrooms and food and drink from vending machines.
The spokeswoman said the freeway bathrooms had been “reconfigured” to separate people standing in front of sinks and urinals.
Responding to questions from FreightWaves on Thursday, NATSO spokesperson Tiffany Neuman said her organization’s truck stops remain open. “They continue to report that they are serving truck drivers as they work to restock merchandise that is quickly sold to retail outlets as Americans stock up,” she wrote. . “Truck stops and travel areas are committed to serving professional drivers who transport supplies and goods in support of COVID-19 emergency relief. “
But the big chains, on their respective web pages, list all the restrictions and changes. For example, the use of reusable coffee cups is not recommended. Love’s said it is limiting the sale quantities of certain items “because inventory is depleted on certain merchandise in the store.”
But the bigger list is for states and places where food must now be provided by take-out or delivery, as dining halls are closed due to government mandates or a chain decision. As TA Petro stated on his webpage, “Depending on the applicable government mandate, we may need to bring you the food. “
Meanwhile, with Pennsylvania having at least partially canceled its plan to close all rest areas, the question is what other services drivers may miss on the road.
Pennsylvania’s decision to close rest areas, partially retracted two days later, appears to be an outlier. There are no other reports of states where state-run rest areas have been closed, according to several agencies as a result of such developments.
Norita Taylor, spokesperson for the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA), told FreightWaves in an email that her organization is looking for further reports of shutdowns. “We are trying to verify all of this as best we can,” she said. “In some cases it’s a construction issue and maybe a rumor goes off because one is closed in a particular state.”
Information on the OOIDA webpage on the various measures taken by the state in response to COVID-19 does not list any further closures of rest areas beyond those partially retracted in Keystone state.
The Texas Department of Transportation, in a statement outlining its plans to deal with COVID-19, said it had shut down lobbies at its 12 travel information centers.
But he said the outhouse at these facilities would remain available and would be “regularly cleaned”. He also said rest stops on state highways remain open. “These provide important rest areas for drivers,” the statement said.
Compiled by OOIDA, a list of weight restrictions lifted by states is long. Michigan is one of the included states.
As an example of the type of waiver granted for weight restrictions, the Michigan one was relatively non-specific, made by executive order by Governor Gretchen Whitmer and declaring that all state and local agencies “shall exercise their authority on an expedited basis. to issue permits to exceed non-seasonal load restrictions. However, he said the permits had to reflect the weight tolerances of the bridge.
The reasons for the exemptions would all be related to the needs of COVID-19: delivery of medical supplies; supplies and equipment “necessary for community safety, sanitation and prevention of community transmission of COVID-19”; food to replenish the shelves; and certain other uses related to the COVID-19 response.
In addition, NATSO has requested an exemption from the rules on hours of service for fuel deliveries. In his email to FreightWaves, Neuman also said that NATSO had partnered with other food service groups to request a waiver, submitted Wednesday, March 18, on the type of food that food stamp recipients via the supplementary nutritional assistance program could buy. The exemption would allow the purchase of hot prepared foods.