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November 5, 2018 1:45 PM, EST

Pilot Flying J in Expansion, Charitable Modes as It Turns 60

Pilot Flying J sign John Sommers II for Transport Topics

Executives with Pilot Flying J, the largest operator of travel centers in North America, said the company is expanding related services such as urgent care centers and oil field trucking as it celebrates its 60th anniversary this year.

At the same time, the company is donating a total of $2 million to more than 20 organizations supporting military families and other community groups.

The company has 28,000 employees, and 1.3 million people a day visit its 750 retail locations in 44 states, Chief Merchant Brian Ferguson said during a recent media conference call.

Ken Parent and James Haslam

Pilot Flying J President Ken Parent (left) and founder James Haslam reveal a donation to the American Heart Association's Life Is Why We Give campaign. (Pilot Flying J)

Forbes magazine ranks it the 14th-largest privately held company in the nation with an estimated $22.1 billion in revenue.

The company will open “a couple of new stores” by the end of the year, adding to 20 already opened that expanded its footprint in 10 states this year, Ferguson said.

The company is adding to its existing network of 13 urgent care centers, too.

“It’s a resource that our drivers ask for, that they need. Given our network — we are in some areas across the country where there is no other [care-related] infrastructure — it is really a valuable amenity that we can provide,” he said.

Calling truck parking a huge issue for the industry, Ferguson said Pilot Flying J is committed to bringing additional parking to drivers and easier ways to reserve spots, such as through its mobile app and parking sensors installed at some locations along I-5 that provide information on real-time availability.

Pilot has added nearly 900 parking spots to its total of 72,000 this year.

Meanwhile, it is diversifying its business and growing its “core logistics business,” Ferguson said.

In August, Pilot Flying J announced that, through a joint venture and an acquisition, it extended its core logistics business with additional water, sand and crude-hauling capabilities. And the company acquired 10 saltwater disposal wells and two crude oil pipeline injection terminals in Wyoming.

This expansion has made Pilot Flying J one of the largest third-party crude-hauling fleets in the country, with more than 500 trucks on the road serving the oil and gas industry, according to the Knoxville, Tenn.-based company.

James Haslam

Haslam

Asked about offering alternative fuel to diesel, the company is prepared to do so, founder James Haslam said. A limited number of locations already offer natural gas, but demand has been slower than expected, he said.

“Let’s put it this way, as long as you can pump it or measure it, we will be able to supply it,” he said. “We have a lot of people working on all kinds of different scenarios.”

Turning to its broad-based philanthropic activity, the funds will support veterans and their families by providing cost-free housing to those caring for injured loved ones and by connecting them with opportunities to drive their future success. Pilot Flying J also is working with organizations such as Boys and Girls Clubs of America, Feeding America, Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library and Trucker Buddy International to fund programs that focus on health and wellness, access to food and academic success in communities nationwide.

In October 2017, Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc. investment company bought a minority stake in Pilot Travel Centers, owner of the Pilot Flying J truck stop chain, and will become the majority shareholder in six years, according to the announcement.