Pilot Flying J

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Pilot Travel Centers LLC
d.b.a Pilot Flying J
Type Privately held limited liability company
Industry truck stop, convenience store, petroleum, restaurant
Founded September 1, 2001 as Pilot Travel Centers, LLC
July 1, 2010 as Pilot Flying J
Headquarters Knoxville, Tennessee, USA
Number of locations 550+
Key people Jimmy Haslam, Chairman and CEO
Parent Pilot Corporation, FJ Management Inc., CVC Capital Partners
Website PilotFlyingJ.com

Pilot Travel Centers LLC,[1] doing business as Pilot Flying J, is a chain of truck stops in the United States and Canada. The company is based in Knoxville, Tennessee where Pilot Corporation, the majority owner, is based. The company is owned by Pilot, FJ Management Inc., and CVC Capital Partners. The company operates truck stops under the Pilot Travel Centers and Flying J Travel Plaza brands.

History[edit]

Pilot Flying J was founded as Pilot Travel Centers on September 1, 2001 in a joint venture between Pilot Corporation and Marathon Petroleum Company. Immediately all Pilot Truck Stops were converted into Pilot Travel Centers. At its inception, the number of stops was around 60; however, that was to be short-lived.

In the next few years, Pilot Travel Centers experienced significant growth. Marathon converted many Speedway truck stops, wholly owned by Marathon, over to the Pilot Travel Center moniker starting in mid-2002. Midway through 2003, another major expansion occurred with the purchase of the Williams Truck Stop chain. The Marathon-Pilot joint venture successfully increased the Pilot Travel Center name recognition throughout the United States, as the number of stops more than quadrupled.

In 2008, Pilot bought out Marathon's interest in the business and entered into a new partnership arrangement with CVC Capital Partners, an international private equity firm.[2] Pilot also has partnerships with Road Ranger and Town Pump.

Flying J merger[edit]

A Pilot diesel fuel truck at a Flying J in Pasco, Florida.

In July 2009, Pilot agreed to purchase Flying J's travel centers, as a part of Flying J's efforts to remove itself from Chapter 11 bankruptcy.[3] The deal was finalized July 1, 2010, and the combined company took the d.b.a. name Pilot Flying J,[4] while Pilot Travel Centers LLC remained the company's legal name.[1]

As part of the deal, both the Pilot and Flying J chains will keep their identities intact, while both chains started accepting the Comdata and Flying J's in-house TCH fuel cards. In addition, Flying J received cash and equity in the new combined chain. Flying J's oil & refining operations as well as its banking & insurance division will remain separate from the new company,[5] and was subsequently renamed FJ Management Inc.[6]

To settle antitrust concerns with the Federal Trade Commission, Pilot sold 20 Pilot Travel Centers locations and six Flying J locations to Love's Travel Stops & Country Stores on June 30, 2010.[7] The merger left the combined company with over 550 locations in 43 U.S. states and six Canadian provinces. In 2011, Pilot Flying J began a partnership with Truckers Against Trafficking.[8]

Business profile[edit]

A Pilot Travel Center branded location in Lost Hills, California.

Currently, Pilot Flying J is the largest purveyor of over-the-road diesel fuel in the United States. Pilot Flying J also is known as the largest Travel Center chain in the country with over 550 locations under the Pilot and Flying J brands. Pilot Flying J is also the third largest franchisor of quick service restaurants in the nation, offering one to three different concepts at each location, making it the largest franchisee of Subway in the world with over 200 locations. Unlike many travel centers and truck stops, the majority of locations with the Pilot Travel Centers brand do not utilize full-service dining. However, the Flying J brand does utilize full-service dining with Denny's, as do a small handful of Pilot-branded locations.

Pilot Flying J's main restaurants include Arby's, Chester's Chicken, Dairy Queen, Denny's, McDonald's, Pizza Hut, Subway, Taco Bell, T.J. Cinnamons, Wendy's, and Cinnabon. Recently they have been adding Huddle House (full-service restaurants) and Moe's Southwest Grill in their locations. They also have one or two location deals with several other restaurants. In New York and New Hampshire, some locations have a Dunkin Donuts shop.

Pilot Flying J's main competitors include TravelCenters of America, Love's Travel Stops, Stuckey's, Roady's Truck Stops, and T/A-owned Petro Stopping Centers.

In 2012, the company signed country music singer Trace Adkins to become its new spokesperson for its relaunched loyalty program.[9] In addition to Adkins, the company has a NASCAR sponsorship with Tommy Baldwin Racing driver Michael Annett as the primary sponsor for Annett's number 7 Chevrolet SS in NASCAR's Sprint Cup Series.[10] In 2013, the company sponsored Annett in the Richard Petty Motorsports number 43 Ford Mustang in NASCAR's Nationwide Series.[11]

Travel center amenities[edit]

Pilot Travel Centers logo.
Flying J logo.

Amenities featured at Pilot Flying J locations include:[12]

Truck repairs[edit]

Diesel pumps at a Flying J branded location.

At some locations, Pilot Flying J offers truck maintenance through garages operated by third-party companies. Wingfoot Truck Care Centers, operated by the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company, provide 24-hour road service, preventative maintenance, tire service, part replacement, oil changes, and light mechanical work.

In addition to Wingfoot, Pilot Flying J also has Bosselman Boss Shop garages operated by Bosselman that provide similar services as Wingfoot. The Boss Shop partnership expanded as part of an agreement for Pilot Flying J to acquire most of Bosselman's truck stops in November 2011 in order to boost Pilot Flying J's presence in the Northern Great Plains region. Before the deal, Bosselman bought diesel fuel from Pilot and continues to do so for its remaining travel center location in Grand Island, Nebraska.[13]

Magazine[edit]

The Pilot Flying J company, in a joint venture with Victory 500 marketing, publishes Challenge magazine, a magazine aimed at professional truckers and sold exclusively at Pilot Flying J travel centers and by subscription.[14]

Rebate fraud allegation[edit]

Pilot Flying J Chairman/CEO Jimmy Haslam

On April 15, 2013, the headquarters of Pilot Flying J, located in West Knoxville, Tennessee, was raided by FBI and IRS agents as part of an "ongoing investigation". On April 16, CEO Jimmy Haslam reported the investigation involved claims of failure to pay rebates to trucking customers.[15]

On April 18, 2013, three days after the FBI/IRS raid on Pilot Flying J headquarters, an affidavit used to secure various search warrants was made public. The documents alleged that several members of the Pilot Flying J sales force, as well as company president Mark Hazelwood and CEO Jimmy Haslam, were either involved or aware of the alleged scheme.[16][17] Three sales employees' private homes were also raided as part of the investigation.[18]

On Saturday, April 20, 2013, the Knoxville News Sentinel reported that Hazelhurst, Georgia-based trucking company Atlantic Coast Carriers Inc. sued Pilot Flying J. According to the newspaper, the lawsuit, filed in Knox County Circuit Court, alleges that "Pilot Flying J has 'adopted ... and benefitted from inaccurate rebate procedures for certain clients, including Atlantic Coast. Pilot regularly understated the amount owed to Atlantic Coast and other similar companies, promised by Pilot sales representatives as a rebate for purchase of their fuel.' " Atlantic Coast Carriers is also seeking class action status for the lawsuit.[19]

On Wednesday, May 29, 2013, Ashley Judd and Arnold "Arnie" Ralenkotter became the first Pilot Flying J employees to plead guilty in the fuel rebate case. Judd, a direct sales representative, and Ralenkotter, a regional sales director, agreed to cooperate in the criminal case.[20]

On Monday, June 18, 2013, three Pilot Flying J employees pleaded guilty to federal charges of conspiracy to commit mail fraud — bringing to five the total of Pilot workers who have admitted to helping cheat trucking customers out of promised fuel discounts and rebates.[21]

On Tuesday, July 16, 2013, a federal judge in Arkansas granted preliminary approval to a proposed settlement agreement between Pilot Flying J and several trucking companies that had sued over allegations of fuel rebate fraud. A company attorney estimated the settlement could cost $35 million.[22]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Pilot Flying J". Pilot Flying J. 2012-07-11. Retrieved 2013-04-20. 
  2. ^ Pilot buys Marathon stake in travel centers, sells 47.5% of PTC to CVC, Knoxville News Sentinel, October 1, 2008
  3. ^ Duncan Mansfield (2009-07-14). "Pilot to acquire Flying J's 250 travel centers". Associated Press. Retrieved 2009-07-15. [dead link]
  4. ^ [1][dead link]
  5. ^ Pomerleau, Charlie. "Merger official today for two companies". Standard-Examiner. Retrieved 2011-07-26. 
  6. ^ [2][dead link]
  7. ^ "Pilot, Flying J Finalize Merger". Convenience Store News. 2010-07-01. Retrieved 2011-07-26. 
  8. ^ "Pilot Flying J Supports Truckers Against Trafficking". Convenience Store News. November 7, 2011. Retrieved September 7, 2013. 
  9. ^ "Pilot Flying J". Pilot Flying J. 2012-02-17. Retrieved 2013-04-20. 
  10. ^ Pearce, Al (November 15, 2013). "Michael Annett to replace Dave Blaney in Tommy Baldwin Racing's NASCAR Cup seat in 2014". Autoweek. Retrieved 2013-11-15. 
  11. ^ "Annett claims another solid finish at Fontana | News". Motorsport.com. 2012-03-25. Retrieved 2013-04-20. 
  12. ^ "Pilot Flying J - Amenities". Pilottravelcenters.com. Retrieved 2011-07-26. 
  13. ^ "Pilot Flying J Acquiring seven travel centers from Bosselman". Cspnet.com. Retrieved 2013-04-20. 
  14. ^ "About Us - PTC Challenge". Retrieved December 2010. 
  15. ^ "Pilot Flying J CEO Jimmy Haslam: Raid Part of Criminal Investigation into Rebates to Trucking Customers," Knoxville News Sentinel, 16 April 2013. Retrieved: 16 April 2013.
  16. ^ Flory, Josh (April 18, 2013). "FBI: Pilot engaged in fraud". Knoxville News Sentinel. Retrieved April 18, 2013. 
  17. ^ Gervin, Cari Wade (April 24, 2013). "The Case Against Pilot: Behind the Accusations of Fraud at Pilot Flying J". Metro Pulse (Knoxville, Tennessee: E. W. Scripps Company). Retrieved December 22, 2013. 
  18. ^ Witt, Gerald (April 18, 2013). "Three private homes raided under Pilot warrant". Knoxville News Sentinel. Retrieved April 18, 2013. 
  19. ^ Coleman, Lance. "North Georgia company asks for class action lawsuit against Pilot Flying J". Knoxville News Sentinel. Retrieved 20 April 2013. 
  20. ^ Satterfield, Jamie. "2 Pilot employees plead to federal fraud charges". Knoxville News Sentinel. Retrieved 30 May 2013. 
  21. ^ Lakin, Matt. "Three more Pilot Flying J employees plead guilty". Knoxville News Sentinel. Retrieved 19 June 2013. 
  22. ^ Flory, Josh. "Judge OKs Pilot Flying J, truckers agreement on fuel rebate fraud lawsuits". Knoxville News Sentinel. Retrieved 16 July 2013. 

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