The new Wheeler Ridge TA fits in with its majestic mountain surroundings
At exactly 10 a.m. on Dec. 11, the old Wheeler Ridge TA at I-5 shut down and the new one opened about a quarter-mile down the road. The staff didn’t miss a beat. They simply headed to their new spot and got right to work.
While TA’s iconic red, white and blue arches remain outside, the rest of this new facility has a unique, earth-toned color scheme. Add to that the rocky landscaping instead of lawn, and the whole TA fits in with the rugged surroundings, including the snowcapped Tehachapi Mountains on the eastern and southern horizons. The exterior is sand-colored, with dark brown and some rock siding used as trim. The rock siding also is around the pumps.
The rugged theme continues inside, with posters of such things as the prairie and horses decorating khaki-colored walls above the dark tan floors.
It not only looks good, but long-time employees talk with glee about the new amenities inside and out, including the sparkling facilities, increased food choices, expanded shop and other improvements.
Improved customer convenience is something that Albert Espinoza, fuel general manager, focuses on. For example, “We used to have a satellite gas station that was off the main building, but now they combined the whole thing together,” says Espinoza, 27, who began as a Burger King cashier at the TA a decade ago.
In addition to having a more convenient gas station for the travelers, the main building’s food court also has grown. It now includes a Popeyes in addition to Burger King, Subway, Taco Bell and Pizza Hut. Of course, they are all as sparkling new as the restrooms, showers and store.
Espinoza says a truck driver favorite is the new deli, just inside the fuel island. “They really like that they can get a home-style-cooked meal,” including items like meat loaf, fried and baked chicken, mashed potatoes and okra.
Back and forth
Fuel cashier Marie Maillot, 60 (a “trucker favorite,” according to Espinoza) says the location has changed, but that hasn’t affected the atmosphere. “I love being a fuel cashier,” she says. “Because these drivers give me a hard time and I give it right back.”
Looking for Pixi
Drivers get a nice look at the new truck service center when they seek out shop manager Pixi Rivas, who they know from her previous work at the fuel desk. “Every driver comes through the fuel desk. And they get to know you pretty good,” Rivas says. “They are coming in off the road where they haven’t had anybody to talk to and when they get out of that truck, they are happy to have somebody to see and talk to.”
One thing that drivers really appreciate at the new facility is that all the pumps on the location’s eight diesel islands are easier to use, thanks to new technology.
Pretty inside and out
While the new building looks great, the surroundings in this mostly rural setting are really impressive. In the wintertime, of course, there are the snow-capped mountains
“During the spring, there are the wildflowers, and people take pictures of the hillsides,” says Espinoza. “The scenery is real beautiful every time of year.”
Closer Than Ever Before
By Tom O’Brien, President and CEO
Is the economy really turning around? Early reports suggest that it is, but can you feel it? Economic climate drives business people to adapt. The big players in the truckstop industry have taken radically different approaches.
One of the three big players was hit very hard with financial difficulties. Another has chosen this time to try to consolidate the industry big time. As an outsider looking in on those two companies, it seems to me that, whether they end up together or separate, they’re both missing out on what is important: You.
TA prepared itself for the recession in early 2007, well before the experts were even using the word “recession.” We cleaned up and straightened up early and then we went to work, focused on you. TA doesn’t have all the money in the world; but every dollar we spend is spent with you in mind. We don’t want you waiting in lines; we don’t want you jockeying around to find a parking space; we don’t want you to have your needs unfilled. We want to get you in and get you on your way when you have a hot load; and we want to get you in and get you fed when you need a hot meal.
We want to give you a home away from home and take care of you like no other travel center company can. Our restaurants are still open and staffed with our own employees. You’ll find variety at TA restaurants like no other places on the road. Our maintenance and repair services are second to none. When you talk with one of our technicians, you know that you’re talking to me. We don’t farm out that work to a third party; we know trucks because we’ve been in the business for almost 40 years.
And we’re taking this show on the road. For the past six months, while our competitors have been working on things that are important to them, I’ve been on the road working with you on things that are important to you. Literally hundreds of conversations with drivers asking for feedback; what are we doing right and what are we doing wrong. The discussions were frank and open and you didn’t hold back. I’m proud to know that TA has so many loyal customers of course, but I’m also proud to be doing something that makes a difference to your job and your life. If we can make a tough job a little bit easier, that’s what we want to do. From our loyalty program, to our showers, to our ability to provide you with information about this year’s new federally mandated safety standards, to maintenance of our facilities, to our menu selection, to our speed of service, to our friendliness and hospitality.
Some of the changes we have made are subtle. Some of those that are coming your way are also subtle; but some will be big news. Look for them. Listen for new programs. Every time you see a change at a TA, know that change is focused on making your life on the road a little bit easier.
Band on the (Smooth) Run
The Grascals are meeting with drivers at TA and Petro
Truckers see a lot of musicians’ tour buses while driving, and may even run into them when they pull into a TA or Petro for a while. But they probably never saw anything like The Grascals Mobil Delvac bus, the home on the road for the high-spirited bluegrass band.
It’s hard to miss. Wrapped with the Mobil Delvac logo and giant photos of the band, the bus is stopping at TA and Petro locations throughout the year, meeting up with drivers to let them know about the Mobil Delvac 1300 Super 15W-40 high performance diesel engine oil being used in the vehicle.
At each appearance band members or Stu Bob Myrick, a former trucker who has been driving the Grascals’ tour bus for nearly three years, come out to chat, give away T-shirts, hats and $10 coupons good toward a Mobil Delvac preventative maintenance at any TA or Petro.
“We get on Twitter and let drivers know where we’re headed and about what time we’ll be there. We call into the Midnight Radio Trucking Network. And when we pull in the response has been amazing,” says singer Jamie Johnson. “Truck drivers are some of the best and most loyal fans in the world. We get to give them the coupons and they get to know the band and our music. So it helps each and every one of us.”
The Grascals are performing at the Mobil Delvac concert at MATS, along with John Anderson, on Friday, March 26. Yes, the bus will be there.
As Johnson says, “If it ain’t going, we ain’t going.”
TA at MATS
Planning to attend the Mid-America Trucking Show this year? TA will be there, at Booth #19156, Petro at Booth #19164 and Road Squad at Booth #19160, at the Kentucky Expo, March 25-27. Look for plenty of information, samples and surprises that you will definitely enjoy. For up-to-date news on TA activities at MATS and beyond, become a fan of TA on Facebook.