- Father and son share a love of life on the road, even if it makes visits rare
- This driver always makes time to mentor the next generation — whether at home or on the road
- This driver helps rookie truckers learn the ropes
- Home-schooling in a truck means the country is a classroom
- This driver sees the world through Google Glass
- A career trucker brings his tales of the road to people in hospice
- How driver Paul Sedlak finds motivation to reach his fitness goals
- I Love Trucking: More than a job, driving is a way of life
- Big Rig Books: Driver delivers books to underprivileged kids
- Driver Chris Jackson captures moments of beauty on the road
Welcome to the Neighborhood
When drivers arrive at the Knoxville West TA it’s not long before an irresistible scent leads them to the fuel control building.
There, they may see General Manager Randy Smith cooking up some “made right” barbecue at the Hillbilly Smokehouse. Seven years ago the tradition began, with the food prepared in a smoker out back. Drivers may find pork, turkey legs, brats or even meat loaf sandwiches smoking when they stop for fuel or some rest.
They will also find plenty of familiar faces. “In the shop alone, we have 11 team members here who all average over 12 years of service,” says owner Sam Smith. “We don’t have retention, we have longevity and always-consistent service.”
The neighborly hello and the backyard barbecue may remind drivers of a summer weekend at home, especially if they notice when the grill master heads off to another task — mowing the grass.
Location! Location! Location!
Set near the hills of the Smoky Mountains, the Knoxville West TA sits on 27 acres. The parking lot has room for 176 trucks and the food court is home to the only Popeyes Chicken and Biscuits in Knoxville, which brings in nearly as many local residents as drivers.
Shop Manager Bob Johnson has been at the Knoxville West TA since it opened in 1989 as part of the Union 76 network. He likes nothing better than solving a service problem. “We try hard to give customer satisfaction,” explains Johnson. “We try to make everyone feel welcome when they come in the door.”
An Interesting Lot
Every year, on the Thursday before Memorial Day, the Knoxville West TA has more motorcycles parked in its lot than trucks. The Rolling Thunder Motorcycle Rally in Washington, D.C. brings veterans and motorcyclists from across the country to celebrate veterans on Memorial Day.
Another addition to the travel center lot is the Bread of Life Chapel that is part of the Transport for Christ nonprofit organization. A chaplain is always on hand, 24 hours a day, to meet the spiritual needs of anyone who stops by.
Leading the way
As a U.S. Marine and law enforcement veteran, General Manger Randy Smith keeps the Knoxville West TA running smoothly. “I don’t put up with any shenanigans,” he says. “But I’ll make sure the homeless and others see the chaplain and get a good meal before they hit the road again.”