TravelCenters lays off more than 3,000 as full-service restaurants idled (Update)

Truck approaching TA plaza

Editor’s Note: Adds comment from NATSO

TravelCenters of America (NASDAQ: TA) is laying off more than 3,000 employees because its full-service restaurants are closed and stay-at-home orders have all but dried up business from non-trucking motorists.

TA, which operates  260 TA, Petro Stopping Centers and TA Express travel centers in 44 states and Canada, is furloughing approximately 2,900 field employees and about 122 corporate employees. Total company employment is 21,000.

“This decision was very difficult, but these are unprecedented times,” said TA CEO Jon Pertchik, a veteran turnaround expert hired in December 2019. “We believe this step is necessary to preserve the long-term success of our company and to ensure our essential services remain available for the millions of professional drivers who rely on us daily,”

The coronavirus pandemic has caused many state and local governments to close or severely limit non-essential services, including full-service restaurants. TA said in March that parts of its business may not be considered essential during the health crisis. That is playing out for its full-service restaurants.

All TA locations remain open, providing fuel, showers, restrooms, quick-serve restaurants and convenience stores to truck drivers hauling essential freight like food for grocery stores and medical supplies.

All furloughed employees currently enrolled in TA’s benefits programs will continue to be eligible for healthcare coverage based on their plan. Impacted employees are eligible to apply for enhanced unemployment benefits under the  Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

TA is the only publicly traded travel plaza operation among the three largest truck stop operators. Pilot Company and Love’s Travel Stops & Country Stores did not immediately comment on whether they have or are laying off employees.

“Truckstops and travel plazas are adapting to hundreds of varying orders from state and local jurisdictions,” said Lisa Mullings, president and CEO of NATSO, the trade association for travel plaza and truckstop operators. “These orders influence all aspects of their business, including their hours of operation and whether they may serve local residents or offer sit-down dining.”