Flying J Truck Stops
Flying J Parking Lot
August 2, 2021
Pilot Travel Centers LLC, doing business as Pilot Flying J, is a North American 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, and Berkshire Hathaway.
The company operates truck stops under the Pilot Travel Centers, Flying J Travel Plaza, and Mr. Fuel brands.
Pilot Corporation opened its first truck stop in 1981. On November 15, 1993, Pilot entered a joint venture with Marathon Petroleum Company, and all Pilot Truck Stops were renamed 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. Pilot also has partnerships with Road Ranger and Town Pump, and purchased a controlling stake in Mr. Fuel in 2014. In October 2014, Pilot Flying J announced they would borrow funds to provide a $750 million dividend to shareholders and facilitate a buyout of its private-equity partner CVC Capital Partner. In 2015, the Haslam family completed the buyout of CVC Capital Partner's stake.
Flying J merger
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. The deal was finalized July 1, 2010, and the combined company took the d.b.a. name Pilot Flying J, while Pilot Travel Centers LLC remained the company's legal name.
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, and was subsequently renamed FJ Management Inc.
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. The merger left the combined company with over 550 locations in 44 U.S. states and six Canadian provinces. In 2011, Pilot Flying J began a partnership with Truckers Against Trafficking.
On June 23, 2016, Pilot Flying J and Speedway announced a new joint venture between the two companies that will see 41 Speedway locations (all former Wilco Hess locations) and 79 Pilot Flying J locations primarily in the Southeastern United States form PFJ Southeast LLC. The locations will be operated by Pilot Flying J and the Speedway locations will be rebranded as either Pilot or Flying J.
Berkshire Hathaway purchase
On October 3, 2017, it was announced that Warren Buffett-controlled Berkshire Hathawaywill acquire 38.6% of Pilot Flying J, with plans to increase its stake to 80% in 2023. The Haslam family and FJ Management will retain ownership stakes until then, upon which the Haslam family will retain the remaining 20% and FJ Management will withdraw altogether. The Haslam family will retain control of day-to-day operations of the company.
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 750 locations under the Pilot, Flying J, & Mr. Fuel brands. Pilot Flying J is also the third largest franchiser 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, Wendy's, and Cinnabon.
Recently they have also added Huddle House (full-service restaurants), Moe's Southwest Grill, and Dunkin Donuts. Pilot Flying J's main competitors include Love's Travel Stops, Travel Centers of America, Stuckey's, Roady's Truck Stops, and T/A-owned Petro Stopping Centers.