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How bp’s TravelCenters of America takes safety to the next level

Release date:
21 May 2024
A picture of a TravelCenters of America station with bp gas pumps

This story is part of a series that illustrates the depth and breadth of bp’s safety efforts.

 

Shortly after becoming CEO of TravelCenters of America (TA) in 2023, Debi Boffa attended a Women in Trucking conference. She found herself added to an online forum and she began reading. 


“Mostly it was a community sharing questions and offering tips and advice on how to keep training up to date. But then a female driver posted asking for safety tips,” Boffa recalls. “This driver said she knew how to have a safe truck and do preventive maintenance, but she wanted to know about keeping herself safe while traveling alone at night – dealing with everything from breaking down on the side of the road to sleeping in the cab and at truck stops. I immediately went to my team and said, ‘I think we should do something here.’”


About 8% of professional truck drivers in the US are women, and women make up roughly 43% of TA’s overall team members, from store cashiers to managers to executives. “That’s a significant portion of the people who are at our sites every day,” Boffa says.


Soon, Boffa and her team got the idea to engage with professional drivers and ask questions about how to make TA’s sites safer, particularly through the lens of female professional drivers.

A profile picture of Debi Boffa, CEO TA
“If we make our sites safer for the female professional driver, we’ll make it safer for everyone.” Debi Boffa, CEO, TravelCenters of America

TA went in search of professional drivers – men and women – to host a recurring panel on safety. Specifically, the team wanted raw feedback about the experience of being a woman professional driver in the US. 


“We took that feedback and put it into our initiatives. We also use it to help us put more pace on what we’re doing,” Boffa recalls, noting the panel meets regularly – and holds the company accountable. “Every month you’re talking to them, and we’ll lose them if we don’t come back with tangible outcomes.”

 

One of the biggest factors the panel identified was congestion. There’s a national shortage of truck parking in the US, which worsens during peak freight seasons (summer into fall). 

 

“Truckers are required to take mandatory breaks from driving,” Boffa says. “Here at TA, we have over 51,000 truck parking spaces nationwide that are available for drivers 24/7. Many locations are completely full by early evenings.”

 

Lot lay-out – including turning radiuses, signage, lighting, parking angles – is key for avoiding safety problems, from fender benders to security events. By the end of 2024, TA will have reengineered and updated all of its lots based on a safety traffic management plan, to include re-striping – painting – and new signage. A lighting survey of all locations is also occurring to help identify those sites that need to be upgraded. So far, the company has assessed 50 sites and made the determination to relight 18 locations this year.


“We’re going back to our basic brand promise,” says Boffa. “What should guests expect to get from us? If you stop at TA, it’s going to be safe, clean, and friendly. That’s a proof point for us. Ultimately, it’s helping us bring our high safety standards to life. We want everyone to go home at the end of the day.”

A TravelCenters of America truck service center with an 18-wheeler with a pink cap

Roadside Safety

In roadside safety, the environmental factors are different. Every day, TA has thousands of technicians going out on hundreds of calls a day to assist drivers, trucks and trailers that have broken down on the roadside. They operate in a highway environment in traffic where other vehicles are traveling at 60 mph or more.


Technician safety begins before anyone even gets in a vehicle – with culture. Since bp acquired TA, TA team members have embraced bp’s “speak up” culture.

 

“Before and during every job, we want people to speak up if they are too tired to drive,” says Gavin Scally, TA’s Senior Vice President, health, safety, security & environment. “Our people are really passionate about this.”

A man wearing an orange safety vest drives an 18-wheeler equipped with Lytx
Inside the truck, TA leverages tech with a system called Lytx® that monitors driver behavior in real-time. The system alerts the driver for a range of possible safety indicators, everything from following distance to not wearing a seatbelt to touching a mobile phone.
A profile picture of Gavin Scally, Senior Vice President, health, safety, security & environment, TravelCenters of America
“Safety is about all the layers you put between the person and the hazard. Everything that we can put between our techs and the hazard is a win for us.” Gavin Scally, Senior Vice President, health, safety, security & environment, TravelCenters of America

Looking ahead, TA is working with Lytx to get an AI-powered system into the cabs that is expected to result in even greater safety benefits. bp’s onshore oil and gas business bpx uses a similar system with its technicians.

 

Once at the site, TA leverages a different system to keep team members and other drivers safe. The HAAS Alert system – recently rolled out to nearly all of TA’s 650 emergency roadside vehicles – issues alerts via Apple, Google Maps, or Waze to other motorists within a certain distance of the roadside site. Like any driving alert, it informs approaching drivers of a potential hazard upcoming so they can exercise extra caution.

 

For TA techs who are working on the roadside, just knowing that oncoming vehicles are alerted to be aware of their presence, to slow down and move over, is a big help.

 

But even after a job is successfully completed, TA uses that data to further hone its safety procedures. With thousands of road calls every year, the focus is on analytics to sift through that data to identify the most high-risk journeys, down to the shifts and time of day to target further safety interventions.

A woman pumps gas into a truck at a TravelCenters of America station

Safety never stops

The work to upgrade sites and keep technicians safe while responding to calls are just two examples of how TA and bp are driving forward on safety. Other initiatives, like TA’s anti-human trafficking work, are also on-going. As Scally points out, safety isn’t a one-and-done thing, it’s never-ending work to be better than yesterday. 


“People have a perception of the truck stop industry that it isn’t safe,” Boffa says. “My view is completely different. bp and TA have a massive opportunity to be the solution for safety, not only for our team members but for everyone traveling the roadways.”