NASHVILLE, Tenn.—Ask them just how many Bridgestone- and Firestone-brand truck tires are sold through TravelCenters of America Inc. (TA) outlets, and Bridgestone/Firestone Inc. officials gingerly sidestep the issue. Diplomats that they are, they'll acknowledge that one thing is incontestable: the 160-outlet TA truckstop chain is "a major player" and sells an "awful lot" of BFS-made tires.
Well, TA claims that of all the truckstop outlets handling Bridgestones in the country, it sells the most.
BFS would rather not confirm—but won't deny—that statement.
During a phone interview from Nashville with Tire Business, Roy Stogner, newly appointed director of commercial corporate accounts for Bridgestone/Firestone Truck Tire Sales Co. (BFTT), said the truckstop channel "is extremely important to our national fleets" and TravelCenters of America "is a service provider to it."
His colleague, Roger Phillips, manager of the tire maker's truckstop department, noted: "They're very large with us, but we have a lot of other big buying groups."
Neither would divulge any sales figures or say how many tire units are shipped to TAs.
Mr. Phillips said BFS recommends use of TA outlets to fleet customers. "This is a value-added dimension to our national fleet program because TA has such a large nationwide network in place for fleets to purchase Bridgestone and Firestone products at major intersections.
"We have that (network) in place now while other (competitors) are trying to get to that level."
Mr. Stogner, a 19-year veteran with BFS, has worked in the tire industry for 30 years. Before his recent promotion to his current position, his resume with the tire maker included stints as a commercial territory manager, district manager, and manager of national fleet sales.
Singh Ahluwalia, vice president of commercial sales for BFTT, said Mr. Stogner's "vast experience in the commercial tire business, the national fleet segment, his active role in the American Transportation Association and with the many affiliates will be tremendous advantages as he takes on the various segments of our business."
Although BFS doesn't offer a tire management program through its truckstop channel, Mr. Stogner said fleet services provided by truckstops include tire sales and routine work such as tire repairs, mounting and balancing.
But he noted that "our truckstop agreement does not allow them to go off site for business solicitation. If a fleet comes in to them, it's OK to service them.
"What we don't want is TravelCenters of America, or any other truckstop chain, to solicit fleet business so they're in competition with our dealers."
In addition to TA, Bridgestone/Firestone also does business with Petro Stopping Centers L.P., Rip Griffin Travel Centers and Bosselman Travel Centers, as well as two large truckstop buying groups—Professional Transportation Partners (PTP) and Ambest Travel Centers—and a number of smaller groups.
Mr. Stogner said the tire maker's national fleet replacement tire channel—which includes truckstops and commercial dealerships—"will probably do around 1.4 million units" this year.
All told, about 360 truckstop locations nationwide have agreements with BFS for direct shipments of tires and, Mr. Stogner predicted, "that number will grow.
"The truckstops have some extremely large expansion plans in the next five years and we're real pleased to be a major player with them."
For now, however, he said BFS' tire sales through its commercial dealer network are larger than all its truckstop deals combined.
A related story, on TravelCenters of America Inc., is on page one.