TravelCenters makes its money by providing a variety of different services to truckers and others driving the nation's highways, including food, fuel, showers and repairs.
"Overall, the tire business, year to date, we've done pretty well. We've done quite well. But demand is changing," the CEO said. "Our demand is up a little bit year-over-year."
"Particularly in the last month or month-and-a-half, we're doing a lot more used tires. There's a significant uptick there, the first in five years, I'm told," Mr. Pertchik said. "My guess is hunkering down. My guess is hoping for the best but managing for the worst."
"I think it's just a cost thing. They are just going with the low-cost alternative just in case this thing goes for many more months than people tend to believe," he said.
"There's nothing behind that except it seems logical. I don't have any further insights into that to share. That's really just intuitive based on what I think and the people who run that part of our business say," Mr. Pertchik said.
Love's Travel Stops & Country Stores, a key competitor of TA/Petro, operates more than 500 travel stops across the country, including 380-plus with truck maintenance and tire services under the Love's Truck Care and Speedco brands.
"We've seen an increase in tire sales as professional drivers continue to work hard to deliver essential goods across the country," Love's said in an email interview.
Oklahoma City-based Love's operates five distribution and retread plants in the U.S. — with a sixth in the planning — that are keeping the company sufficiently stocked with tires, the company said.
With the federal government deeming travel stops an essential business, the company said, Love's has not seen any broad geographic differences regarding the impact of the current situation.
Some locations, however, are being required to adhere to more strict, local occupancy limits.
"Despite our classification as an 'essential business,' in some places, local enforcement officials are imposing rigid restrictions on travel centers' ability to efficiently serve the nation's truck drivers delivering emergency relief and critical goods," the company said.
"For example, some local officials are enforcing strict 'occupancy limits' of as few as five to 10 people (including store employees) in travel centers at one time as a means of implementing social distancing guidelines. This is creating exceedingly long wait times for truck drivers to buy food, use the facilities, and get back on the road," the company said. "What should be a 20-minute stop can turn into a more than two-hour layover."