Pilot Flying J digitally transforms the truck stop

Pilot Flying J is tapping IoT, mobile software and other digital technologies to reduce the friction for long-haul truckers and other motorists.

Pilot Flying J digitally transforms the truck stop
Nick Barber/IDG

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From agriculture to industrial manufacturing, no business is impervious to digital disruption. So it should come as no surprise that even the truck stop is ripe for digital transformation.

Pilot Flying J, owner and operator of 750 travel centers in 43 U.S. states and six Canadian provinces, is looking to the internet of things (IoT), mobility, personalization and analytics to give loyal long-haul truckers and motorists an Amazon.com-like experience that is fast and frictionless. It's a lofty goal for a $20 billion company that serves roughly 1.5 million customers daily.

"We are using technology to make the experience personal and contextually relevant to each guest," says Tyler Tanaka, Pilot Flying J’s director of digital, loyalty marketing and innovation, who is collaborating with Pilot Flying J CIO and Chief Strategy Officer Mike Rodgers on several tech initiatives aimed at fulfilling that goal. "Our goal is to meet users and guests where they are."

Catering to the truck-stop crowd

Building a one-to-one relationship with long haulers and various tourists may seem counterintuitive for a truck-stop giant whose business model is predicated on serving customers who are just passing through. But Tanaka and Rodgers note that most truckers and consumers carry smartphones, and they expect to use them to procure an array of utilities digitally. That includes reserving showers and parking spots, pumping gas and, eventually, ordering meals.

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