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    Trucking Along

    Top issues at NATSO Show include interstate tolling and rest-area commercialization

    Educational sessions delved into topics such as alternative fuels, grab-and-go food and the changing consumer.

    One might not think that Cinnabon Inc., maker of the ?world?s most famous cinnamon roll,? would ever have cause to partner with fellow companies such as Burger King Corp. and Pillsbury, but it?s partnerships like those that have helped the franchise weather the recession ? and today, have better numbers than ever.

    ?It wasn?t because we kept sticking to our guns and only doing what we knew how to do,? Kat Cole, Cinnabon CEO, told the crowd gathered at the recent National Association of Truck Stop Operators (NATSO) Show, held Jan. 26?29 in Nashville, Tenn. ?It?s because we got smart, small, creative and collaborative with our partners.?

    The underlying message of Cole?s story ? that operators have to be willing to grow and change ? was a central theme of the two-and-a-half-day event attended by some 300 industry professionals.

    While the past year brought some shakeups to the industry, such as the Pilot Flying J rebate fraud investigation, the forecast for the nation?s truck stops looks better than it has been.

    ?The industry certainly had a good year last year in terms of profitability and I think the trucking industry has started to rebound from the recession,? Lisa Mullings, NATSO CEO and president, said in an on-site interview with Convenience Store News. However, the organization itself and the more than 1,200 members it represents still have their work cut out for them when it comes to long-term success in 2014 and beyond.

    Top issues for NATSO include interstate tolling and rest-area commercialization. With the Highway Trust Fund set to become insolvent in 2015, more and more states are looking for other ways to fund much-needed road repair and infrastructure. Tolling and rest-area commercialization would be easy ways for states to collect money, according to NATSO, but it would come at the expense of the entire industry, with tolling diverting traffic from the interstates onto secondary roads, and commercialized rest areas resulting in monopolies and higher prices.

    ?This isn?t just speculation on our part,? Mullings said. ?We?ve seen it in other states.?

    In the coming year, NATSO will be very busy advocating for Congress to reject any advances for tolls and rest-area commercialization, and the association will also try to garner support for raising the federal fuel tax. During the show?s opening keynote, Mullings urged everyone in the industry to get involved.

    ?It is unfair for us to place all the blame on politicians if we aren?t fulfilling our responsibility as citizens,? she said.

    The NATSO Show 2015 will take place at The Wynn Las Vegas, Feb. 16?19.

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