By Gregg Wallis
ABERDEEN, SD—Many consider trucking to be the backbone of the U.S. economy. According to the American Trucking Associations, one in 16 people in the country are employed in the trucking industry, and driving a truck is the top job in 29 states. Being away from home for a good portion of the year, these road warriors are regulars at the nation’s hotels—and the conditions of those hotels can be a factor in employee satisfaction.
That was the case for employees of Werner Enterprises, which is among the five largest truckload carriers in the country—inefficiencies from older economy motels affected its employees’ satisfaction. To change this, Werner partnered with My Place Hotels of America to open a four-story, 85-unit hotel less than a mile from its transportation hub in Atlanta.
My Place Hotel Atlanta West/Lithia Springs, GA, which is franchised to Werner and operated by TLC Management LLC, serves the general public, but also includes 50 double rooms specifically designed to accommodate the company’s drivers.
The room design consists of two bedrooms with a central bathroom and dining area, offering the occupants some privacy. “[We] partnered together with the goal to provide Werner professional drivers with semi-private accommodations,” said Rhonda Porter, director of corporate travel and driver lodging with Werner. “The hotel was custom-designed, providing each occupant with their own amenities, such as separate rooms, individual televisions and in-room refrigerators. This specially designed property has allowed Werner to make drivers feel comfortable while visiting the company’s Atlanta terminal location for orientation, truck repairs or safety training.”
Ryan Rivett, president/CEO of My Place, said that the drivers’ comfort was utmost in their minds when they were designing the concept. “Unfortunately, some hoteliers may not be privy to the plight of the freight driver, and it’s unfortunate because we are talking about more than 3.5 million people who move America’s freight 24/7/365. By design, many of Werner’s travelers at their location are visiting for training or orientation, but repairs and unexpected delays are just part of life on the road. Whether in Atlanta or anywhere else, drivers need comfortable and affordable accommodations as much as any other well-tended road warrior.”
He continued, “The challenge was in creating comfortable accommodations for the drivers in a new high-quality facility, while maintaining the capital and operating cost effectiveness that is inherent in the My Place platform and absolutely necessary for both My Place and Werner in their pursuit of providing value and viability in and around their respective organizations.”
For Porter, the management of the hotel is a natural extension of what the company does for its drivers. “Werner Enterprises was founded by the company’s first driver, C.L. Werner, in 1956,” she said. “More than 60 years later, our company remains committed to treating every driver with care, respect and dignity… The [hotel]provides the best accommodations for Werner professional drivers.”
The partnership has great benefits for My Place. “As a recently launched brand with an ever-growing demand profile, we don’t underestimate the impact of increasing impressions and deepening connections within the massive logistics and transportation community,” said Rivett. “With many My Place locations across convenient interstate corridors, this property is an exceptional introduction to My Place’s brand of highway hospitality, while highlighting what is possible when a partnership is, first and foremost, people oriented.”
That partnership arose from a friendship between the two companies’ founders. “As with most great business ideas, this one certainly blossomed out of a long-standing friendship between Werner Enterprises founder and Chairman C.L. Werner and My Place’s co-founder and Chairman Ron Rivett,” he said. “Both enterprises had a specific need and an immediate ability to meet that need. From there, the My Place and Werner teams worked closely to bring about definition and qualify the concept.”
The design has been well received. “Since January 2017, the occupancy rate at the hotel has been over 79% and it continues to increase as Werner business grows,” said Porter. “The hotel is in a great location for drivers with several new businesses and restaurants in the area. We’ve talked to a number of drivers, and they just can’t say enough nice things about the hotel, its facilities and the amenities provided.”
My Place currently has no plans to use the new room design at its other locations, but Rivett sees how it can be useful for other purposes. “I can imagine several variations with many applications that would appeal to a diverse range of guests. This design prioritizes comfort, privacy and efficiency—in that order,” he said. “The possibilities in applying that philosophy to any industry and segment could be limitless. Think of the burgeoning medical travel industry or the wide-ranging opportunity in home-sharing and corporate travel segments.” HB