Trucking news and briefs for Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2023:

Leonard’s Express unveils newest military-support truck wraps

Leonard's Express U.S. Navy truckGulf War Veteran Davey Wheeler, whose driving career spans 44 years, will drive the Leonard’s Express U.S. Navy truck for the next four-to-five yearsLeonard’s Express (CCJ Top 250, No. 119) is showing support for veterans by giving several of its long-haul trucks a military makeover.

As part of its patriotic “wrapped truck” program, the company has now vinyl wrapped five new trucks with a military-themed design for each of its terminals: Caldwell, Idaho; Eau Claire, Wisconsin; Farmington, New York; New Castle, Delaware; and Taylorsville, North Carolina. The trucks are assigned to drivers who have served in the United States Military. 

Late last year, Leonard’s Express’ Military Wrapped Truck Program was recognized in CCJ’s Five Flashiest Fleets program as the No. 1 Flashiest Fleet.

Gulf War Veteran Davey Wheeler, whose driving career spans 44 years, will drive the Leonard’s Express U.S. Navy truck for the next four-to-five years. Wheeler traveled to the New Castle terminal for a special ceremony to celebrate being selected for this prestigious assignment.

Leonard’s Express Chief Operating Officer Kevin Johnson traveled from New York to personally present the keys to Wheeler. 

“When I was approached by Leonard’s Express about driving one of these trucks, I told them I would be proud to honor the Navy in this way,” said Wheeler, who served as an officer’s cook for six and a half years aboard the U.S.S. Portland.

In addition to serving in South America, the Mediterranean and throughout the Caribbean Islands, Wheeler was posted off the coast of Beirut, Lebanon, in 1983. On Oct. 23 of that year, which was also Wheeler’s 20th birthday, two truck bombs struck buildings in Beirut, which housed American and French service members of the Multinational Force, a military peacekeeping operation during the Lebanese Civil War. Wheeler was a member of a team that volunteered to be part of the rescue efforts. Sadly, there were few survivors. The attack killed 307 people, 241 of whom were Americans. 

In addition to the profound sense of pride inspired by the military-branded trucks, Leonard’s Express has pledged to donate one cent for every mile each truck travels over the next four-to-five years. The proceeds will go to a charity that supports veterans, which each driver gets to select. Wheeler chose the Wounded Warrior Project. With trucks running approximately 500,000 miles over the four-to-five-year life of ownership, the fleet expects the program to generate approximately $25,000. In addition, Leonard’s Express has a dedicated donation portal for each of the charities so employees can contribute too. 

[Related: Five Flashiest Fleets combine bright ideas with tributes and honor]

TA focusing on franchising, acquisitions for growth

TravelCenters of America announced Friday that it reached its annual target in 2022 with the signing of 30 new franchise agreements during the year.

The company said it remains focused on franchising for accelerated network growth and continues to see year-over-year franchise signing growth. In 2022, TA opened three new franchised sites and plans to open 20 franchised locations in 2023.

In addition, TA said it’s also focused on acquisitions for network growth. The company acquired seven existing travel centers (six with truck maintenance facilities), which began operating as TA or Petro locations in 2022, and three standalone truck service facilities, which began operating as TA Truck Service during the year.

“The success of TA’s franchise and acquisition programs is a critical component of our strategic plan, and over time will add well located facilities to better serve our guests across the country,” said Jon Pertchik, CEO of TA. “I am excited by meeting our 2022 target for growth in franchise sites and excited to see our new franchise partners flag their travel centers with the TA and Petro brands.”