Pilot Flying J Q&As Measure Scandal's Effect

Following dropoff, application flow now higher than before federal raid, HR exec says

Robert Byington

Robert Byington

LEBANON, Tenn. -- Saying that the federal investigation into Pilot Flying J's alleged diesel fuel rebate scam "has had little, if any" effect on his specific business, Rich Mannella--general manager at the Pilot Travel Center in Lebanon, Tenn.--participated in a Q&A posted on the company's website.

On a company-wide scale, however, the scandal hit recruitment hard. In a separate Q&A, Robert Byington, senior manager of talent acquisition and administration at Pilot Flying J, also discussed how the investigation affected morale and hiring.

Since the FBI and IRS raided Pilot Flying J headquarters in Knoxville, Tenn., on April 15 to investigate the alleged scheme to cheat trucking companies out of rebates for diesel fuel purchased at the chain's more than 650 truckstops, seven Pilot Flying J employees have pleaded guilty in federal court to fraud-related crimes and nearly 30 trucking companies have filed lawsuits. At least 11 former employees already are cooperating with the FBI and offering evidence. Seven of them have entered guilty pleas to fraud charges, and four have obtained immunity from prosecution in return for their cooperation.

The filings were in advance of a Nov. 25 fairness hearing where a proposed settlement is scheduled for final approval.

Rich Mannella

Has the federal investigation had any impact on your travel center?

No, the federal investigation has had little, if any, impact on our business.

What questions have you received from employees about the federal investigation? How do you answer their questions?

At the onset of the investigation, there were employees who were concerned about the future of Pilot Flying J based on the reports and stories in the news. My employees were comforted when we had a visit from Mr. Haslam, and he ensured us that we would be a better and stronger company following the investigation. I have complete confidence in our leadership and that this issue will be resolved as quickly as possible.

What does your job entail as a general manager at Pilot Flying J?

First and foremost, as GM, I ensure the satisfaction of every customer that walks through my doors. Because I talk to professional drivers every day, I understand the challenges they face on a daily basis. My store is fast, friendly and clean--that is job No. 1. It's my duty to make sure every Pilot Flying J experience is a great one. I also oversee the development of store employees. It's a great feeling to watch them as they grow and succeed.

How many employees do you have at your location?

We have 61 employees, including our restaurants, at our store here in Lebanon, Tenn.

Click her to read the full Q&A with Mannella.

Robert Byington

How is it impacting morale and recruitment?

The first 60 days were really tough. There were a lot of questions and a great deal of uncertainty. People were concerned about the stability of our organization. Initially, our applicant flow dropped off and some applicants that were in the interview process decided to discontinue their candidacy.

However, after candidates became more informed about the issues surrounding the investigation, they realized that the vast majority of our team members have always done the right thing and continue to do so.