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Pilot Flying J

 Clear Brook, VA  Outdoor lighting

Pilot and Flying J Travel Centers have installed Cree® interior and exterior lighting at nearly 300 stores to-date and plan to roll out dozens of new stores annually over the next five years.


On Nov. 20, 1958, James Haslam II opened the first Pilot store in Gate City, VA, and now the Knoxville, TN-based company is the largest operator of travel centers in North America, with more than 750 facilities in 44 states and Canada.

Pilot Flying J has risen to the apex of its industry with a dedication to “fueling life’s journeys” – whether behind the wheel of the family sedan or a semi. Motorists have come to rely on Pilot and Flying J travel centers for the gamut of their travel needs, delivered in a familiar, pleasant, well-organized setting.

Cree LEDs are now heightening that experience.

Pilot Flying J began to retrofit some of its stores with LEDs in 2013. The objective was to reduce energy costs while gaining more consistent lighting within the stores and on the exteriors with brighter, more widely dispersed light.

In March 2015, Bryan Martin, the company’s Energy Manager, gained approval to step up the process. “We were off and running from there,” Martin affirms.


Cree now provides Pilot Flying J with a comprehensive lighting solution for both the interior and exterior of its stores.

The Cree® ZR Series delivers higher efficacy and longer life than compact fluorescent lamps. ZR troffers are used on the sales floors and in office and storage areas.

LR6™ downlights are also used on the sales floors and in quick-serve food and beverage areas. They’re available in warm or neutral color temperatures, and deliver efficacy up to 100 lumens per watt for maximal energy savings.

Pilot Flying J selected OSQ™ Area and Flood luminaires for its parking lots and surrounding areas. These luminaires provide even light distribution with flexible optical control and advanced thermal management.

The Cree® CPY Series is used within petroleum canopies and overhangs. The CPY250® luminaires heighten location visibility and offer wider distribution of light – while lowering operating costs.

For high-mount poles, Pilot Flying J is deploying Cree Edge® High Output luminaires with Cree TrueWhite® Technology, offering superior color rendering and 5000K illumination.

Martin says the installation has gone smoothly. The company partners with a turnkey provider that handles all logistics, materials, labor and recycling, and also oversees rebate opportunities, which Martin says the company is taking full advantage of.


Customers are taking note, Martin says.

“We’ve had a lot of positive feedback from our professional drivers and other customers who come into our stores on a regular basis,” he says. “They notice right away; the stores just look more modern.”

The collective feedback from the Facility Maintenance - Signs and Lighting group echoes that, saying the LEDs create a “more welcoming environment.”

But beyond bolstering aesthetics, one of the main considerations drivers have is going to an inviting environment, according to the group. Pilot Flying J travel centers are open 24 hours a day, and many are in remote locations. “In having a well-lit parking lot, we’re able to bring more customers into the facilities.”

And with these enhancements come savings – both in energy and maintenance. Facilities say that there is an energy savings of 30 percent associated with the LED lighting conversion.

Martin says a substantial chunk of the savings in going with a Cree solution is maintenance costs. “We have to rent equipment, hire contractors and pay for labor,” he says. “It gets expensive to just change a light bulb.” “The goal is not to have to do any maintenance for basically 10 years,” he says.

Martin also believes that in creating a more attractive sales floor, they’re seeing an increase in purchases per customer. “We haven’t yet attributed increases in sales to the lighting, but I think logically you’d have to say that it does help.”

Most important for the Pilot Flying J team – underpinning the entire experience – is the fact that they’re working with a company they can trust.

“One of the biggest reasons for selecting Cree is their reputation for providing reliable and innovative products that meet the demands of their customers,” says Martin, Pilot Flying J’s Energy Manager. “We’ve worked with Cree in the past as part of our new construction and remodeling activities, and we’ve considered them a strong partner that works well with us to find solutions to our lighting needs.”

“Overall, it’s been a great experience, a great product,” Martin concludes. “We’re seeing energy savings, we’re seeing improved light outputs, and then a reduction in maintenance costs.

“It’s a huge improvement.”

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