Truck stop owners challenge allowing food trucks in rest areas
A declaration last week by the Federal Highway Administration allowing food trucks to park at rest areas in order to serve truck drivers during the COVID-19 panic has sparked some contention between the agency and a coalition of truckstop operators, restaurants, convenience stores and gas stations.
And, of probably no surprise to anybody, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association has jumped into the fray, siding with the FHWA.
The FHWA received a letter on Wednesday from the coalition of 11 groups representing tens of thousands of off-highway food service businesses cautioning the agency about future problems that might ensue from allowing food trucks to operate at rest areas.
The coalition acknowledged the importance of providing truck drivers with food services during the crisis, but told the FHWA of their concerns that many food service businesses are struggling to stay open and keep people employed.
The letter went on to suggest that since truck stops are still open with at least limited food service available food trucks be allowed only at rest areas "that are located on stretches of the interstate system where there are no open food service operations in close proximity that are available to truck drivers," in order not to siphon off business from those open establishments.
The coalition asked for an exit plan for the FHWA declaration:
“In addition, we respectfully ask that you commit to not further expanding this non-enforcement guidance beyond food trucks during this epidemic, and once the state of emergency ends immediately revert back to enforcing the long-standing ban on commercializing interstate rest areas,” the letter stated.
Members of the group making up the coalition include the National Association of Truck Stop Owners, the National Restaurant Association, National Association of Convenience Stores and the Petroleum Marketers Association of America.
OOIDA, in its letter to the FHWA supporting the agency for its decision and thanking them noted that “many restaurants, travel centers and truck stops have closed entirely, reduced hours of operations, restricted access to drive-thru or implemented other limitations that hamper the ability of drivers to find meals.”
Saying that it really comes down to a competition issue, OOIDA stated:
“It looks as though NATSO wants drivers to remain largely beholden to truck stops at all times, even during a national crisis,” said OOIDA President and CEO Todd Spencer in an OOIDA news release.
“With such a totally self-centered and short-sighted perspective, we are not surprised they are fighting even temporary support for truckers in getting the meals they desperately need and are struggling to find while on the road,” Spencer added.