It’s a well known fact for truckers is that commercialization of Rest Areas is not allowed on the Federal Highway Interstate System. As a result, many states have been forced to close their rest areas as funding has not been adequate and these rest areas are not sustainable. More importantly, actions have impacted motorist and trucker safety and exacerbated the ever-increasing problem of inadequate truck parking.
Add to that the worldwide Covid19 pandemic where professional drivers are finding themselves with limited basic human needs of food, bathroom facilities, and parking, and a crisis is brewing.
Under present Federal Law, only restrooms and vending machines are allowed at Federal Rest Areas. The Covid19 National Emergency is changing that.
COVID-19 public health emergency allows food trucks at rest areas for truck drivers
On March 13th 2020 the President declared a National Emergency in response to the COVID-19 public health emergency.
In Early April came the Announcement — The Arkansas Trucking Association and Arkansas Department of Transportation (ARDOT) are working to bring more food options to truck drivers at two state rest areas during April. According to a release by the Arkansas Trucking Association, ARDOT will be issuing temporary permits to certified food-truck operators to serve truck drivers at four locations in Arkansas.Normally, these types of commercial vendors are forbidden on state property such as rest areas.
Also, Arkansas Department of Transportation to Continue Maintaining Rest Area Restrooms
On April 3rd The Federal Highway Administration Issued Notice Allowing for States to Permit the use of Food Trucks in Rest Areas to Serve Commercial Truck Drivers.
FHWA issued a notice to State Departments of Transportation that the agency is suspending enforcement measures under the Federal-aid Highway Program for States that choose to permit commercial food trucks to operate and sell food, in accordance with state laws, in designated federally funded Interstate Highway rest areas.
“America’s commercial truck drivers are working day and night during this pandemic to ensure critical relief supplies are being delivered to our communities,” said FHWA Administrator Nicole R. Nason. “I am grateful to our state transportation partners for bringing this idea to the Department and for their leadership in thinking outside the box. It is critical to make sure truck drivers continue to have access to food services while they’re on the job serving our nation during these challenging times.”
By statute, commercial activity in the federally funded Interstate right-of-way is prohibited with limited exceptions. However, given the extreme and unprecedented nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, Administrator Nason is choosing not to take remedial measures against States that allow food trucks to provide food in rest areas off the federally funded Interstate right-of-way for the duration of the national emergency declared by the President in response to the COVID-19 public health crisis.
Since these actions are temporary, States must come back into compliance with federal law once the Presidentially-declared emergency ends
Notice of Enforcement Discretion– U.S. Department of Transportation-Federal Highway Administration
Operation of Commercial Food Trucks in Federally Funded Interstate Highway Rest Areas During the Public Health Emergency (COVID-19)
The time is now to contact your states’ Department of Transportation and tell them they must address the trucker Covid19 crisis and allow food trucks to service our nations commercial truck drivers. Tell them the FHA has Issued Notice Allowing for States to Permit the use of Food Trucks in Rest Areas to Serve Commercial Truck Drivers, but it’s up to them to announce it for their state.
Another important note is that a letter was sent to AASHTO requesting that Rest Areas stay open.
Federal Highway Administration letter asking states to keep rest areas open for truckers.
Trucking Organizations and Social Media groups fighting for Truckers human rights and safety during Covid19.
The Truckers Emergency Assistance Responders (TEAR) has been on the front lines since the beginning of the Covid19 pandemic educating the public and government agencies about the dangers that truckers are facing as well as the repercussions the nation will experience if something isn’t done to resolve these critical circumstances drivers are facing. TEAR is also a charity under the Truckers Non Profit Assistance Fund (TAF).
Desiree Wood,one of the founders of TEAR, has also created the Facebook page
Covid-19 Trucker Support Page
The page was created to assist us truckers during this corona virus crises and includes valuable information regarding food, parking, shower facilities, truck stop and rest area alerts, and the latest information pertinent to drivers regarding the corona virus.
Another Facebook Group is Emergency Driver Services– This group is to be used as a resource to support drivers on the road and letting them know places offering parking, food & help
RoadPro Cares– Coronavirus Resources
Another Facebook page is Food Truck Army created by Eric Normand
Driver Resources- Are you helping drivers? Created to make the task of finding parking, food or even a shower a little easier on you during the Covid19 crisis
Up to date Source for COVID-19: by OOIDA & Land Line
Federal Highway Rest Area Background
Although it has been a continuing battle to allow commercialization for Federal Highways, opposition has been strong. . In 2003, President George W. Bush’s federal highway funding reauthorization bill contained a clause allowing states to start experimenting with privatized rest areas on Interstate highways. The clause was fiercely resisted by the National Association of Truck Stop Operators (NATSO) and others, who argued that allowing such rest areas would shift revenue to state governments (in the form of lease payments) that would have gone to local governments (in the form of property and sales taxes).
The NATSO research and analysis conclusions is in response is to the Trump administration infrastructure plan which includes the commercialization of interstate rest areas. NATSO President and CEO Lisa Mullings has said, “We urge the Administration to refrain from widespread tolling of America’s infrastructure and the commercialization of interstate rest areas.” Read more. Does commercializing rest area parking lead to more or less parking spaces?
Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1938 that stated “the States with the aid of Federal Funds may include such sanitary and other facilities as may be deemed necessary to provide for the suitable accommodation of the public . . . “The intent of the Act was to increase motorist safety and comfort by providing facilities for stopping and resting.” Subsequent legislation enacted throughout the years placed prohibitions on commercializing rest areas with the exception of toll roads that receive no federal aid.
Conventional Rest Areas provided by the states’ Departments of Transportation and found within the Federal right-of-way accommodate limited expectations. They offer a quick route for motorists to find restrooms, refuge/safety and limited snack and beverage services ( vending machines) at any time of the day or day of the week. Commercial Travel Stops provided by the private sector and found outside of the Federal right-of-way at interchange/exit points of the Interstate Highway System also accommodate these motorist expectations. While these commercialized facilities offer motorists a choice in finding restrooms, safety, fuel and an expanded array of food and beverage choices at varying times of the day, the motorist is required to exit the Interstate System in order to utilize these services.
Presently the United States is experiencing horrific effects of the world wide Coronavirus pandemic with almost 350,00 confirmed cases and almost 10,000 deaths. These numbers are rising as we write this article.
Those at the front lines are risking their lives daily. Doctors, nurses, and all medical professionals are treating patients with a shortage of PPE ( personal protective equipment), including goggles, face shields, gloves, gowns, and most importantly N95 masks.
Truck drivers are also on the front lines and facing some of the most dangerous situations in the country. Rest area and service plaza closures, truck parking restrictions, fast food limitations that discriminate access to truck drivers, the lack of bathroom and shower facilities and availability of PPE are additional stressors that the women and men who work as truck drivers.
Drivers are working sometimes 100 hours /week in the midst of a pandemic and they are limited to food availability, bathrooms with running water, showers, and PPE.
Imagine being a truck driver on the road while rest areas are closing, shippers and receivers denying basic bathroom facilities, limited food, and not even a plan to be tested for coronavirus or or a plan of what to do if they become infected and sick while hundreds of miles from home. There has been a demand for truckers to be protected, or there may not be truckers providing food, medical supplies of essential supplies.
Sign the Petition Protect Truckers Through Covid 19