OOIDA thanks FHWA for allowing food trucks at rest areas

April 9, 2020

Mark Schremmer

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OOIDA applauded the Federal Highway Administration for temporarily allowing states to allow the use of food trucks at rest areas and criticized Natso for attempting to stop states from doing so.

“Truckers are risking their lives to deliver critical supplies,” OOIDA President and CEO Todd Spencer said. “The agency’s response is totally appropriate and, without question, the right thing to do.”

The FHWA issued on April 3 a notice to state departments of transportation that the agency was suspending enforcement 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.

The move was in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the lack of opportunities for truck drivers to find a hot meal as many restaurants are closed amid the crisis. Commercial activity in federally funded rest areas has been prohibited. FHWA Administrator Nicole R. Nason said the COVID-19 pandemic, however, has led the agency to give states the choice to allow food trucks in the rest areas. President Donald Trump declared a national emergency on March 13.

“FHWA also recognizes that in such circumstances, vending machines may not be adequate to provide the necessary sustenance, and in many cases the vending machines may not be regularly stocked at the present time,” the agency note stated.

OOIDA said it strongly supports the change, because 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.

Natso opposed

Natso, a national group of truck stop operators, opposed the change, however. Natso reportedly distributed a call-to-action asking its members to pressure states to resist the effort.

“It looks as though Natso wants drivers to remain largely beholden to truck stops at all times, even during a national crisis,” Spencer said. “With such a totally self-centered and shortsighted 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.”

Indiana launches permit program

The Indiana Department of Transportation has launched a temporary program to permit licensed food trucks to operate at rest areas on Indiana interstate highways.

INDOT said it will accept two permits for food trucks to operate between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. each day on a first-come, first-served basis at each of the respective locations.

Applicants can go here for more information.

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Mark Schremmer

Mark Schremmer, senior editor, joined Land Line in 2015. An award-winning journalist and former assistant news editor at The Topeka Capital-Journal, he brings fresh ideas, solid reporting skills, and more than two decades of journalism experience to our staff.