OOIDA’s tour trailer visits El Paso, Texas

February 8, 2021

Chuck Robinson


Today kicks off a month of stops in Texas for OOIDA’s tour trailer. Through Feb. 11, the Spirit of the American Trucker is scheduled to be at the Petro in El Paso.

The El Paso Petro is at the Horizon Blvd. exit from I-10, Exit 37. There is parking for 290 tractor-trailers there. The full-service Iron Skillet restaurant is open, according to the website.

First self-service truck stop

Of the many claims to fame for El Paso, a top one for professional truck drivers is the fact that it’s where the first self-service truck stop opened in 1975. Right here, at this Petro station.

Developer Rip Russell and investor Jack Cardwell opened the Petro with 12 self-service islands and a computerized sales center.

They told the El Paso Times in 1976 that the new self-service truck stop was doing twice the business of another truck stop Cardwell’s company owned, the full-service El Paso Truck Terminal. Lower prices drew truckers to the self-service novelty. Saving 3-5 cents per gallon on a fill-up of 100 gallons saved them $3-5, they noted.

The new Petro had clean showers, wasn’t congested and not only had a brand-new Iron Skillet restaurant but also a western clothing store, a trucker’s supply store, a trucker’s rest area with game room, and a laundromat.

In an El Paso Inc. article, Cardwell said that in the 1970s truck drivers weren’t treated with much respect or understanding by truck-stop operators. While they took money for fuel, truck stops didn’t offer personal amenities that might have made drivers’ lives easier.

Amenities included better food, adequate parking, and more.

“When we started Petro in 1975, we put in private showers, which people liked. The showers were cleaned after every use, which people also liked. They liked the parking. … They liked the movie rooms. Every time we took a survey, we had the No. 1 restaurant in the truck-stop industry,” Cardwell said.

Cardwell built his company to have 69 truck stops in 33 states. He sold most of the company to TravelCenters of America in 2007.

In the El Paso Inc. article, written after the company had been sold, owner Cardwell expressed pride in what his company had accomplished.

“Petro has been involved in the evolution of this industry considerably,” he said.

Stop by when you see The Spirit

If you see OOIDA’s tour trailer, stop by and say hello to Osburn. He enjoys visiting about the Association’s activities and current issues. He usually has copies of Land Line Magazine to hand out. You can join or renew your OOIDA membership for $10 off the regular price there. Free face masks are available for anyone with a commercial driver’s license at The Spirit. You also can get forms for drivers without medical insurance to get flu, shingles and pneumonia vaccine vouchers at The Spirit.

After El Paso, The Spirit is scheduled for Texas stops in Laredo, San Antonio, Beaumont, Hillsboro, Carl’s Corner and Terrell.

Here is the schedule for The Spirit. LL


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Chuck Robinson

Chuck Robinson formerly was senior copy editor for a weekly trade publication serving the fresh produce industry. He has served trade publications, horticultural journals and community newspapers for 25 years.