In April, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration suspended enforcement measures under the Federal-aid Highway Program for States that choose to permit commercial food trucks to operate and sell food in federally-funded Interstate Highway rest areas. This suspension will last the duration of the national emergency.
With limited exceptions, privatization and commercial activity are prohibited in Interstate Highway rest areas as a condition of federal funding. Allowing food trucks to operate in these areas has provided vital sustenance to truck drivers and other travelers, as many restaurants and other food services are closed.
As per the federal notice announcement:
“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.”
Since the federal government gave states the green light, at least 11 states have begun allowing food trucks at their rest areas.
Note the announcements below from Arkansas, Florida, Indiana, Ohio, Connecticut, West Virginia, Arizona, Idaho, Minnesota, Colorado, and California:
“The Arkansas Department of Transportation (ARDOT) will issue temporary permits for certified food truck operators to serve truckers at two rest stops in the state, according to a release from the Arkansas Trucking Association on Thursday. The move is an effort to ensure greater food options for truck drivers during the month of April so that they have a safe place to eat while carrying essential goods and aid to communities affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.” – KNWA FOX 24 (4/2/2020)
“Florida will now allow food trucks to operate at select rest stops, after a Channel 3 investigation found that the state was behind on a national effort to keep truckers fed and on schedule during this coronavirus pandemic.” – Channel 3 WEAR TV (4/8/2020)
“INDOT has launched a program to allow licensed food truck drivers and vendors to set up at a rest area throughout the state,” said Debbie Calder. She is the Communications Director for the Indiana Department of Transportation. It’s a temporary program that will help essential travelers who are dealing with a limited availability of food due to COVID-19 restaurant restrictions.” – WLFI News 18 (4/9/2020)
“To address one of the biggest challenges truck drivers face, access to a hot meal, the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) is temporarily opening the state’s 86 rest areas to food trucks. “Truck drivers are the lifeblood of the economy and their jobs have never been more critical than now,” said Governor Mike DeWine. “I’ve heard from many in the trucking industry that finding a place to eat while they’re on the road has been tough, but we’re here to help.”” – Ohio Department of Transportation (4/10/2020)
“The Connecticut Department of Transportation (CTDOT) today announced that food trucks will be permitted to set up in several rest areas along Connecticut highways, with the goal of feeding hungry truckers and other essential workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. The action is the result of an Executive Order issued today by Governor Ned Lamont, lifting restrictions on commercial activity in highway rest areas.” – Connecticut Department of Transportation (4/10/2020)
“Gov. Justice announces that the West Virginia Division of Highways has set guidelines allowing for food trucks at rest areas as a temporary measure to ease the burden on truck drivers during the ongoing pandemic.” – Office of Governor Jim Justice (4/13/2020)
“The Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) shall issue no-fee permits to mobile food vendors otherwise licensed pursuant to A.R.S. 36-136(I)(4) to provide take-away food service at state rest areas.” – Office of Governor Doug Ducey (4/15/2020), Executive Order: 2020-31
“An emergency exemption by the Idaho Transportation Department will allow permitted food trucks to set up at rest areas and offer hot meals to truck drivers and other travelers.
“We heard truck drivers were having difficulties finding hot meals with the restrictions placed on nonessential businesses during the stay-at-home order,” said Nestor Fernandez, ITD’s Mobility Services Engineer. “Our goal is to support them as best as we can during this pandemic, especially long-haul drivers delivering goods across the U.S.”” – Idaho Transportation Department (4/16/2020)
“Consistent with the FHWA’s April 3, 2020 Notice of Enforcement Discretion, the restrictions in Minnesota Statutes 2019, sections 160.08, subdivision 7, and 160.2725, subdivision 1, are waived to the extent that they prohibit commercial food trucks from operating and selling food in designated highway rest areas.” – Office of Governor Tim Walz (5/1/2020)
“I temporarily suspend the restriction in C.R.S. § 43-3-101(3) that no commercial enterprise shall be conducted or authorized on any property designated as or acquired for or in connection with a freeway or highway by the department of transportation, or any other governmental agency for commercial food truck. I direct the Executive Director of the Colorado Department of Transportation to issue temporary permits to allow commercial food trucks in Colorado’s rest and commercial trucking refueling areas to support truckers and commercial vehicle activity.” – Office of Governor Jared Polis (5/2/2020)
“The order also extends permission for commercially-licensed food trucks to operate in roadside rest areas, in compliance with a temporary permit issued by Caltrans…” – Office of Governor Gavin Newsom (6/15/2020)
If these changes were made permanent, it could help truckers, families, and food trucks by providing more substantive, cost-effective, nutritional food options. Additionally, locally-owned food trucks are then allowed to expand where they conduct business and help showcase local and regional foods.