Industry groups urge states to cut truckers slack at travel plazas

TravelCenters of America

Cut truck drivers some slack.

That’s the message from trade groups for the trucking and travel plaza industries, which said Wednesday that critical relief supplies are being delayed because drivers must wait in long lines for carryout food and to use travel plaza facilities in some states.

NATSO, which represents truckstops and travel plazas, and the American Trucking Associations (ATA) urge state and local governments to ensure that truckstops and travel plazas can safely serve commercial drivers while implementing social distancing guidelines necessary to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

“What should be 20-minute stops are turning into more than two-hour layovers,” said Lisa Mullings, NATSO president and CEO. “It is imperative that local enforcement officials enforce occupancy caps in truckstops without unnecessarily disrupting the efficient movement of essential supplies throughout the country.”

The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) includes truckstop workers and commercial truck drivers on the list of “essential critical infrastructure workers.”

But local enforcement of occupancy limits in travel centers that exceed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommended social distancing guidelines are delaying commercial drivers when they stop for food or fuel. Some are enforcing limits of as few as five or 10 people, including employees.

According to NATSO, truckstops and travel plazas frequently average 28,000 square feet — large enough to practice 6-foot safe social distancing while serving truck drivers.

NATSO and the ATA wrote to the National Association of Counties; National Association of County and City Health Officials; the National League of Cities; and the United States Conference of Mayors.

“We urge officials at all levels of government to help our industry keep those deliveries rolling by keeping facilities open and accessible for drivers to use in a safe and efficient manner,” said ATA President and CEO Chris Spear.

Given the critical medical supplies and basic necessities that truckers are hauling, drivers deserve special consideration, said Jon Pertchik, CEO of TravelCenters of America.

“It is crucial that they have quick and easy access to fuel, food, restrooms, showers and other services so they can get back on the road in a timely manner,” Pertchik said.