Pilot joins list of truck stop chains requiring masks

Pilot Co. joins a growing list of truck stop chains and retailers requiring customers to wear masks.

Pilot Co. is joining a growing list of major truck stop chains that will start requiring all customers to wear face coverings, except children and those with a medical condition that prevents them from doing so, at all of its locations to help curb the spread of COVID-19.

The Knoxville, Tennessee-based truck stop chain has 950 retail and fueling locations in the Pilot Flying J travel center network that operate in 44 states and six Canadian provinces.

Customers at all of Pilot’s locations will be asked to wear masks starting Tuesday, July 28. Photo: Pilot Co.

“It is vital that our travel centers remain open and operational to provide the fuel, food and amenities drivers need to do their jobs,” Pilot said in a statement. “We join the travel center industry in this effort to ask everyone to do their part in protecting against the spread of COVID-19 in order to help ensure that our team members, professional drivers and other essential workers stay safe and are able to keep providing the goods and services that North America depends on.”

Customers will be able to purchase face coverings at Pilot Flying J locations if they don’t have their own.

Pilot issued the announcement on July 23, just two days after Love’s Travel Stops announced it would require face coverings starting July 29. 

Love’s, headquartered in Oklahoma City, has more than 520 locations in 41 states and employs more than 26,000 people. The company also operates more than 390 truck service centers, including on-site and stand-alone Speedco and Love’s Truck Care locations.

Love’s Travel Stops will require customers to wear face masks at all of its locations starting Wednesday, July 29. Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves

“We are joining other retailers by implementing a face-covering policy for customers, and will continue to follow the guidance of health officials and adjust our practices to help keep our customers and team members safe,” said Shane Wharton, president of Love’s. “We want to thank our customers who continue to adapt to these protective measures implemented at Love’s.”

Publicly-traded TravelCenters of America Inc. (NASDAQ: TA), headquartered in Westlake, Ohio, is also implementing a face-covering policy at its 265 TA, TA Express and Petro Stopping Centers’ locations in 44 states and Canada. The truck stop chain operates nearly 650 full-service and quick-service restaurants, according to its website.

Customers will need to wear a mask when visiting all TA, TA Express and Petro Stopping Centers on Tuesday, July 28. Photo: TravelCenters of America

NATSO, ATA urge customers to wear masks

NATSO, a national organization that represents truckstop operators, and the American Trucking Associations (ATA) quickly followed suit on July 24 with their own guidance concerning face coverings, urging all customers who pass through travel plazas and truck stops to wear masks.

“While we understand that there is disagreement about whether to mask, we are urging members to follow the advice of medical experts, including the CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention], said Lisa Mullings, president and chief executive of NATSO.

The ATA, which represents more than 37,000 motor carrier members, with state trucking associations in all 50 states, also supports face coverings.

“Masking is the simplest and most effective way to defeat this virus. And ATA strongly encourages all fleets to adhere to mask requirements in private truck stops and public rest areas,” ATA President and CEO Chris Spear said.

Truckers weigh in on controversial mask covering requirement

Truckers have been on the front lines, risking exposure to COVID-19, to deliver critical medical and food supplies since March.

Truck driver Christopher L. Hill of Princeton, West Virginia, said he disagrees with the recent mask policies issued by truck stops and said he plans to avoid fueling at places that require them.

“I personally think that people should not be forced to do something such as wear a mask,” Hill told FreightWaves. “I think this virus is no more different than having the flu and I feel as if COVID-19 has been turned into a political agenda used to get certain people out of office.”

For months President Donald Trump refused to wear a facial covering, but it seems he has pivoted from his earlier position after tweeting a photo of himself wearing a mask last week.

“There is nobody more Patriotic than me, your favorite President!” he said in the tweet.

Brian Breese, 61, was a long-haul driver for 15 years before he developed chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and was forced to retire. He’s currently under hospice care in south Georgia, 

“I believe masks should be required at all places of business,” Breese told FreightWaves. “Too many people fail to see how serious this pandemic truly is. The longer people refuse to use preventative measures, the longer we are going to have to fight this thing. In the meantime, folks will continue to get sick, and many will die.”

As of Monday, July 27, more than 4.2 million cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in the U.S., resulting in nearly 147,000 deaths.

The CDC issued a press release on July 14 urging all Americans to wear masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Read more articles by FreightWaves’ Clarissa Hawes.

Brokerage employees upset by limited remote-work options despite COVID outbreak
Love’s Travel Stops to require face masks starting July 29
OSHA orders carrier to reinstate driver who raised safety concerns
Owner knew drug history of trucker charged in deadly I-70 crash