As businesses and public services nationwide close down due to the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic, life is changing for most Americans – and truckers are no different. But people still need food, fuel, and other essentials, so trucks need to keep rolling. Unfortunately, truck rest areas are among those locations closing down in response to the pandemic.
States are closing down rest areas nationwide. According to Business Insider Michigan has closed all 14 welcome centers, Nebraska is closing down rest areas while attendants aren’t present, and Texas has closed its 12 rest areas as well. But in those areas at least, truck parking is still available. That wasn’t the case in Pennsylvania until very recently.
On Tuesday, PennDOT closed down 30 rest stops across the state in order to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus. The uproar from trucking companies, drivers, and groups like OOIDA and ATA was immediate and effective. On Thursday, 13 rest areas reopened for service, but PennDOT officials said that restaurants and public bathrooms would remain closed. Instead, drivers would be expected to use portable toilets in the parking lot.
A short time later however, PennDOT officials relented and announced that restaurants would allow carry-out service and restrooms would be re-opened.
“Every decision made has been in the interest of mitigating the spread of COVID-19, and we are constantly reevaluating our response,” a PennDOT spokesperson told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “That said, we also recognize that drivers need and deserve access to rest areas.”
“We encouraged [Gov. Tom Wolf and PennDOT Secretary Yassmin Gramian] to open all the state’s rest areas the moment we learned of the closures ordered and so we certainly welcome this latest decision,” OOIDA spokeswoman Norita Taylor told the Post-Gazette. “Hopefully other states will refrain from implementing similar, short-sighted policies. And we’ll continue to call out those who propose policies that jeopardize the safety of truckers and the motoring public.”
Private truck stops meanwhile are largely remaining open. Love’s, TA, and Pilot Flying J for example are all still open as of March 19th. Most areas say they have increased cleaning and disinfecting efforts in bathroom and shower facilities. Restaurants are remaining open with drive-thru and carryout options only. Common dining areas have been closed by government mandate.
That said, the situation has been changing so quickly that there’s no telling what areas will be open and what services will be available on any given day.