Truck stops have served Interstate and highway drivers for more than 60 years, providing fuel, food, and a place to rest for many weary travelers. Found every few miles across America, these stops have evolved into more than just a place to fill up the tank.
Origins and Services
Truck stops originally developed as a means of providing diesel gas on the highways for large delivery trucks. Originally small operations in the 1940s, these truck stops were found on highways and replaced some of the local filling stations for travelers going longer distances. The 1950s began the initiation of the Interstate Highway System, championed by Dwight D. Eisenhower. Interstates were available for long distance travel for families driving extended trips and became available routes for long distance truck drivers to carry their goods across the country. Truck stops developed along these routes as a way of providing gas for drivers without completely going off course into small towns and trying to find filling stations. Eventually, as the trucking industry developed, truck stops began to offer more services for those who logged many hours on the road. They provided places to park the truck and sleep, showers for drivers, and food. Today, many truck stops are plazas that offer fuel and restrooms as well as restaurants, lounges, souvenir shops, and gaming centers for travelers and truckers alike.
- National Association of Truck Stop Operators: History and mission of the organization.
- America on the Move: Early Interstate service plaza.
- United States Department of Transportation: Origins of the early Interstate.
Locating Truck Stops
Finding a truck stop is uncomplicated since there are plenty located on major routes. Many truck stops are franchises that have signage posted along routes on billboards and road signs to let travelers know of upcoming stops. Guidebooks and atlases usually list available truck stops and should be consulted when planning a driving route. Internet websites dedicated to locating stops can be found by searching for locations, and use of GPS systems in a vehicle will help determine where to stop. Many trucking companies have contracts with specific truck stop franchises, stating they will only fill up at certain ones. These truck drivers know where locations are on their route so they can plan when to fill up and when to rest.
- Truck Stop Information: Locating truck stops and travel centers by state.
- America’s Independent Truckers Association: List of links by state to locate truck stops.
- North American Truck Stop Network: Truck stop directory.
- New York State Thruway Authority: Traveler information for Northeast America.
Truck Stop Chains and Franchises
Truck stops range from the small roadside fuel pump islands to large plazas with multiple amenities. Major chains have developed, offering services across the country. The chains are usually competitive in prices and offer one stop access for travelers’ needs. Many large franchises have become safe and family friendly places for rest, including restaurant chains inside buildings. Some of the larger chains of truck stops are Roady’s, Flying J, and Pilot Travel Centers, among others.
- Petro Truck Stops: Main website for the franchise.
- The Flying J: Home page for the popular chain.
- Love’s: Information about the Love’s truck stops.
- TA Travel Centers: One of America’s most popular truck stops.
- Pilot Travel Centers: Franchise website.
- Sapp Bros Travel Centers: Page with locations and amenities for the Midwest chain.
Best Individual Truck Stops
Some of the best truck stops are part of larger chains while others are smaller operations. Highlands Petro Truck Stop in Wisconsin is part of a smaller regional chain of stops and offers many amenities for drivers, but with the added bonus of health maintenance; providing health checkups and chiropractor appointments for weary drivers. Jubitz Travel Center in Portland offers drivers plenty of amenities but adds luxuriously comfortable rooms for overnight stays, Jacuzzis, exercise facilities, and a styling salon to meet every need. The largest truck stop in America is the Iowa 80, found outside of Walcott, Iowa on Interstate 80. This 64-acre complex prides itself on having a movie theater, game room, hair salon, and dentist, as well as a truck wash and food court with several fast food chains.
- Travel Channel: Best truck stops.
- Highlands Petro: Website of the Wisconsin truck stops.
- Iowa80: Main page for the enormous truck stop.
- Jubitz Travel Center: Website for the truck stop in Portland.
- South of the Border: Possibly the most famous roadside stop for truckers and tourists alike.
Truck Stop Advice
In the past, truck stops had a disreputable character of being somewhat shady. At times, some were even considered dangerous in terms of a few of the people hanging around there. It was not a safe place to be when making a stop on an overnight drive at 3am. Today, truck stops have evolved into clean, family friendly establishments and their services cater to those who are passing through but need assistance with any number of needs or inquiries. Many truck stops have put a ban on negative behavior and do not tolerate bad conduct. As with any other place though, too much loitering can cause problems and just in case, travelers should always watch for who is nearby. The intended purpose of a truck stop is just a stop with the plan to eventually get back on the road. A truck stop’s many conveniences and facilities do make a long trip a little more enjoyable, and give many people good reasons to stop.
- Truck Stop Tips: Tips from a trucker on the best stops to wash windows, do laundry, or find a good meal.
- Department of Ecology: Reducing engine idling at truck stops.
- Travel Plazas: Idling and safety at truck stops.