NATSO and the American Trucking Associations are calling on state and local governments to carefully define social distancing guidelines regarding truckstops and travel plazas. With both serving the needs commercial drivers while they deliver critical emergency relief supplies during the COVID-19 pandemic, some local officials are delaying these drivers by implementing strict occupancy limits at travel centers, according to the associations.
Occupancy limits of as few as 5-10 people, including employees, in certain parts of the country can result in drivers waiting in long lines to enter nearly empty truckstops to purchase food and fuel, or use the facilities.
“What should be 20-minute stops are turning into more than two-hour layovers. It is imperative that local enforcement officials enforce occupancy caps in truckstops in a manner that adheres to CDC social distancing guidelines without unnecessarily disrupting the efficient movement of essential supplies throughout the country,” said NATSO President and CEO Lisa Mullings.
NATSO and ATA expressed their concerns in a letter 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.
Recently, Boise Stage Stop President Robert L. French wrote a letter to Idaho Governor Brad Little after he issued a statewide “stay at home” order, closing dine-in restaurant areas throughout state. The letter asked for an exemption from the order so French’s team could continue serving the trucking community with dine-in service.
“…in looking at the regulations and what functions are ‘essential,’ we believe that the care of truck drivers, so that they can complete their very necessary function of bringing virtually everything that this society needs is equally important to the mission of hospitals. Therefore, we believe that our food operations are integral to our function of being supportive of our country’s transportation system, and as a “gas station” are totally, and completely exempt from the Governor’s order,” wrote French.
As of this writing, Governor Little’s office has not replied to the request.