Food Trucks Could be Coming to a Rest Area Near You After New Waiver Issued
Washington D.C. – Some of the most delicious food dishes in America are served up by owner operators of commercial food trucks… and soon, truckers will have the opportunity to dig in.
On Friday, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) issued a notice to State Departments of Transportation that the agency is suspending enforcement measures under the Federal-aid Highway Program for States that choose to permit commercial food trucks to operate and sell food, in accordance with state laws, in designated federally funded Interstate Highway rest areas.
By statute, commercial activity in the federally funded Interstate right-of-way is prohibited with limited exceptions.
However, FHWA Administrator Nicole R. Nason says that given the extreme and unprecedented nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, this action needed to be taken.
“America’s commercial truck drivers are working day and night during this pandemic to ensure critical relief supplies are being delivered to our communities,” Administrator Nason said. “I am grateful to our state transportation partners for bringing this idea to the Department and for their leadership in thinking outside the box. It is critical to make sure truck drivers continue to have access to food services while they’re on the job serving our nation during these challenging times.”
The move comes as 45 states are currently under some form of shelter in place orders resulting in widespread restaurant closures.
While some fast food chains, such as McDonald’s and Chick-Fil-A, continue to serve customers via drive thru or in-app ordering services, truckers are discovering that options to find good food are dwindling.
Truck stop restaurants now only serve drive thru or to-go orders at most locations, and some truck stop chains, such as Love’s Travel Stops, recently closed or reduced restaurant hours.
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The Arkansas Department of Transportation (ARDOT) was among the first State DOT’s to issue temporary permits to certified food truck operators to serve truck drivers.
ARDOT did so at four locations last week… eastbound and westbound exits at Social Hill rest area on I-30 just west of Malvern and eastbound and westbound exits at Big Piney rest area on I-40 west of Russellville.
However, FHWA noted the waiver is only temporary.
“States must come back into compliance with federal law once the Presidentially-declared emergency ends,” an FHWA statement said.
FHWA also warned that any States that do not come back into compliance after the emergency is over may be subject to “remedial measures” designed to achieve compliance.