The federal government has told states that they may allow food trucks to operate during rest areas to help feed truck drivers during the COVID-19 crisis.
The Federal Highway Administration on April 3 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.
As state and local orders have in many cases limited restaurants to take-out or drive-through operations, and some restaurants have chosen to close altogether, many truckers have reported having difficulty finding hot meals on the road.
“America’s commercial truck drivers are working day and night during this pandemic to ensure critical relief supplies are being delivered to our communities,” said FHWA Administrator Nicole Nason. “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.”
Federal laws prohibit commercial activity in the federally funded Interstate right-of-way with limited exceptions. However, given the extreme and unprecedented nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, Nason is choosing not to take measures against states that allow food trucks to provide food in rest areas off the federally funded Interstate right-of-way for the duration of the national emergency declared by the president in response to the COVID-19 public health crisis.
The Arkansas Department of Transportation already announced it will issue temporary permits for certified food truck operators to serve truckers at two rest stops in the state, according to a release from the Arkansas Trucking Association.
The two rest stops in Arkansas are:
- Eastbound and Westbound exits at Social Hill rest area on I-30 just west of Malvern
- Eastbound and Westbound exits at Big Piney rest area on I-40 west of Russellville
The FHWA order notes that states must come back into compliance with federal law once the presidentially-declared emergency ends.