If you’ve been a trucker for a few decades or even a few years, chances are you’ve noticed a big change in the way chain and locally owned truck stops are designed. Today’s truck stops are much different than the old pump and diner truck stops of the past, and this is a good thing for truckers to take full advantage of.
Design trends make these roadside rest spots much more beneficial to drivers. They tend to be bigger, more spacious, and generally much more of a unique place to go out, spend some time socializing and enjoying each other’s company, and to have a healthy meal, shower, and a bit of down time.
There are both big name chains and individually or locally owned options. Large chain truck stops typically give you a consistent and predictable set of features. It is estimated that the 50 largest chains in the United States and Canada account for about 40% of truck stops in North America. This means that 60% are smaller businesses that may have one or multiple locations, often located within a specific state, province, or geographic location.
One of the biggest changes in the food aspect of the modern truck stop is the variety of foods available. You are no longer restricted to staple meals or burgers. Instead, you literally have a variety of items prepared or cooked to order.
At the larger stops, you may have several restaurants or fast food chains, including national diners, burgers, chicken, pizza, and a traditional seating area. Often the restaurant’s menu features classic favorites, comfort, and home-cooked options, as well as some less-than-traditional options.
Salads, sushi, steak, seafood, vegetarian and vegan options and even food “bars” that let you design your meal to order are a big hit. These restaurants tend to offer very competitive prices and excellent meals that can be cooked to your specifications.
Another change to the food offerings at many stops include convenient pre-packaged salads, sandwiches, and fruit cups or plates. They are typically made fresh daily and provide a healthy option for burgers and fries on the go. Freshly baked breads, cakes, and cookies are often available along with the standard chips, nuts, chocolate bars, and candy.
While truck stops aren’t always designed as a destination stop, some of the new stations are definitely geared toward getting truckers to stay in their on-site platforms or in accommodations affiliated with the truck stop itself.
These stops tend to be plaza-style with a variety of services offered in one central location. They are not just aimed at CDL drivers and can include a variety of attractions for families, car drivers and those traveling across the country on vacation.
Motels, hotels, RV parks, and truck set-off acres are often located in or very close to these locations. In addition, drivers will enjoy driver lounges, game rooms, luxury showers, and even parks, gardens, and outdoor eating areas. These facilities tend to be popular with all types of travelers and are generally very well-maintained year-round. Dog walking trails and fenced off-leash areas are included in many of the large and small truck stop areas.
On-site trucking services are also a great addition to many truck stops. These may include tire repair and replacement, basic mechanical services, oil changes, or full-service diesel mechanical bays. Typically, the mechanics and technicians at these facilities are highly experienced in platform work and can provide quick service to get you back on the road.
With fleet cards and discounts, you can save significantly by using these services if they’re tied to your fleet fuel card plan. The plan provider typically lists all truck stops and chains where the card is accepted for discounts or reward points.
Some truck stops, especially those in major urban centers on interstate highways, may have these services available 24 hours a day or may be open only during typical business hours. Roadside assistance, including large wreckers, may also be available or dispatched through these locations.
Truck washes are a popular option at both small and large truck stops. These can be the do-it-yourself type or you can pay to have the truck and trailer cleaned while you relax and eat a nice meal.
Truck stops have certainly changed over the years from a very basic place to eat and get gas to a full service, full support outlet. There are several apps available for smartphones that will help you locate truck stops on a given route and help you identify the services available at each one.