TORONTO, Ont. – Truck-stop chains are implementing a series of measures to curb the spread of Covid-19, but they say the sites will remain open to drivers.
Pilot Flying J, one of the largest operators of truck stops in North America with 900 retail and fueling locations, however, stressed in a statement that its priority is protecting the safety of its employees and customers.
But it also said that its level of service will not be hugely affected during the fight against the coronavirus.
“Our showers are open, and we are cleaning each shower after each use with degreaser, disinfectant and floor cleaner,” it said.
The company will close all self-serve food counters, and in locations where dining is still allowed, food contact surfaces will be cleaned with food-grade sanitizers, it said.
Late Tuesday, Flying J launched a Covid-19 resource site, where regular updates are being made.
An employee at a Flying J location in Pickering, Ont., said there was no change whatsoever in services at the site, but daily truck arrivals had fallen sharply.
“We used to get more than 200 trucks a day. Now it is between 60 and 100,” the employee, who requested anonymity, said Tuesday.
TravelCenters of America
Another U.S. operator taking action is TravelCenters of America, which owns the TA and Petro Stopping Centers.
The company said it is following individual state mandates regarding closures of full-service restaurant dining. All fuel lanes are open, and drivers can still reserve showers through an app, it said.
ONroute, which operates 23 travel plazas in Ontario, said Tuesday it has decided to close all dining and seating areas until March 31 in accordance with Premier Doug Ford’s declaration of a state of emergency earlier in the day.
“All 23 travel plazas will remain open for take-out, grab-and-go, and drive-through services,” the company said in an email to Today’s Trucking.
The sites will also offer 24-hour washroom facilities, it added.
In announcing the state of emergency, Ford said the government is taking every step possible to “flatten the curve” on the virus.
Petro-Canada has also taken a series of precautionary steps at its sites to help keep its staff and drivers safe, the company said late Tuesday.
“These measures, including increased cleaning and sanitizing procedures, are focused on ensuring that high-touch surfaces are regularly and thoroughly disinfected,” it said. The company has closed driver lounges at its Petro-Pass locations.
“While the experience across the country may vary, we continue to support our guests while also doing our part in prevention,” Petro-Canada said.
Another key player in Canada, Husky Energy, said it is putting measures in place at all its sites to ensure the health and safety of its staff and customers.
“We have been preparing for this evolving situation.”
In doing so, Husky said, it is closely following the advice and direction of health authorities.
“At our truck stops and retail stations, the convenience stores are remaining open at this time and staff is following recommended social distancing guidelines,” the company said in an email Tuesday night.
Husky stores are no longer selling unwrapped food items such as pastries, soups or hot dogs and are asking customers to use only disposable cups.
Earlier, the group that represents the truck stop industry in the U.S. confirmed that its members will remain open and continue to serve all drivers during the fight against Covid-19.
NATSO’s statement came amid a social media debate on how truckers will cope with reduced services such as washrooms.
One jurisdiction that closed restrooms to deal with the coronavirus outbreak is Pennsylvania.
The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation said late Monday that it will close 35 rest areas it owns along the Pennsylvania Turnpike.
The closure will not affect privately owned truck stops in the state or parking spots owned by the department, it said.
PennDOT has since said that it will reopen 13 rest areas Thursday. Portable restroom facilities will be available at these locations, it said.
The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association had been quick to criticize closures, saying rest areas are vitally important to truckers including its 160,000 members.
“We request the U.S. Department of Transportation issue directives to states, law enforcement agencies, and the logistics community to avoid imposing policies that jeopardize the safety of American truckers,” the group said in a letter to Jim Mullen, the acting administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.
American trucker Jamie Hagen said he noticed little change at truck stops in North Dakota and Minnesota.
“Still a lot people buying gas and hustling along. I really expected less people, all in all. Yet, I’d say we are at 90% of any given day.”
_ This story has been updated to include fresh comments from PennDOT.
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