Truck-stop chains take a cautious approach amid Covid-19 crisis

Abdul Latheef

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.

Doug Ford
Doug Ford announces a state of emergency Tuesday.

ONroute

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

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.

Husky Energy

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.

NATSO

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.

PennDOT

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.

OOIDA

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.

 

Abdul Latheef

Abdul Latheef is the associate editor of Today’s Trucking and trucknews.com. He has extensive international experience as a reporter and editor. Reach him at abdul@newcom.ca

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  • I guess no one from the Pennsylvania DOT ever uses a washroom.
    This is not like Ebola or the plagues of European history with people dying in the streets.

  • Drivers are not allowed to use drive throughs as walk up customers and they can’t drive their trucks through so how do they get their food. My son went 6 hours defore he found a place to eat. Someone needs to smarten up, On Routes in Ontario have closed their food kiosks so no food for drivers. They stop rolling we will be in a world of hurt.

    • My husband is in the same situation. Can’t find food to get while out on the road and stopping at a drive though doesn’t work. Groceries stores are empty of something a trucker can eat.

  • I THINK U SHOULD BE OPEN BECAUSE THE TRUCK TO NEED TO EAT TO THEY NEED TO BE OPEN FOR THE TRUCK. THIS IS CATHY SELLERS AND CURTIS SELLERS IF U NEED TO CALL ME 601-818-0328

  • This is fantastic…. looks like Husky & Petro Pass May actually have no choice but to clean their filthy facilities…. silver lining

  • hello my husband is a truck driver right now and he is up in the sudbury timmins area which is not close to his home he eats and sleep in his truck he has been coming into situations where the truck stops and things are closing off the washrooms my question is where are they to go they need to use washrooms him and all others drivers are risking their health for everyone everywhere dont they deserve to have access to a washroom when they need it like everyone else this is serious what can be done

  • Misleading statements. Showers are dirty at pilot, not being cleaned in all locations. Just wiped with dirty towels.

  • My husband is a truck driver Canada and US.I am 65 years old my question is if he comes home where is he suppose to go to isolate so not to give me anything.

  • Im a truck driver and operate between bc and Alberta. I stopped at the husky in Golden BC the other day and saw no noticeable changes in their operating conditions. Not impressed. Wont be visiting again. The least they could do is place a barrier between the clerk and the customers, which has not been done.