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March 31, 2020 1:45 PM, EDT

Truck Stops, State Associations Offer Free Food, Parking to Drivers

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Travel center chains along one of the nation’s busiest freight corridors are offering free meals and parking to truck drivers making deliveries to help the nation battle the COVID-19 virus.

The Nebraska Trucking Association, for one, has partnered with several chains, including Bosselman Enterprises, Sapp Bros., and Shoemaker’s Travel Center, for a voucher program to supply drivers who travel the Interstate 80 corridor, a vital freight route that stretches from San Francisco to Teaneck, N.J., with free lunches.

Kent Grisham, the association’s president, noted that many truckers who come through his state do so along the more than 450 miles of I-80 that cross Nebraska, and said many association members who had signed up to sponsor its spring conference in May agreed to apply their sponsorship dollars to the lunch program when it became clear that COVID-19 would force the event’s cancellation. 

“That is a long stretch of important corridor. Tens of thousands of trucks are traveling our state every day. We take that responsibility very seriously,” Grisham said. “We need to take care of the drivers. They’re part of the truck driving community. If they’re a driver, here’s your free lunch.”

At Sapp Bros. locations, parking is also free; the company announced March 24 that it is temporarily suspending paid parking at all of its 17 locations, which stretch from Utah to Pennsylvania primarily along I-80.

“All truck parking is free for now,” a notice on the company’s website states. “We remain open at all locations to serve you. Thank you, drivers!”

The company indicated its restaurants will remain open as long as governments permit, and is increasing sanitizing practices at food contact surfaces, soda machines and other points of sale. It also is requiring employees who handle food or money to wear gloves, discontinuing the use of refillable mugs and cups at beverage stations, and cleaning showers with bleach after every use.

“We’re very appreciative of folks that are stepping up and helping, especially right now in these challenging times,” said Brenda Neville, president of the Iowa Motor Truck Association.

Her association also has chipped in; earlier in March, it handed out about 2,000 free, boxed lunches to truckers over a two-day period. The lunches were offered at weigh stations that straddle Des Moines and sit along I-80. The association purchased lunches from restaurants in the area that had shuttered because of the virus.

Neville said the association continues to collaborate with state transportation officials to determine if there are opportunities to serve other areas of Iowa.

“Our main objective was to do something for the drivers that we thought would be impactful,” Neville said. “It was something that we felt was a really appropriate way to show our appreciation.”

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