Volumes within the truckstop and travel plaza industry continue to recover from COVID-19-related disruptions, NATSO President and CEO Lisa Mullings said during a recent interview with Transport Topics Radio. The segment aired on Road Dog Trucking radio on Sirius XM Channel 146.
Among the topics discussed during the Sept. 26 interview were the effects of the pandemic on fuel sales, challenges faced by truckstops and travel plazas in recent months, the overall health of the industry and truck parking.
Mullings said fuel volumes dropped as much as 50 percent during the initial COVID disruptions in March and April but that fuel volumes rebounded in the summer. “By June, things were looking up, and now the latest we’ve heard is that the volumes are not quite where they were pre-COVID, but they have recovered quite nicely since March,” she said.
Mullings reaffirmed that truckstops and travel plazas remained open throughout the country even as restaurants were forced to temporarily close due to local or state restrictions. “There were some pains in the beginning trying to educate the local officials who were just trying to do their jobs. A lot of that has been ironed out,” she said. “Professional drivers want to be able to relax, sit down and eat and not have every meal in their truck. I think that is something the health officials didn’t think about.”
Operators have transitioned foodservice options to curbside, take out and grab-and-go meals to serve local customers, travelers and professional drivers.
Mullings acknowledged the industry’s commitment to serving the nation’s truck drivers who heroically delivered personal protective equipment and food during the pandemic.
“Truck drivers have been doing this job for many, many years and it really has gone unrecognized,” Mullings said. “I hope that after the pandemic is over people still respect the job because it’s a difficult job under any circumstance and right now it’s particularly hard.”
Responding to questions about the overall health of the truckstop industry, Mullings said truckstops generally are doing well because the trucking industry continues to grow.
During the interview, host Dan Ronan asked Mullings if the COVID-19 pandemic has affected truck parking capacity. Mullings said the adoption of electronic logging devices and changes to drivers’ Hours-of-Service regulations have shifted parking demand.
Mullings highlighted the industry’s recent participation in a truck parking workshop hosted by the Federal Highway Administration and the New Jersey Transportation Planning Authority that brought together more than 100 private and public sector individuals, primarily from regional and local government agencies in Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.
Mullings discussed challenges to building or expanding truck parking capacity, including the price of land in urban areas and citizen opposition.
To listen to the interview in its entirety click here. (“Courtesy of SiriusXM and Transport Topics”)
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