The country’s commercial truck drivers are keeping shipments rolling to grocery stores during the coronavirus pandemic to make sure people have food. With restaurants cutting back service, who’s making sure truck drivers have places to eat out on the road?
Truck drivers have been called “the thin line,” holding daily life together in terms of delivering necessary goods and services. As a lot of business has been cut back to slow the spread of the new coronavirus, trucking, considered one an essential industry, has been going full bore.
But as Greg Fulton of the Colorado Motor Carriers Association recently recounted, finding places to eat, sleep or even use the restroom can be challenging when restaurants are closed to dine-in customers and businesses are restricting access.
While many restaurants offer take-out or drive-thru service, how does someone navigate an 18-wheeler up to the window at a McDonald’s? Where do you park the rig for curb-side service?
Those are some of the questions being asked by trucking associations. One of the answers is a new effort by the International Franchise Association to encourage its members to accommodate the people hauling the in-demand food, goods and medical supplies. The association is working with the Owner–Operator Independent Drivers Association and The American Trucking Associations to give drivers more options.
Some internationally known franchises, including McDonald’s, are coming up with ways to get food to truck drivers who can’t use the drive-thru or park somewhere, hop out and pick up take-out, said Josh Merin, the franchise association’s chief of state and vice president of international affairs.
“Generally speaking, due to both regulations and terms of insurance, restaurants are not able to serve foot traffic in drive-thrus,” Merin said in an interview.
And there might not be parking available at restaurants offering take-out service.
“Truck drivers are playing a unique and critical role at the moment, maintaining our supply chains and keeping our economy functioning,” Merin said. “And (the International Franchise Association) wanted to rally to the call to make sure that truck drivers had appropriate dining options as they are away from their families and often delivering critical supplies in the face of COVID-19.”
Trucking associations reached out to the franchise association to see if its members would work with drivers, “and so far the response has been great,” Todd Spencer, CEO of the Owner–Operator Independent Drivers Association, said in a statement.
Among the first franchises to join the endeavor are Firehouse Subs, McDonald’s, Nathan’s Famous, Ruby Tuesday, Shoney’s, Sonic, Fuzzy’s and Long John Silvers.
The restaurants are using a variety of methods to get food to truck drivers, depending on the franchise and location. McDonald’s says drivers can use a mobile phone app to order and pay. The food can be picked up at a curbside sign designated for truckers.
Firehouse Subs said on the franchise association’s website that most of its restaurants are in strip malls and there should be plenty of parking. Drivers can pick up their food at spots designated “Rapid Rescue To Go.”
Many of the restaurants are offering discounts to truck drivers as well.
“This is really a win-win. We’re at a point where everybody wants to rally together. Everybody wants to help drivers,” Merin said. “At the same time, restaurants are getting caught in the pandemic in painful ways.”
Working with the truck drivers can help increase business for the restaurants, Merin added.
For information about the participating franchises, go to: www.franchise.org/trucking.
On another front, the National Association of Truck Operators is asking state and local governments to consider the impacts on drivers when imposing guidelines to stem the spread of the coronavirus. Truck-stop workers and commercial truck drivers are on the federal list of “essential critical infrastructure workers.”
“But many local officials are exceeding the Centers for Disease Control’s recommended social distancing guidelines and enforcing strict ‘occupancy limits’ in travel centers, severely delaying commercial drivers when they stop for food or fuel,” the organization said in a statement.
Some local governments have limited the number of people in a truck stop to as few as five people, including employees, the business group said in a March 30 letter to city and county associations.
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