LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — The Arkansas Trucking Association and Arkansas Department of Transportation (ARDOT) are working to bring more food options to truck drivers at two state rest areas during April to ensure additional safe places to eat and rest for the professionals who carry essential supplies and aid to communities affected by the COVID-19 outbreak.
According to a release by the Arkansas Trucking Association, ARDOT will be issuing temporary permits to certified food-truck operators to serve truck drivers at four locations in Arkansas — eastbound and westbound exits at Social Hill rest area on Interstate 30 west of Malvern and eastbound and westbound exits at Big Piney rest area on Interstate 40 west of Russellville.
The Arkansas Trucking Association will match food-truck operators who acquire permits from ARDOT to approved locations throughout the month of April. Each location can host two vendors each day.
Normally, these types of commercial vendors are forbidden on state property such as rest areas, but truck drivers are bearing extraordinary burdens to keep citizens safe and communities supplied with all they need to fight the new coronavirus. One particular burden is fewer places to find healthy meals as restaurants and truck stops around the country close their dining rooms to prevent the spread of the virus.
“The men and women who are working hard to help deliver our nation back to health need places to rest and eat a hot meal,” said Shannon Newton, president of the Arkansas Trucking Association. “As they contribute to protecting our health, we have to make sure they are equipped to maintain their own physical and mental well-being.”
On March 12 Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson issued an executive order declaring a state of emergency that applies to commercial vehicles transporting essential items of commerce such as food, fuel and medical equipment. As leadership around the nation continues to advise citizens to work from home, practice social distancing and quarantine themselves if ill to prevent the spread of COVID-19, trucks continue to move supplies where they are most needed, but with fewer places of respite along their route.
“The governor’s order gives the department the authority and flexibility to issue permits for this much-needed service to truckers traveling in and through Arkansas,” said Lorie Tudor, director of ARDOT. “Allowing food trucks to temporarily operate in these two areas will give truckers easier access to meals. The department considers it a privilege to help the truckers in this small way. We appreciate the job they are doing to keep commodities flowing in Arkansas and across the nation during these difficult times.”
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has also temporarily relaxed hours-of-service rules for truck drivers making vital deliveries related to the COVID-19 response.
“We can’t shake their hands or hug their necks right now, but the next best way to show people you love and appreciate them is to feed them, to break bread and meet needs. I hope we can continue to communicate how grateful we are for their service,” Newton said.