The town of Valliant, Oklahoma, has a population of only 800 people. The town might not be big, but when it comes to truckers, the owners of the local Sonic have huge hearts.
Julie and Tommy Dorries are lifelong residents of Valliant, and have long known the benefit of the logging industry to their small town. With a paper mill located only a few miles away, big truck traffic through the area is constant.
After spending the better part of the last two decades giving back to their community by bringing life to old buildings and attracting businesses to their small town, the couple opened a Sonic in 2013. Tommy said it took the couple about 10 years to close the deal on bringing a Sonic to town.
“Valliant was not real trucker-friendly, but we have a lot of truck traffic,” Tommy said. “There’s no way a trucker can do business at Sonic if they can’t get to it. We had truck traffic and we have plenty of property, so why not use it?”
That’s exactly what Tommy and Julie did: They installed a route around the Sonic wide enough for an 18-wheeler to drive through. The creation of the route was special to Julie because her dad drove a log truck for several years. The big-truck route was dedicated to her dad, Jimmy Provence, or “Okie” as he was known on the CB radio.
Tommy said the piece of property the couple purchased for their Sonic had plenty of room for an extra route. The only adjustments were placing a menu board at the height of a truck window.
“No Sonic had a trucker route, so we went ahead and did it,” Tommy said. “This is a logging community and always has been.”
Within a few years of Tommy and Julie opening their Sonic, a Love’s broke ground next door. Tommy said a representative from Love’s even noted their Sonic as a “check” in the “pro” category when considering where to open their newest location. Having Love’s nearby has helped with a shortage of truck parking, a situation Tommy said he became acutely aware of when truckers parked along the truck route at the Sonic overnight.
Manager Tana Coleman, who has worked at the Valliant Sonic for five years, said she sees between 15 and 20 trucks come through each day and that her team tries to prioritize truckers and get them back on the road quickly.
“I know that the truckers really appreciate being able to pull up to the stall, and they tell us constantly that they don’t ever get that kind of attention,” Coleman said. “They never get anyone to bring their food out to them where they don’t have to get out of their trucks.”
Although Valliant opened their dedicated truck route in 2013, about five years later Sonic franchise owner Ricky Davis saw a similar need in the town of Fordyce, Arkansas. With a population of nearly 4,000, Fordyce is another community that benefits from truck traffic related to the timber industry in southeast Arkansas.
Davis, who has been in the Sonic franchise business for more than 40 years, said he was looking to remodel the current Sonic location in Fordyce. After some thought, he decided to move the location near the U.S. 67/167 bypass instead of in the center of town. This location allowed him to purchase 2 acres of land for a lower price. That amount of space made it easy to accommodate truckers.
“When we take on a project, we always take into consideration the community we are going to be in and the traffic we are going to have,” Davis said. “The timber industry is big [in Fordyce].”
The truck route at the Fordyce Sonic provides a menu that will reach a semi truck’s window, and it also offers steps so the carhop to stand eye-level with the driver. Davis said the investment in the menu and route was not necessarily significant, but the return has been impressive.
“I’ve had trucking companies from across the nation call me and tell me, ‘Thank you for taking care of our truckers. Everybody hates us, so we appreciate someone actually doing something for us,’” Davis said. “It has been pretty cool to get that feedback. It has done well.”
At the end of the day, these two Sonic owners represent a dedication to the men and women who keep America moving, which is an appreciation Davis can proudly say he has.
“Being a trucker takes a lot. When you have a to park a truck it takes a lot (of space), and most people don’t want them there,” Davis said. “They’re thought of as a hindrance, but they don’t hinder us at all. This really worked out, and it is a good addition.”
Wendy Miller holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a master’s degree in strategic communications. Wendy has been a journalist and editor for nearly 15 years and has specialized in niche publications for the past eight years. Wendy draws her love for the trucking industry from growing up as a trucker’s daughter.