When trucks began hauling road freight, truck stops followed, springing up all across North America. The early years saw mom and pop shops offering fuel and food to weary truckers. But when the United States built the interstate highway system and Canadians made 400 series roads, many small towns were bypassed by travelers putting scores of small stops out of business and even creating numerous ghost towns.
While some independent mom and pop truck stops have managed to prosper even today, large travel center chains have mainly taken over with features resembling miniature cities as they vie for business from car and RV travelers in addition to truckers.
More than Basic Services
Travel stops provide basic services like self-serve fuel, dining, washrooms, showers, merchandise and parking. Some also provide fast food restaurants, drivers’ lounge areas, health services, hair salons, dentists, maintenance and repair shops, truck weigh scales and washes, and even motels.
Somehow, though the chains have lost the down-home family style prevalent in the mom and pop stops that still exist today. Independents generally foster a friendly, slower pace of doing business with their customers, treating them more like kin instead of rushing them through a brief respite. And that’s why they continue to survive.
We’re not knocking the truck stop chains. To compare them to independents is like apples and oranges. They both have their good qualities and provide valuable services to all sorts of travelers. But they are different.
Chain stops generally have more truck parking available than smaller mom and pop truck stops. At a time when safe truck parking at the end of a trucker’s shift is scarcer than ever, the chains with their deeper pockets would appear more able to expand limited parking areas.
Often times it’s the truck stop with the lowest fuel price that dictates where travelers stop. And that would favor the truck stop chains, especially those with rewards programs. Rewards we’ve seen are free showers, discount or free food, fuel discounts, merchandise discounts, and others. A smartphone app can aid drivers in finding the best fuel price.
Major chains often locate their travel centers at or near large cities with interstate highways or 400 series roads in Canada. That places them conveniently where the bulk of travelers – truckers included – are driving and where most of the freight goes.
Truck stops are the oases of the traffic desert. Drivers pull in, fuel up then park and either step into the truck sleeper for their required rest period or go into the truck stop for a shower or a meal and maybe some upbeat conversation while taking a much needed break from the hustle and bustle of delivering freight.
The Choice is Yours
As long as there are trucks, buses and cars crossing countries there will be truck stops providing much needed services to people who drive them. Vehicles need fuel, maintenance and repairs that are found at truck stops everywhere. Whether you prefer to frequent mom and pop stops or major chains, the choice is yours. Know this: you’ll be welcome at any truck stop, no matter which you choose.