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A truck stop is a commercial facility predicated on providing fuel, parking, and often food and other services to truck drivers. Truck stops are usually located on or near a busy road and consist (at the very least) of a diesel grade fueling station with bays wide and tall enough for modern tractor/trailer rigs, plus a large enough parking area to accommodate from five to over a hundred trucks and other heavy vehicles. There are approximately 10,000 truck stops in the United States.

Origins

The truck stop originated in the United States in the 1940s, as a reliable source of diesel fuel not commonly available at filling stations. This, coupled with the growth of the Interstate Highway System, led to the creation of the professional haulage and truck stop industries.

Truck stop services

Smaller truck stops may consist of only a parking area, a fueling station, and perhaps a diner restaurant. Larger truck stops may have convenience stores of various sizes, showers, a small video arcade, and a TV/movie theater (usually just a projector with an attached DVD player). The largest truck stops, like Iowa 80marker (the largest in the world), may have several independent businesses operating under one roof, catering to a wide range of travelers' needs, and may have several major and minor fast-food chains operating a small food court. Larger truck stops also tend to have full-service maintenance facilities for heavy trucks, as well as vehicle wash services dimensionally large enough to accommodate them. Some truck stops operate motels or have them adjacent. The refueling area almost always offers dual pumps, one on each side, so large trucks can fill both tanks at once. (The second pump is referred to as the "slave pump" or "satellite pump.")

The fuel islands at many truck stops can get very crowded. Most trucking companies have accounts with one or two truck stop chains and, after negotiating a specific price for diesel, require their drivers to fuel exclusively at those. Pilot, T/A, Loves, Wilco, and Flying-J truck stops are selected most often, and thus are the most crowded. Truck stops near a large city, or on the east or west coasts, suffer from the most congestion at their fuel islands.

The retail stores in large truck stops offer a large selection of 12-volt DC products, such as coffee makers, TV/VCR combos, toaster ovens, and frying pans primarily targeted towards truck drivers, who often spend 26 to 27 days on the road. Such shops generally offer a wide selection of maps, road atlases, truck stop and freeway exit guides, truck accessories (such as CB radio equipment and hazmat placards), plus entertainment media such as movies, video games, music, and audio books. Increasingly, as interstate truck drivers have become a large market for satellite radio, these retail stores also sell various satellite radio receivers for both XM and Sirius as well as subscriptions to those services. Kiosks run by cellular phone providers are also common.

Most long-haul tractors have sleeping berths, and to allow for comfortable sleeping many truck drivers have had to keep their diesel engines running for heating or cooling. Since a single diesel idling, let alone several, makes considerable noise and can be visibly polluting, they are often banned from such use near residential areas. Truck stops (along with public rest stops) are the main places where Truck drivers may rest peacefully, as required by regulations. Modern innovations, such as truck heaters and auxiliary power units are coming into wide use; and some truck stops are also providing power, air conditioning, and communications through systems like IdleAire. Most chain truck stops also have WLAN Internet access in their parking areas, though most are not free. Idle reduction — reducing the amount of fuel consumed by truck fleets during idling — is an ongoing economical and environmental effort. [100302]

Corporatization of Truck Stops

The economics of truck stops have driven most of the small operations that dotted the country in post-war times out of business and replaced them with large corporate chains or franchises. Truck drivers are a "captured market," since the trucks' size, and local regulations vastly restrict where a truck driver can stop and park. The initial investment costs of land, permitting and equipment, and upkeep and maintenance requirements, are large and growing, requiring it be made up by chain-volume buying and an increasing quantity of customers. Some large truck stop chains have begun to cater to a wider range of the traveling public by combining trucks stops and traditional-type gas stations.

In the United Statesmarker in the late 1990s, Truckstops of America (T/A) changed its name to TravelCenters of America to reflect this marketing strategy. There is no exact distinction between "truck stop" and the newer term "travel center", but some differences are size, proximity to interstate highways and major roads, the number of services, accessibility to automotive and RV travelers, and a certain extra emphasis on facility appearance. Many truck stops chains such as Flying J and T/A also serve the recreational vehicle market. All the national chains have established customer loyalty programs to promote repeated patronage.

In Australia, most truck stops - usually known as roadhouse, as they provide services to cars as well as trucks - are owned by, or are franchises of, oil companies such as Castrol and BP, but can include other franchises like McDonalds.

In the UKmarker the term "truck stop" is not in common use, the equivalent stops are signposted simply as "Services" and include many similar features to truck stops, but are also frequented by the majority of motorway traffic, and often include Travel lodge accommodation, places to eat and newsagent shops such as WHSmith. Service stations (as they are colloquially known) are also known for their relatively high prices compared to equivalent or identical stores on the high street.

Public image

Truck stop restaurants are often recommended to non-truck drivers because of their reputation for large portions of good food. Most truck drivers have their choice of places to re-fuel, and a good restaurant is an attraction.

Truck stops are often depicted in films and novels as being somewhat seedy places, frequented by aggressive biker, petty criminals, and prostitutes (e.g. the "lot lizards" in the JT LeRoy novel Sarah). This is an outdated stereotype, as most modern truck stops are generally clean and safe, becoming a "home away from home" for many truck drivers. However, it should be noted that most truck stops do reflect the social environment of their local area; consequently, one occasionally finds seedy truck stops in seedy areas.

Photo Gallery

Image:Iowa_80_truck_stop.jpg#file|Iowa 80 truck stopImage:Virginia_Rest_Area.jpg#file|Rest area - Rockingham County, VirginiaImage:NYC_diner_Brooklyn.jpg#file|Greasy spoonImage:Eurostop.jpg#file|Eurostop truck stop in Örebro, SwedenImage:Pilottravelcenter.jpg#file|A Pilot Travel Center in Lost Hills, CaliforniaImage:Flying_J_diesel_pumps.jpg#file|Diesel pumps at a Flying J truck stop

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References




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