The first truck stop, a Pilot in Virginia, opened in 1958. Six years later, the first Love’s opened in Oklahoma, and the first Flying J opened in Utah in 1968. The largest truck stop today is in Iowa, which features 950 parking spots for big rigs. Today, over 2500 truck stops across the United States provide full amenities to long-haul truckers and 6000 more places that provide fuel, snacks, and a place to sleep. Truck stops offer essential services for truckers who require a place to sleep, food, fuel, laundry services, and a hot shower while on the road away from home.
If you’re a trucker, you’re all too familiar with truck stops and their benefits and pitfalls. When it comes to local vs long-haul trucking, long haulers rely more on truck stops, but every trucker appreciates a good truck stop. Here’s a brief guide to surviving and thriving at your truck stop stops.
Sadly, truck stops are a significant source of damage to rigs. Here’s why:
- High traffic and hurried drivers make truck stops collision hot spots.
- New drivers are often practicing in truck stop lots.
- Parking spots are often too small. Like everything, semi-trucks have gotten bigger over the years and many older truck stops have spots that are too narrow and too short to accommodate modern rigs.
Here are some tips to help you keep your rig safe at truck stops:
- Park away from traffic. Assess the lot and park where you see the least activity. The end of the row might not be the safest, so beware. Parking far away in the dark might not be the best idea for your own safety, so be smart.
- Back in and pull out. Always.
- Only park in designated parking spots.
- Refuel at the fuel island and then move your rig. Don’t stay parked there while you eat or shower. This irritates other drivers and leaves your vehicle in a high-traffic area longer than necessary.
- Follow the flow of the traffic patterns in the lot.
- Inspect your vehicle before you leave. You don’t want to discover evidence of a hit and run at your next stop; it’s best to identify problems as soon as possible.
- Park next to a curb or pole. That keeps at least one side of your rig safe.
- Be self-aware. If you’re pulling into a truck stop when you’re overly tired, hungry, or otherwise not at your best, you’ll be more prone to having an accident.
- Pull in early. Early birds get the worm and early truckers get the good spots.
- Stay away from poorly parked trucks.
- Don’t park next to trucks that are getting ready to leave.
Not only do you need to keep your rig safe at truck stops, but you also need to consider your personal safety and the safety of your cargo. Here are some tips to keep you and your load safe:
- Pay attention. Be aware of the surroundings and exercise appropriate caution.
- Watch out for reckless drivers. Yes, they might hit your truck, but they also might hit you when you’re walking to and from your rig.
- Balance protecting your truck with protecting yourself. Yes, parking away from the action keeps your truck out of range for hit and runs, but it might increase the risk that your cargo could be stolen or that you could be the victim of other crimes. Try to stay where there’s light.
- Keep your doors locked.
- Add extra locks to secure your cargo.
- Carry pepper spray or a personal alarm when walking through the parking lot. Be careful about carrying deadly weapons in your cab or on your person. Always know the local laws and make sure you’re appropriately trained.
- Don’t talk about your cargo openly.
- Pull down the blinds and hide your valuables. Don’t leave expensive and attractive electronics out in the open to tempt thieves.
- Read reviews. Other truckers will let you know if truck stops aren’t safe.
- Take advantage of the services truck stops provide. These are places where you can practice the self-care that’s essential to keeping yourself safe and healthy on the road. Get some exercise. Take a shower. Make healthy food choices. Stock up on water and smart beverages to keep you hydrated. Get some rest and maybe do something social.
Now that you know how to keep yourself and your rig safe, it’s worth talking about what you can do to make truck stops more pleasant for everyone.
- Drive slowly and carefully in the lot, following the traffic patterns and watching for other drivers and pedestrians.
- Park in actual spots and park well.
- Back in and pull out. Again, always.
- Don’t linger at the fuel islands.
- Don’t bother your neighbors; they’re probably trying to sleep.
- Lend a helping hand. Truck stops are a community and the folks there understand all about late night, long hauls, and being away from home. Look out for your fellow drivers and offer a helping hand if you see someone in need. New drivers especially will appreciate the benefit of your experience.
- Be clean. Take care of the resources. Don’t leave your garbage around and keep the showers and other amenities clean so others can enjoy them.
Your One-Stop Truck Shop
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