Life in a truck is completely different from life at home. When truckers are on the road, our trucks are basically our home. It can be a wonderful experience for some, or an 8-foot by 8-foot cell on wheels for others. Finding basic necessities, such as laundry, entertainment, grooming, and proper meals, can be difficult.
The New York Times put out an article on Saturday, June 4, that reviewed how things changed during and after the lockdowns. So, I’m going to tell that story in my own words. I worked and lived on the road during that time. And so, here are my opinions on the state of trucking support services, and what has changed.
Fine dining options disappeared
Sit-down dining disappeared at the majority of truck stops. Health department mandates that stopped in-person dining at truck stops really limited our options. That meant for those that do not like roller dogs and other junk food, you did not have many other options. Yeah, food delivery services like Grubhub and UberEats are available, but not at every spot you park.
Some dine-in restaurants have reopened, or had a larger brand take them over. I’ve seen a lot of Fuddruckers and Qdoba Mexican Eats popping up in place of the old-fashioned buffet bars. I’m also seeing more hot food bars being installed in Pilot and Flying J’s.
Clean clothes make for a professional image
Laundry is mostly done at night. “Airing your dirty laundry” is something most don’t want to do in front of others. We also stand guard over the washers and dryers due to laundry thieves. But finding the places with “working” laundry facilities is difficult. Usually only the larger brands carry them, such as Flying J, Petro and TA Travel Centers. Love’s has started putting laundromats in new store builds, but there’s no room to add them in the older stores.
You must have some faith out on these roads
Chapels are one of the hardest to find options out on the road. There are times when you need to decompress and seek answers from your faith. There are chapels set up at some truckstops. Local pastors come to the truckstops and offer rides down to their church. Most are Christian, though some mosques and synagogues have shuttles at locations where those religions are more prevalent.
Some drivers just want to sit back and pull the slot machine handle
Some drivers like to kick back and relax in the casino or pool room if a truckstop has them. However, gambling rooms and arcades with gaming cabinets and pool tables were shuttered during the pandemic. I’m not a real big fan of putting money in a machine in hopes of winning it big and retiring. But I will play a few rounds of snooker and hopefully avoid the freight lane’s pool shark. But with the capabilities of modern phones and laptops, one can be entertained without the need of going inside.
So, have things gotten better on the road?
The answer to that question is “yes” and “no.” Things changed, that’s for sure. We have different options available now, but still not at the pre-COVID level. There are still shuttered buffets and closed arcade rooms. Some have been converted into permanent storerooms. Others just collect dust until someone wants to lease the room. Truckstop operators know that there is a shortage of support services, and are adding them to the blueprints of new builds. But it will still be a while before we are the levels we were before.