How to Sleep, Shower & Eat at Truck Stops | Road Trip Guide for Non-Truckers
Road trippers, whether RVers, car, or van campers, appreciate the opportunity to pull over at a truck stop occasionally. Here they can enjoy the many amenities established for the benefit of long-haul truck drivers.
But what exactly are truck stops. And do hardworking truckers want to share their designated rest areas with leisure road trippers?
We’ve slept, showered, and eaten at these interstate havens, and would do it again!
Here are the deets.
What Are Truck Stops?
Truck stops were established to give long-haul truckers an area where they could gas up their rigs, get some food and a shower, and grab several hours of much-needed sleep.
Most major service stations and travel centers are commercial facilities operated by large chains. They’re typically located on or near busy stretches of road along major trucking routes.
Besides the basics mentioned above, most major stops also offer ATMs, high-speed WiFi access, restrooms, and laundry facilities. Many also offer truck washing stations, repair shops, and truck scales.
A Little Truck Stop History
When initially established, truck stops were essentially gas stations with attached diners. Later, in 1956, the Federal Highway Act initiated the construction of 45,000 miles of highway. As a result, expanded truck stops began to emerge as companies sought to capitalize on the growing long-haul traffic.
For those interested in historical tidbits, the first Pilot opened in 1958 in Virginia. Love’s founded their first truck stop six years later in Oklahoma, and the first Flying J opened in 1968 in Utah.
According to the National Association of Truck Stop Operators, today, there are 2500 major truck stops in the United States with full amenities. An additional 6,000 stops offer essentially only refueling and a place to sleep.
A note of trivia, the largest truck stop in the world is located in Walcott, Iowa. The Iowa 80 Truckstop, with 950 overnight truck parking spaces, is a huge, expansive facility offering every amenity imaginable.
Now that we know a little more about truck stops, let’s get back to the subject of road trippers using them.
Benefits of Truck Stops for Road Trippers
Truck stops offer a wide variety of amenities, many of which are significant aspects of successful, comfortable road trips.
Most commercial truck stops offer showers that are roomy and clean in general. They may be coin-operated, or you may purchase a ticket from a clerk reserving a shower for a particular time.
Not all of these showers are well-kept.
However, most showers at commercially operated, franchised locations offer clean, well-maintained showers for their patrons. A clean, hot shower, after all, is one of the most sought-after amenities on the road.
Pro Tip: Here’s a detailed look at how we use truck stop showers.
A laundromat is another highly-coveted amenity sought by truckers and road trippers of all types since none, except the rare RV, have a washer and dryer on board. This leads travelers to regularly seek laundry facilities to wash their clothes, linens, and towels.
Not all truck stops offer laundry facilities. But the major commercial ones offer this important amenity at their expanded facilities.
Gas, Food, & Supplies
All truck stops offer gas and diesel fuel, food, and various supplies. These can include everything from candy and gum to souvenirs, clothing, medicines, typical drug store supplies, and 12V appliances such as fans and cookware.
The level of food provisions differs, but most large commercial stops offer full-service restaurants with sit-down meals as well as grab-and-go foods and vending machines.
A Place to Sleep
Truck stops are also a place for the road-weary to rest. Depending on the stop’s size, some parking spaces designated for resting for several hours are provided.
Many stops have designated parking areas for truckers due to the increased use by leisure road trippers. After all, the companies originally established these facilities for them. And it’s not only safe but legally necessary for truckers to stop and rest for a reasonable amount of time.
Many RVers and other road-trippers can use truck stops as a place to catch some shut-eye as well. That said, leisure travelers need to respect truckers’ needs first. This brings us to the topic of etiquette.
Pro Tip: Here are 5 places you can sleep overnight in your vehicle.
Truck Stop Etiquette for Road Trippers
Long-haul truckers are working on the road. They drive long, seemingly endless routes delivering things like food to the grocery stores where we shop, for example. Stepping aside to allow them their due rest and sustenance is only reasonable.
Let’s take a look at some of the ways road trippers can extend due respect to long-haul truckers on the road.
Be Aware of Demand
There isn’t always room for everyone. If there are lines at a truck stop for certain amenities, truckers need to be at the head of those lines. They’re not on the road for pleasure. They’re earning a living doing some essential work that generally benefits all of us in one way or another.
They don’t have all the time in the world. They’re on schedules, usually rigorously enforced, and they have a certain amount of time to stop, eat, shower, rest, etc.
Truckers go first.
So, if you arrive at a truck stop and the showers or laundry facilities are busy, please wait. Alternatively, you can roll along to the next stop or find a laundromat somewhere in a nearby town. You can always wait to shower and wash your clothes tomorrow.
Don’t Take Truckers’ Parking Spots
It’s important to remember that truckers have no choice when and where they stop for the night. They’re legally bound to rules and regulations and their logbooks! They’re also bound to the unspoken contract they make with their families every time they head out on the road, “I’ll make it back home safely.”
Small truck stops have limited places to park. If you grab the last truck space and an exhausted trucker comes along, you’ve just forced them to keep driving to the next truck stop. That’s not okay.
Please don’t take a spot specifically designated for a semi-truck at any truck stop. Roll along to the RV section. If there’s no room there, find a nearby town with a Walmart, Cracker Barrel, Cabella’s, or similar business that allows overnight parking.
Don’t Set Up Camp
Never set up camp at a truck stop! This is the same advice given to RVers and other road-trippers who use store parking lots for overnight stays. Do. Not. Set. Up. Camp. Please.
In other words, don’t set up your chairs, grills, and other objects making the truck stop, rest stop, or parking lot your campground for the night. It’s not a campground. It’s a place to rest and sleep before moving on to your next destination.
If you have an RV with slides, don’t extend them when at any overnight parking area.
Again, – (worth repeating) – you’re not camping. You’re simply taking advantage of a wonderful opportunity to get some rest and rejuvenation – for free – during your road trip.
Use Truck Stops with Respect
The multitude of truck stops on roadways throughout the country offers terrific opportunities for road trippers of all types. But road trippers must understand and respect that truckers are working on the road. They have no choice but to stop for safety and legal reasons.
Respecting truckers and the businesses themselves is the only way road-trippers will continue to utilize truck stops. So, follow proper etiquette and make life easier for truckers and yourself and other leisure travelers.
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You consistently say to not deploy your slides at overnight sleeping areas. I agree that we should be respectful and not take advantage but unless we put out one of the bedroom slides, we are not going to sleep too well. We do our best to stay away from others and only put out the slide if we are not going to encroach on others. If we can’t do that we move on.
If you must deploy a slide, that’s ok. Just choose your parking spot strategically, so it doesn’t get in the way of others