Truck stop
A truck stop is a commercial facility predicated on providing fuel, parking, and often food and other services to motorists and truck drivers. Truck stops are usually located on or near a busy road
A road is a thoroughfare, route, or way on land between two places, which typically has been paved or otherwise improved to allow travel by some conveyance, including a horse, cart, or motor vehicle. Roads consist of one, or sometimes two, roadways each with one or more lanes and also any...

 and consist (at the very least) of a diesel grade fueling station
Filling station
A filling station, also known as a fueling station, garage, gasbar , gas station , petrol bunk , petrol pump , petrol garage, petrol kiosk , petrol station "'servo"' in Australia or service station, is a facility which sells fuel and lubricants...

 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 truck
A truck or lorry is a motor vehicle designed to transport cargo. Trucks vary greatly in size, power, and configuration, with the smallest being mechanically similar to an automobile...

s and other heavy vehicles. Truck stops should not be confused with rest areas or motorway service areas which cater mostly to cars and are often run by or leased from a government or tollway corporation. There are approximately 10,000 truck stops in the United States.


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
Interstate Highway System
The Dwight D. Eisenhower National System of Interstate and Defense Highways, , is a network of limited-access roads including freeways, highways, and expressways forming part of the National Highway System of the United States of America...

, 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
A diner, also spelled dinor in western Pennsylvania is a prefabricated restaurant building characteristic of North America, especially in the Midwest, in New York City, in Pennsylvania and in New Jersey, and in other areas of the Northeastern United States, although examples can be found throughout...

A restaurant is an establishment which prepares and serves food and drink to customers in return for money. Meals are generally served and eaten on premises, but many restaurants also offer take-out and food delivery services...

. Larger truck stops may have convenience stores of various sizes, shower
A shower is an area in which one bathes underneath a spray of water.- History :...

s, a small video arcade
Video arcade
An amusement arcade or video arcade is a venue where people play arcade games such as video games, pinball machines, electro-mechanical games, redemption games, merchandisers , or coin-operated billiards or air hockey tables...

, and a TV/movie theater (usually just a projector with an attached DVD
A DVD is an optical disc storage media format, invented and developed by Philips, Sony, Toshiba, and Panasonic in 1995. DVDs offer higher storage capacity than Compact Discs while having the same dimensions....

 player). The largest truck stops, like Iowa 80
Iowa 80
Iowa 80 is the world's largest truck stop, located along Interstate 80 off exit 284 in Walcott, Iowa. Set on a plot of land -- of which are currently developed—the site receives 5,000 visitors daily, and features a main building, parking for 800 trucks, and 15 fuel pumps...

 (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
Car wash
A car wash or auto wash is a facility used to clean the exterior and, in some cases, the interior of motor vehicles.- Categories :...

 services dimensionally large enough to accommodate them. Some truck stops operate motel
A motor hotel, or motel for short, is a hotel designed for motorists, and usually has a parking area for motor vehicles...

s 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 combo
TV/VCR combo
A Combo television unit, or a TV/VCR combo, sometimes known as a televideo, is a television and either a VCR or a DVD built into a single unit. These converged devices have the advantages of saving space and increasing portability. Such units entered the market during the mid-to-late 1980s when...

s, 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 atlas
Road atlas
A road atlas is a map or set of maps that primarily display roads and transport links rather than geographical information.- Types :Road atlases come in many shapes, sizes and scales...

es, truck stop and freeway exit guides, truck accessories (such as CB radio
Citizens' band radio
Citizens' Band radio is, in many countries, a system of short-distance radio communications between individuals on a selection of 40 channels within the 27-MHz band. Citizens' Band is distinct from the FRS, GMRS, MURS and amateur radio...

 equipment and hazmat placards), plus entertainment media such as movies, video games, music, and audio book
Audio book
An audiobook or audio book is a recording of a text being read. It is not necessarily an exact audio version of a book or magazine.Spoken audio has been available in schools and public libraries and to a lesser extent in music shops since the 1930s. Many spoken word albums were made prior to the...

s. Increasingly, as interstate truck drivers have become a large market for satellite radio
Satellite radio
Satellite radio is an analogue or digital radio signal that is relayed through one or more satellites and thus can be received in a much wider geographical area than terrestrial FM radio stations...

, these retail stores also sell various satellite radio receivers for both XM and Sirius
Sirius is the brightest star in the night sky. With a visual apparent magnitude of −1.46, it is almost twice as bright as Canopus, the next brightest star. The name "Sirius" is derived from the Ancient Greek: Seirios . The star has the Bayer designation Alpha Canis Majoris...

 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 engine
Diesel engine
A diesel engine is an internal combustion engine that uses the heat of compression to initiate ignition to burn the fuel, which is injected into the combustion chamber...

s 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
IdleAire Technologies Corporation was a company that provided in-cab services to truckers via centralized systems at truck stops around the United States...

. Many truck stops have load board monitors for truck drivers to find real time information on loads, jobs, weather and news. Most chain truck stops also have WLAN
Wireless LAN
A wireless local area network links two or more devices using some wireless distribution method , and usually providing a connection through an access point to the wider internet. This gives users the mobility to move around within a local coverage area and still be connected to the network...

 Internet access in their parking areas, though most are not free. Idle reduction
Idle reduction
Idle reduction is type of automobile emissions control aimed at reducing the amount of energy wasted by an idling vehicle. When a vehicle's engine is not being used to move the vehicle, it can be shut off entirely—thereby conserving fuel and reducing emissions—while other functions like accessories...

 — reducing the amount of fuel consumed by truck fleets during idling — is an ongoing economical and environmental effort.


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
Chain store
Chain stores are retail outlets that share a brand and central management, and usually have standardized business methods and practices. These characteristics also apply to chain restaurants and some service-oriented chain businesses. In retail, dining and many service categories, chain businesses...

. Truck drivers are a captive market
Captive market
Captive markets are markets where the potential consumers face a severely limited amount of competitive suppliers; their only choices are to purchase what is available or to make no purchase at all. Captive markets result in higher prices and less diversity for consumers...

, 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. Pilot Flying J is currently the largest such chain with over 550 locations (almost all of which are corporate-owned-and-operated), while Roady's Truck Stops
Roady's Truck Stops
Roady's Truck Stops is a chain of independently-owned truck stops in the United States. It is headquartered in New Plymouth, Idaho. With nearly 350 locations in forty-five states, Roady's is the largest truck stop chain in which all of its stores are independently-owned, and second overall in the...

 are the largest franchised
Franchising is the practice of using another firm's successful business model. The word 'franchise' is of anglo-French derivation - from franc- meaning free, and is used both as a noun and as a verb....

 chain with over 350 locations.

In the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 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
Interstate Highway System
The Dwight D. Eisenhower National System of Interstate and Defense Highways, , is a network of limited-access roads including freeways, highways, and expressways forming part of the National Highway System of the United States of America...

 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
TravelCenters of America
TravelCenters of America is the largest "full service" truck stop chain in North America. The majority of customers are professional truck drivers. The corporate headquarters is located in Westlake, Ohio, a suburb of Cleveland...

 also serve the recreational vehicle
Recreational vehicle
Recreational vehicle or RV is, in North America, the usual term for a Motor vehicle or trailer equipped with living space and amenities found in a home.-Features:...

 market. All the national chains have established customer loyalty programs
Loyalty program
Loyalty programs are structured marketing efforts that reward, and therefore encourage, loyal buying behavior — behavior which is potentially beneficial to the firm....

 to promote repeated patronage.

In Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

, most truck stops - usually known as roadhouse
Roadhouse (facility)
A roadhouse is a commercial establishment typically built on a major road or highway, to service passing travellers. Its meaning varies slightly by country.-USA:...

s, as they provide services to cars as well as trucks - are owned by, or are franchises of, oil companies such as Castrol
Castrol is a brand of industrial and automotive lubricants which is applied to a large range of oils, greases and similar products for most lubrication applications...

 and BP
BP p.l.c. is a global oil and gas company headquartered in London, United Kingdom. It is the third-largest energy company and fourth-largest company in the world measured by revenues and one of the six oil and gas "supermajors"...

, but can include other franchises like McDonalds.

In the UK 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 Travelodge
Travelodge refers to several hotel chains around the world. Current operations include: the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Spain, the Republic of Ireland, New Zealand and Australia...

 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
High Street
High Street, or the High Street, is a metonym for the generic name of the primary business street of towns or cities, especially in the United Kingdom. It is usually a focal point for shops and retailers in city centres, and is most often used in reference to retailing...


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 film
A film, also called a movie or motion picture, is a series of still or moving images. It is produced by recording photographic images with cameras, or by creating images using animation techniques or visual effects...

s and novel
A novel is a book of long narrative in literary prose. The genre has historical roots both in the fields of the medieval and early modern romance and in the tradition of the novella. The latter supplied the present generic term in the late 18th century....

s as being somewhat seedy places, frequented by aggressive biker
A motorcycle is a single-track, two-wheeled motor vehicle. Motorcycles vary considerably depending on the task for which they are designed, such as long distance travel, navigating congested urban traffic, cruising, sport and racing, or off-road conditions.Motorcycles are one of the most...

s, petty criminals, and prostitutes (e.g. the "lot lizards" in the JT LeRoy
JT LeRoy
Jeremiah "Terminator" LeRoy was a pseudonym created by American writer Laura Albert. The name was used from 1996 on for publication in magazines such as Nerve and Shout NY. After his first novel Sarah was published, "LeRoy" started making public appearances...

 novel Sarah
Sarah (novel)
Sarah is a novel by Laura Albert using the fictional teenage persona of JT LeRoy, a long-running literary hoax.- Plot introduction :Sarah is a story told by a 12-year-old boy called Cherry Vanilla, whose real name is Jeremiah...

). 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, most truck stops reflect the social environment of their local area; consequently, one occasionally finds seedy truck stops in seedy areas.

See also

  • Iowa 80
    Iowa 80
    Iowa 80 is the world's largest truck stop, located along Interstate 80 off exit 284 in Walcott, Iowa. Set on a plot of land -- of which are currently developed—the site receives 5,000 visitors daily, and features a main building, parking for 800 trucks, and 15 fuel pumps...

     (World's largest truck stop)
  • Rest area
    Rest area
    A rest area, travel plaza, rest stop, or service area is a public facility, located next to a large thoroughfare such as a highway, expressway, or freeway at which drivers and passengers can rest, eat, or refuel without exiting on to secondary roads...

  • Road Ranger
    Road Ranger
    Road Ranger is an American corporation whose primary business is operating convenience stores, gas stations, and travel centers in the Midwestern states of Illinois, Missouri, Iowa, Wisconsin, Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana...

  • Greasy spoon
    Greasy spoon
    Greasy spoon is a colloquial or slang term originating in the United States to mean a small, especially cheap, archetypal working class restaurant or diner. The term is now used in many English speaking countries to mean the same thing...

  • Love's Travel Stops & Country Stores
    Love's Travel Stops & Country Stores
    Love’s Travel Stops & Country Stores is a chain of more than 200 truck stop and convenience stores located in more than 30 states.- History :...

  • TravelCenters of America
    TravelCenters of America
    TravelCenters of America is the largest "full service" truck stop chain in North America. The majority of customers are professional truck drivers. The corporate headquarters is located in Westlake, Ohio, a suburb of Cleveland...

  • Pilot Flying J
  • Dial-a-truck
    Dial-a-Truck is an electronic freight posting service serving North America. It was the first system of its kind and established in 1978....

  • Dhaba
    In India and Pakistan highways are dotted with local restaurants popularly known as dhabas In India and Pakistan highways are dotted with local restaurants popularly known as dhabas In India and Pakistan highways are dotted with local restaurants popularly known as dhabas (singular: dhaba; In India...

  • Ace Cafe (Historic London transport cafe)
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