he U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) yesterday issued a notice to State Departments of Transportation that the agency is suspending enforcement measures under the Federal-aid Highway Program for States that choose to permit commercial food trucks to operate and sell food, in accordance with state laws, in designated federally funded Interstate Highway rest areas.
America’s truck drivers, undoubtedly the backbone of America have faced increasing challenges finding food along the road as COVID-19 forces states effectively lock down. As previously reported, truck drivers were called on to carry essential goods to replenish shelves, carry medical goods and products needed as part of the COVID-19 relief effort. Drivers struggled to find a hot meal on the road, as more restaurants are forced to practice social distancing and close down dine in seating. Several fast food chains were initially not permitting drivers to walk up to drive-thru’s citing company policies prohibiting that. In recent days we have seen growing support for the trucking industry as a whole.
“America’s commercial truck drivers are working day and night during this pandemic to ensure critical relief supplies are being delivered to our communities,” said FHWA Administrator Nicole R. Nason. “I am grateful to our state transportation partners for bringing this idea to the Department and for their leadership in thinking outside the box. It is critical to make sure truck drivers continue to have access to food services while they’re on the job serving our nation during these challenging times.”
By statute, commercial activity in the federally funded Interstate right-of-way is prohibited with limited exceptions. The FHWA Administrator has the discretion to take any action deemed appropriate to bring a State into compliance with these federal requirements. However, given the extreme and unprecedented nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, Administrator Nason is choosing not to take remedial measures against States that allow food trucks to provide food in rest areas off the federally funded Interstate right-of-way for the duration of the national emergency declared by the President in response to the COVID-19 public health crisis.
Since these actions are temporary, States must come back into compliance with federal law once the Presidentially-declared emergency ends. Any States that do not come back into compliance after the emergency is over may be subject to remedial measures designed to achieve compliance.