A new Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) program eases commercial truck drivers’ hunt for meals during the COVID-19 pandemic
OREGON – The Federal Highway Administration announced April 3 it would suspend a rule banning food trucks at rest areas along federally-funded highways as long as the country is under the current Declaration of National Emergency.
The Oregon Commission for the Blind has been authorized to issue renewable one-week permits for nearly 30 rest areas along U.S. highways in Oregon. The state agency works with blind vendors, who under federal law operate vending and other limited food options at the rest areas. Food trucks issued temporary state permits pay a 10 percent commission on their profits to the vendor who operates each rest area.
Two trucks have opened at Oregon rest areas so far. Tasty Treasures operates at the Suncrest rest area on Interstate 5, south of Medford. Okie Taco is at the Weatherby rest area on Interstate 84 east of Baker City. Two more operators plan to open by next week at I-5 rest areas at French Prairie, near Wilsonville, and the Santiam rest area south of Salem. Another food truck is expected to open soon at the Boardman rest area on I-84.
“We really appreciate the opportunity to work the rest area,” said Tasty Treasures’ co-owner, Veronica Noble.
Truck drivers, relied on now more than ever to keep shelves stocked across the country, say that closures have made it difficult to stop for a hot meal. (Most semis don’t fit through a drive-through.)
Eric Morris, Business Enterprise Program Director for the Oregon Commission for the Blind, said vendors can apply to operate at their choice of the dozens of rest areas, which are primarily along I-5, I-84, and U.S. Highway 97.
Morris said the opportunity is new to both vendors and truckers. Vendors don’t know how many customers they will get. Truck drivers don’t know which rest areas will have vendors. The whole operation has to stop when the emergency declaration is lifted by the White House.
“I wish we knew how long this will go on – for now, it’s week to week,” Morris said. “As long as the declaration lasts.”
Gary Gaede, a truck driver who makes his runs from LA to Seattle, stopped to enjoy a French dip and coffee at the Tasty Treasures food cart near Medford.
“I really like the food carts and hope other states will follow Oregon’s lead,” he said.
Food truck vendors interested in the program can call Teresa Field, Business Development Specialist with the Oregon Commission for the Blind at (503) 961-4261; email at [email protected].