The History of Truck Stops

Written by
Jennifer Smith
Published on
July 27, 2022 at 7:17:00 AM PDT July 27, 2022 at 7:17:00 AM PDTth, July 27, 2022 at 7:17:00 AM PDT

The Popularity of Truck Stops

Truck stops have seen major improvements since their conception in the 1940s. What started as an executive order from the president has turned into welcoming travel centers full of colorful shops, restaurants, and bathrooms for both motorists and truckers alike. Let’s discuss the evolution of truck stops.

Where It All Began

It’s no secret that with the evolution of commercial vehicles, and higher demand for truckers, drivers needed a place to rest and refuel their trucks and bellies. When President Dwight Eisenhower signed the Federal Interstate Highway Act, he called for the construction of over 41,000 miles of new interstate highway which led to an ever-growing need for more truck drivers and rest areas for them. That’s when truck stops, or travel plazas as they are more commonly referred to as, were born.

The First Truck Stop

As a farmer and truck driver himself, Fred Bosselman noted the need for truck stops and in 1948 opened the first truck stop in Grand Island, Nebraska called Bosselman and Eaton Truck Stop. This truck stop was placed along U.S. Highway 30. These truck stops provided good old country cooking to truckers looking for a hot meal while giving them the opportunity to fuel up their vehicles. While there are still several Bosselman truck stops in business, the independent truck stops are being gobbled up by larger chain truck stops.

The First Chain Truck Stop

TruckStops of America, now TravelCenters of America (TA), opened six locations to the public in 1972 thanks to founder Phil Saunders. These locations were conveniently placed along the interstate for easy access and continued to grow with over 270 full-service locations in 44 U.S. states plus some in Canada as of 2018. They employ over 20,000 individuals and had $6.1 billion in revenue in 2019.

The Largest Truck Stops in America

While you would think that the largest U.S. truck stop would be TA, it is Pilot Flying J. This truck-stop operator giant has over 750 locations where truckers can go to grab a quick meal, fuel up and get 24-hour roadside assistance, if needed. There are also truck care centers, too.

State With the Largest Truck Stop

Iowa 80 in Walcott, Iowa has received high marks boasting over 900 parking spots for tractor-trailers and has earned the title as the “World’s Largest Truck Stop.” According to their website, this truck stop with 225 acres of land offer eight restaurant options, a barber shop, chiropractor, dentist, movie theater, workout room, laundry facilities, gas islands, diesel fuel center and 24-private showers, among other amenities – all open 24/7 since 1964!

Other Countries with Truck Stops

While the U.S. has an impressive list of truck stops across the nation, Europe, Mexico, and Canada all have their fair share of truck stops that help local economies flourish.

Do Truckers Like Truck Stops?

Most truckers seem to appreciate the convenience of truck stops and like the ease of getting in-and-out of parking spots without fighting too much traffic from smaller motor vehicles. They also enjoy taking a break from the daily grind with the entertainment that some provide.

Keep On Visiting Truck Stops!

Today, NATSO represents more than 2500 truck stops and travel centers for cars, trucks, and heavy-duty commercial vehicles to visit. Which one is your favorite?