The Untold History of Truck Stops

Did you know that the next time you pull into your favorite truck stop you’re following in the footsteps of the famed Pony Express of the Wild West? It’s true! Our modern all-in-one stops have their roots with those famed delivery riders of American legend. pony-express-print-72dpi_op_631x474

The_old_TrainJust as when the Pony Express riders first hit the trails in the 1860s, travelers today still need a place to rest, eat, and refuel. In the early days these stops were little more than a spot to change horses on the 2,000 mile route between Missouri and California. It wasn’t until stagecoaches full of travelers began crossing the West that stagecoach stations began offering meals and lodging.  With the rise of trains and the railroad passengers could travel longer distances more quickly, and in greater numbers. Stops along the railroad continued to evolve, offering weary travelers more and more services and commodities.


3880199339_9ab3e08b52_zLike horses before them, the trains were soon replaced. Now it was time for the internal combustion engine and automobiles to reign supreme. The new generation of travelers in their own vehicles also would need a place to rest, stretch out, grab a bite to eat, and most importantly…refuel their vehicle. The first truck stops catering to these needs were simple affairs…a mom and pop diner with a few pumps out front in most cases. It wasn’t until the Interstate system was constructed in the 1950s and 60s that we began to see the large franchises with their wide array of services on offer.

By the 1980s these stops had evolved into the sprawling, family friendly “travel plazas” that we know today. Owners made efforts to distance themselves from the negative reputation that truck stops once had, and added new services that were once unheard of on the road, such as movie theaters, gift shops, restaurants and more. While most of these modern stops fall into the “cookie cutter” variety, there are still some unique places to fill up and relax on the American Roadways. has a few recommendations when looking for a unique stop:

  • 20131023-South-Of-The-Border-2Iowa 80 Truckstop: A massive 600 acre destination that features a trucking museum, dentist, barbershop, movie theater and even a chiropractor!
  • South of the Border: This historic Mexican themed stop is located in Hamer, South Carolina and features such unique attractions as a reptile lagoon, carnival style rides, and a restaurant shaped like a sombrero!
  • Sierra Sids: This stop in Sparks, Nevada offers casino gambling, a gun collection on display and lots of John Wayne memorabilia.


Unique attractions aren’t usually what many drivers are looking for on the road however. Most drivers would say the best fuel price tops that list.  Other things drivers look for are adequate parking, quality food options, entertainment and relaxation amenities. Even showers and laundry options are factors many drivers take into consideration when choosing a stop.

Bulk Transporter also has some interesting Truck Stop Facts:

  • There are currently around 2500 truck stops in the United States. The National Association of Truck Stop Operators defines a “truck stop” as anywhere with at least one shower, 15 parking spaces, and that offers diesel fuel.
  • There are around 6,000 locations that sell diseel but do not offer other amenities to classify it as a truck stop.
  • Iowa 80 has 950 overnight truck parking spaces!
  • Florida 595 Truck Stop in Davie, Florida offers 500 overnight spaces!
  • The largest tuck stop on Interstate 5 is Jubitz in Portland Oregon. This stop offers 325 overnight parking spaces.