Fuel Retailers and Community Leaders Urge Congress to Oppose Commercial Rest Areas

A coalition that included NACS sent a letter to Congress asking that interstate rest areas not be commercialized as part of infrastructure legislation.

June 15, 2017

ALEXANDRIA, Va. – This week, a diverse coalition from restaurants and fuel retailers to city governments, trucking firms and blind entrepreneurs asked key lawmakers to oppose efforts to commercialize interstate rest areas as Congress considers infrastructure legislation.

The Trump administration's recent proposal to allow the sale of food, fuel and other commercial services at interstate rest areas would drain local businesses of customers, communities of much-needed jobs, and city governments of critical tax revenue by putting established businesses in direct competition with state governments. At the same time, it would give the state an unfair competitive advantage by granting the state direct access to highway motorists, the groups said in letters to Congress.

Further, upending long-established policy prohibiting commercial rest areas threatens the livelihood of the nation’s blind merchants, who service the vending machines at rest areas, and would hinder the U.S. Department of Transportation’s goal of expanding commercial truck parking capacity nationwide.

“Congress effectively privatized highway services in 1960, when Congress prohibited states from offering commercial services at rest areas along the Interstate Highway System specifically so that private sector entities would grow and provide services to the traveling public," said Lisa Mullings, president/CEO of the National Association of Truck Stop Owners (NATSO). “Established businesses including travel plazas, convenience stores, restaurants and hotels are already meeting the needs of highway travelers. … Commercializing Interstate rest areas would create far more problems than it will solve.”

In many rural communities located near interstates, gas stations, restaurants, convenience stores, truck stops and hotels represent the largest amount from local taxpayers, contributing more than $22.5 billion in state and local taxes. These funds help support schools, police and fire departments and other vital public services.

The letters (House Letter, Senate Letter) to Congress were signed by: 

  • NACS
  • Asian American Hotel Owners Association
  • International Franchise Association
  • National Automatic Merchandising Association
  • National Council of Chain Restaurants
  • National Federation of the Blind
  • National Franchisee Association
  • National League of Cities
  • National Restaurant Association
  • National Tank Truck Carriers
  • Petroleum Marketers Association of America
  • Society of Independent Gasoline Marketers of America

In the past, NACS has opposed efforts to commercialize rest stop areas and will continue to oppose these efforts," said Paige Anderson, NACS director of government relations.