February 26, 2024

Keeping Media and Government Accountable.

Kelly, KDOT deny truckers hot, tasty food despite federal waiver

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For long-haul truckers a good meal is important — and often not available — particularly during this era of state-mandated lockdowns shuttering many of the eateries they normally rely on.

In response, the Federal Highway Administration has waived regulations which have long-prohibited food trucks from operating at rest-stops.

Several states — notably Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Minnesota, New Mexico, Ohio, and West Virginia — have responded by issuing special permits.

However, as public interest law firm Institute for Justice’s Jessica Gandy and Daryl James wrote in a guest column for Gannett Kansas, Governor Laura Kelly’s response has been “let them eat Cheetos.”

Both the Kansas Policy Institute, which owns the Sentinel, and IJ reached out to Kelly asking her to join other states in waiving the regulations, both to help truckers find more nourishing– and tastier — meals, but also to help stimulate the Kansas economy.

KPI President James Franko wrote in his letter that both goals were important.

“Allowing food trucks to operate at our rest stops is a small, but important step, to getting Kansas back on track by providing a new outlet for food truck entrepreneurs,” Frank wrote. “This action would provide a new market for Kansas food truck operators. 

“Arguably of more importance, allowing food trucks to operate would provide a small pleasure to over-the-road truckers that are keeping our grocery stores stocked, feedlots full, and medical supplies in the hands of those who need them the most.”

Kansas mobile restaurateurs are ready, one Wichita mobile eatery — B.S. Sandwich Press — said they consider it a civic duty.

“We pride ourselves on serving unique sandwiches that you can’t get anywhere else,” co-owner Jodie Buchanan says. “And we would consider it a civic duty to help the truckers who are keeping the country running during this difficult time.”

However, the Kansas Department of Transportation apparently feels that truckers don’t deserve tasty sandwiches like the Raspby Bird Panini — made to order with raspberry-jalapeno cream cheese, organic greens, red onion and mesquite-smoked turkey on a French bread hoagie brushed in olive oil — and has refused to allow the trucks to operate at rest stops, blaming a lack of parking and saying delivery, take out and convenience stores are sufficient to feed long-haul truckers.

“Each KDOT rest area has a finite amount of parking available and allowing food trucks would reduce available truck and vehicle parking at our rest areas,” Kansas Secretary of Transportation Julie L. Lorenz wrote in a response. “From the beginning of the pandemic and through its height, restaurants and truck stops have been and continue to be allowed to serve take-out food and provide food delivery. Allowing such services has given truck drivers an option for obtaining nutritious meals.”

Buchanan told IJ, this remains a missed opportunity.

“It would be a situation that would be mutually beneficial for truckers and small business owners during a period of high unemployment,” she said.

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