Who benefits in the Valley now that food trucks can open at highway rest stops

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Even the coronavirus can't stop truck traffic moving goods up and down Highway 99 through the Central Valley.

But some truckers complained the statewide stay-at-home orders have left them with a lot fewer options for eating along the way. So in stepped Governor Gavin Newsom and Caltrans, allowing permits for food trucks to operate at highway rest stops.

"We're all experiencing unprecedented hardships as we collectively fight COVID-19," said Caltrans media representative Chris Clark. "By doing this, it gives truckers another option to find a hot meal when they're up and down crisscrossing the state delivering these essential items."

On the surface, it sounded like a natural fit and a great deal for everyone: truckers get more options. Food truck operators get more potential to earn money.

But not all truckers figure they need more options. Larry Boone got carne asada tacos Monday at Taqueria el Mexicano, parked at a Tulare County truck stop.
He told us he'd probably never find this food truck at a rest area.

"I don't stop at rest stops very often," Boone said. "I still stop at the truck stops where some of them you can still get good to go."

And then the Valley's geography comes into play.

Boone ate tacos a stone's throw from one of the two Highway 99 rest stops in Tulare County. There are none in Fresno County, which has only one in the entire county: along Interstate-5 near Coalinga.

Caltrans will only allow food trucks to operate at rest stops in the county where they already have a permit. That's not much help for the huge number of Fresno food trucks watching their options dry up.
And Taco Truck Throwdown organizer Mike Oz says the state added an extra layer of red tape a lot of operators just don't have time to cut through.

"The goal is to feed the truck drivers," said Mike Osegueda, AKA Mike Oz. "The goal is to help the food trucks. It's a great idea. It's a great match. But how can we make the regulations smoother, make the path to get there smoother."

The permits are free, and a Caltrans media representative told Action News they've heard Oz's complaints and tried to make the permitting process easier.

Food trucks can apply online through the Caltrans website. Whether any of them can make money is still up in the air.

One Visalia operator told Action News he has no intention of taking his business to a rest stop where nobody knows about his chicken and rice.

For more news coverage on the coronavirus and COVID-19 go to ABC30.com/coronavirus
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