Truck stops aren’t a new concept in American history. The history of truck stops dates further back into the 19th century when stagecoach relay stations presented a resting site for wagon drivers, horses as well as passengers. These passengers not only had the opportunity to stretch and relax, but also fill their stomachs. But with the invention of gas-fuelled vehicles by Henry Ford, this provided an avenue for an average American individual to own a car. As a result, there was a massive boost in the development and establishment of truckstops along the roads and highways.
Initially, service station owners presumed that their customers would be individuals who traveled by car, little did they know that their operations would open the doors to truck drivers and that would be their major source of earnings.
World War I gave a remarkable improvement to the trucking industry. Previously, trucks were too undersized to cart much in a single load and they just weren’t effective. Usually, they broke down and the truckers repaired these trucks by themselves. The war altered that, as trucks were considered necessary abroad, as well as at home to convey supplies to the rail stations.
World War II further heightened the need for truckers as the trucking industry persistently grew. Many trucks were powered with diesel fuel, thus generating the need for truck drivers as well as new merchandise for truck stops to put in the market.
The 1940s and 1950s witnessed the evolution of truck stops from a more ad hoc industry to one that was more cautiously designed specifically with the interest of long haul truckers at heart. In 1948, Fred Bosselman (who was a trucker and farmer) together with his wife, established the Bosselman and Eaton Truck Stop in Grand Island, Nebraska for business. In 1965, the Bosselman Truck Plaza, also known as the "Truck Stop of Tomorrow," opened its doors for business and was located on the new Interstate 80. This gave a foretaste about how the trucking industry would look in the years to come. Till date, the Bosselman truck stops are still open for business across the United States.
In 1956, President Dwight Eisenhower signed the Federal Interstate Highway Act which propelled the construction of 41,000 miles of new interstate roads. This led to a boost in the truck stop business.
Independent truck stops were sited along with the first chains, which were owned by the oil companies such as Amoco, Skelly, and Pure. As trucks became bigger, there was need to acquire more land mass in order to accommodate more trucks at the truck stops. This led to the epoch of multi-acre truck stop establishment and ownership.
In 1972, Truckstops of America (now recognized as TravelCenters of America) opened its first six locations. Also, Petro, as well as the Iron Skillet restaurant opened for operations around the same time.
In 1970, truck stops were referred to as travel plazas in order for it to appeal not only to the truckers, but also the general public at large. Today, the creation of travel plazas has not only made it possible to accommodate truckers, but also a mix of travelers.