- Truckers can spend weeks living on the road and a lack of infrastructure has left many without affordable dining options.
- Insider spoke with two truck drivers who explained how they cook gourmet meals on the road.
- The trucking veterans said they find creative ways to cook anything from steak to pizza in their cabs.
28-year trucker Trish Bennett told Insider it can be difficult to find truck stops, let alone stops with adequate food.
“The truck stops don’t really have sit down restaurants anymore,” Bennett said. “It’s usually fast food or coolers of prepackaged food and you definitely get sick of eating that way fast.”
26-year truck driver Derek Rogers said as “mom-and-pop truck stops” have been increasingly replaced with chains they’ve become less “trucker friendly.”
“Most of the spots just don’t agree with us,” Rogers said. “They’re unhealthy and inefficient. I could make three meals for what I’d spend at your standard Denny’s at the truck stop.”
Bennett said the practice had gone by the wayside by the time she joined the industry and has become increasingly uncommon over the past few years due to rising crime rates against truckers and COVID-19 restrictions that left drivers even more isolated during the pandemic.
“Nobody has time for that anymore,” she said. “It’s hard enough to find time to shower and eat on the road these days.
Bennett said the practice was more common before the industry was deregulated in the 1980s. The Motor Carrier Act of 1980 led to large reductions in trucker pay and forced drivers who were paid per load to push themselves even harder to turn a profit — spending up to 14 hours a day on duty, including 11-hours driving.
“Drivers could wrap their food in tin foil and put it by their turbo,” Bennett said. “They could keep driving and have dinner an hour later.”
The engine on a diesel semi truck typically runs at between 195 degrees to 220 degrees.
Rogers told Insider he relies on his air fryer, slow cooker, and Keurig for most meals on the road. His kitchen makes up a two-by-two-foot space in the cab of his truck, right next to his bed.
Before Rogers bought the air fryer in 2020, he said he used a George Foreman grill and a single burner stove top to cook most meals.
Rogers said truckers often share ideas on how to cook on the road and he likes to share pictures of his latest recipes on Facebook — from surf-and-turf to chicken wings, tacos, stuffed mushrooms, and bacon-wrapped asparagus.
“There isn’t much I haven’t tried cooking on the road,” he said. “My wife jokes I eat better in my truck than I do at home.”
She said she carries a 12-volt lunch box with her to heat up food, as well as a slow cooker with plastic liners for easy disposal.
Bennett said she often uses her microwave to cut down on cooking time.
He said he’ll run the slow cooker throughout the day and use plastic liners to cut down on cleaning time at the end of the day.
Rogers told Insider that even loading his fridge before a trip can be a “game of Tetris.”
Bennett and Rogers told Insider that their first meal of the day was typically just a cup of coffee.
Bennett said she typically eats french toast, a bowl of soup, or cereal during a quick break for lunch.
She calls it taking “the lazy way out,” but sometimes its the only way to eat and still have time for ample sleep between drives.
A lot of eating on the road is about time management.
“I can have a pizza made, ate, and a coffee done on a 30 minute break,” he told Insider.
Bennett said she tries to keep her calorie count down when she’s driving and has an exercise bike in her truck that she tries to use as much as possible.
Long-haul truckers are significantly more likely to face health issues as compared to other US workers, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics has consistently ranked trucking as one of the deadliest jobs in the country due to the lack of physical activity, high risk of accidents, and long hours on the road.
Rogers and Bennett said they put most of their energy into cooking a nice dinner after they’ve clocked their 11-hours of driving.
She said cooking on the road requires minimal waste and quick cleanup because you never know when you’ll be able to find your next rest stop or dumpster.
Bennett washes her dishes with hot bottled water she heats up on her single burner. After each meal, her supplies are cleaned and carefully stowed away.
Rogers said he uses his Keurig to heat up water and cleans his dishes in a plastic tub.
Rogers said he often eats leftovers his first night out and on his last night he does his best to clean out his fridge before returning home.