The Iowa 80 Truckstop, hailed as the world's largest truckstop, is getting even bigger.
Construction is underway on a $10 million expansion and remodeling project at the Walcott truckstop, owned by the Iowa 80 Group. The expansion will add 23,000 square feet to the already 100,000-square-foot main building. It will create a larger convenience store, additional retail space and relocate and expand the food court.
"It's a re-make of everything," said Delia Moon Meier, Iowa 80 Group's senior vice president.
The work is the latest expansion for the sprawling 200-acre truckstop at Exit 284 on Interstate 80.
The projects will shift the truckstop's existing food court restaurants into the new addition, which also will include space for another new food court tenant for a total of 10 restaurants. The existing food court space then will be remodeled to house a larger convenience store with its own kitchen to prepare expanded offerings of healthy grab-and-go foods. A section of that area will be re-purposed for additional gift store space.
Meier said changes in the trucking industry are driving the need for more convenience foods. "We see (truckers buying) a lot more grab-and-go food. They don't stop and have lunch. Now they're stopping at the end of their day, eating a full meal, taking showers and watching T.V."
Heather DeBaillie, Iowa 80 Group's marketing manager, said the shift is in response to a new electronic logging device rule, or ELD mandate, which takes effect in December.
Under the new rule, published two years ago by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, truck drivers now will be required to electronically record their drive hours — switching away from paper logs. Federal law limits truckers to 11 hours of daily driving.
"Once their day starts, the drivers keep going because they're on the clock," Meier added. "They're not even going to have fast food, that's not fast enough."
The result, DeBaillie said is "They will have time to fuel and get back on the road. So it will shift the time of day when we are the busiest."
For Meier, whose father Bill Moon founded the truckstop in 1964, the expansion is about keeping the family business competitive and sustainable.
"Competition is fierce," she said. "We compete against several of the largest companies in the U.S. They have 500 truckstops, 800 truckstops. We have one."
Each day, the iconic truckstop must show travelers that an independent operator can provide a better choice, Meier said. "A lot of people work here. We support their jobs, my job. The only way we do it is by doing a good job, being welcoming, innovating."
The new construction is Phase Two of a three-phase project that began last year with infrastructure upgrades and the installation of new gas islands northwest of the building. The work included new upgrades to drainage, new fiber optic network and new transformers "to support fast charging for cars" in the future, she added. "Those transformers take the same amount of electricity as it takes to power this whole building."
Construction is being completed by Davenport-based Russell. The project's architect was Greg Gowey of Studio 483 Architects.
The latest work also will create a new main entrance that will be flanked by concrete piers holding a large 3-D globe sculpture to remind visitors of its world's largest truckstop status. Asked what makes I-80 the largest, Meier said "The number of acres, the number of truck parking spots, the size of the building, the number of services we offer, and the number of restaurants."
On average, 5,000 travelers come through I-80 Truckstop each day. The complex employs about 500 people.
DeBaillie said the parking lot can hold 900 trucks or "1,200 in a snowstorm."
In Phase Three, construction crews will create a tree-lined boulevard with lights to lead drivers to the diesel islands, truck service center, Truckomat truck wash and truck parking areas. "There will even be a beautiful arch welcoming drivers into the truck entrance," Meier said. "We really want this to have a Main Street USA feel."
Many of I-80 truckstop's other features and services — many of which have had recent upgrades — will not be altered, including the 24-hour Iowa 80 Kitchen restaurant, the trucking accessory store and Super Truck Showroom, and the Trucker's Loft, an area where drivers can get a shower, do their laundry, exercise, watch a movie or television, visit the chapel, or visit a chiropractor, dentist or barber.
"A lot of other truckstop operations have built multiple truckstops, we concentrate on just a couple of large ones," Meier said.
The Iowa 80 Group's other truck stops are in Joplin and Oak Grove, Missouri, and Kenly, North Carolina. The company also owns Truckomats in North Little Rock, Arkansas; Temple, Georgia; Effingham, Illinois; Indianapolis, Indiana; Walcott, Iowa; Joplin and Oak Grove, Missouri; Kenly, North Carolina; Hebron, Ohio; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; and Laredo, Texas. In addition, Iowa 80 Group owns CAT Scale Co., the Iowa 80 Trucking Museum and the IOWA80.COM mail-order trucking accessories catalog and e-commerce site.
The expansion and remodeling are scheduled to be completed by late 2018. The project will be updated on the Iowa 80-World's Largest Truckstop Facebook page.