A study released Tuesday by the U.S. DOT's Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) shows that parking areas for trucks and buses along major roads and highways are more than adequate across the nation when both public and commercial parking facilities are factored in.
The study included a state-by-state breakdown of commercial and public rest areas. Based on that combination, the study showed a sufficient supply in eight states, a surplus in 29 states and a shortage in 12 states.
Shortages at commercial truck stops and travel plazas were far less common and largely offset public shortages in 35 states.
Alaska was excused from the study because it did not report a supply of commercial spaces.
The study said that public rest areas along the National Highway System (NHS) were never intended and will never be sufficient to accommodate truck-parking demand.
As a result, commercial truck stop and travel plaza industry, state highway agencies and turnpike authorities should and will continue to be principal suppliers of parking facilities for commercial vehicles along major roads and highways nationwide, FHWA said.
The study showed that an estimated 315,850 parking spaces at public rest areas and commercial truck stops and travel plazas serve Interstate highways and other NHS routes. About 90% of those spaces were in commercial truck stops and travel plazas and about 10% were in public rest areas.
The study, which was mandated by the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21), included a nationwide estimate of peak-hour demand for commercial truck parking facilities at public rest areas and commercial truck stops and travel plazas.
The demand estimate for truck parking facilities was based on total hours of travel, time and duration of stops, and current Federal hours-of-service regulations.
The response of the states to the adequacy of truck parking issues varies. Some states say that they expect expansion of commercial truck stop and travel plaza facilities will meet the demand for truck parking. Others are involved in public-private partnerships to seek new solutions to the truck parking issues.
“Safety is our highest transportation priority, and we must find ways to reduce fatigue- related crashes,” FHWA Administrator Mary E. Peters said. “We are working with our state and local partners, as well as with the private sector, to make sure that drivers of trucks and buses have sufficient parking areas for rest stops when they reach their hours-of-service limit.”
The findings of the report directly support the longstanding position of NATSO, the trade association representing truckstop and travel plaza operators. While rest areas in 35 states were found to be at capacity, only eight were identified as having a shortage of private truckstop spaces, according to the report.
In addition, the report found that while only public rest areas and private truckstop spaces were counted in the supply model, over 20% of drivers used other locations, such as loading docks and truck terminals, for rest.
"We are gratified that this federal study has discredited the myth that this country suffers from a nationwide parking shortage," said NATSO vp of government affairs Scot Imus. "This comprehensive report validates our position that shortages exist only in isolated parts of the country where the private sector has been prevented from meeting the needs of its customers."
American Trucking Assns. (ATA) president William Canary said his group supports DOT's recommendations to solve the problem, including direct and indirect federal funding for truck parking facilities and the possible commercialization or privatization of public rest areas.
"Common sense safety practices lead us to strongly support the recommendation to prohibit states from engaging in the absurd practice of forcing truck drivers out of public rest areas, especially when they would be in violation of Federal hours-of-service regulations," Canary said.
ATA said it also agrees with the proposal to establish minimum standards for truck stops to assure an acceptable level of safety and security for both truck drivers and their cargo.