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Heller: Don't assume Congress understands truck parking

Aug. 22, 2023
Raising your voice is key to cutting the time it takes to find parking spots. It's a mistake to assume lawmakers are aware of how dire the need for parking is.

“Don’t assume, because when you do, you make an ass out of u and me” is an adage almost everyone has heard. I had a college professor who used it nearly weekly. And if you’re anything like me, the saying has been used enough to last two lifetimes (full disclosure: I still roll it out occasionally when speaking with my son). This adage comes to mind when I walk the halls of Congress and discuss the issue of truck parking because if you assume our U.S. representatives understand this issue and how severe the parking shortage is, you’d be wrong.

Parking has become the No. 1 issue for professional drivers today, but a fix is available to solve this crisis. Now it is up to us to discuss this issue and find a solution. Under the Truck Parking Safety Improvement Act, introduced in the House of Representatives and Senate, $755 million is earmarked for improving safe and secure parking for commercial vehicles over three years.

We can’t assume—yes, there’s that word—that Congress knows how vital this issue is to our industry. Here’s how dire things are: Most truckers struggle to find safe and secure truck parking on our roads today because there is only one available spot for every 11 drivers. Many drivers are placed in the unenviable position of choosing between compliance with the hours-of-service regulations or parking illegally, a conundrum that no driver should ever face.

See also: Fontana: It’s time to weigh in on the truck parking problem

Participating in visits to D.C. and the halls of Congress is a surefire way to spread the word. The Truckload Carriers Association has its own Call on Washington event set for Sept. 25, and state trucking associations hold them sporadically throughout the year. It would be a mistake on our part to assume (there’s that word yet again—my professor would be so proud) our representatives are aware of just how dire the situation is when we stress the urgent need for this bill and its dedicated funding.

Unfortunately, this all comes on the heels of a tragic accident in southern Illinois in mid-July, when a Greyhound bus collided with three tractor-trailers parked on an Interstate 70 exit ramp near St. Louis, killing three passengers on the bus. We can all agree that exit ramps are not the best places for truck drivers to park. Still, with so few options available, this scenario repeats itself along interstates across the country every day, so it is inevitable that other incidents will occur. The investigation into this accident continues to be ongoing, but as an industry, we can help solve this problem by continuing to lobby our legislators to pass laws addressing truck parking issues.

See also: Truck Parking Club offers real-time parking information at 143 locations

The talking points should be quite clear:

  • The parking shortage is a financial burden to our nation’s professional truck drivers, who lose on average $5,500 in annual compensation searching for safe and secure parking.
  • Jason’s Law, named after a driver who was robbed at gunpoint and killed when he parked at an abandoned fuel stop, cited a 2019 U.S. Department of Transportation report that found 98% of drivers regularly experience problems finding safe parking. The 2019 findings represent an increase from 75% of drivers who had reported problems just four years prior.
  • The DOT report also found parking shortages in every state and region nationwide.

The efficiency of our nation’s fragile supply chain continues to be examined, so gaining time for our drivers to advance their loads rather than searching for safe and secure parking should be at the forefront of conversations that we have with legislators and that they have with one another. Undoubtedly, drivers would continue to move the needle on productivity if they could drive. 

Assuming (beg your pardon, there’s that word one … last … time) our legislators know the issue is one thing, but guaranteeing they know the problem is something entirely different. As an industry, we have a powerful voice and can ensure our message is heard by sending stakeholders to Capitol Hill to emphasize the importance of the Truck Parking Safety Improvement Act and ensure that the legislation is given the highest priority. Our drivers deserve more and safer parking options and no less than more rewarding and profitable careers. This would be a win for everybody.

David Heller is the senior vice president of safety and government affairs at the Truckload Carriers Association. Heller has worked for TCA since 2005, initially as director of safety, and most recently as the VP of government affairs.

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