The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) is moving forward with a proposal to apply federal standards to existing truckstops and similar privately-owned facilities off the Interstate system to qualify them as an “Interstate Oasis.” The agency is seeking comments on its proposal, which was published in the Federal Register.
The public-private measure is designed to reduce the need for states to maintain revenue-losing rest areas while addressing truck parking shortages.
The agency is requesting comments to establish minimum standards for such facilities to qualify as an Interstate Oasis, particularly on whether a minimum criteria that establishes a number of truck parking spaces should be established.
Interstate Oasis sites would have to be easily accessible from the Interstate system, open 24/7, provide fuel, oil, food, sanitary facilities, and “adequate” parking for trucks with a maximum duration limit of no less than 10 hours.
Utah and Vermont have implemented programs for the designation of such off-Interstate facilities, FHWA said. Louisiana is in the process of rolling out such a program.
The American Assn. of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) has long advocated the privatization of rest areas to reduce state upkeep of such facilities while maintaining truck parking spots. However, sharp opposition from business interests off the Interstate system had derailed that approach. The FHWA was directed by the August SAFETEA-LU to develop the Interstate Oasis Program as an alternative.
According to NATSO (the National Assn. of Truck Stop Operators) the program would draw additional traffic to its membership and allow states to close down rest areas while still meeting demand for parking.
The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Assn. is concerned there would be less truck parking spaces as a result of the program if states close rest areas.
“We are very concerned states will interpret this as an opportunity to close existing rest areas,” Todd Spencer, OOIDA executive vp told FleetOwner, noting that there is no provision in the program that ensures more truck parking spaces would be available if it gets rolled out. “We certainly don’t want that to happen. While drivers generally prefer truckstops over rest areas, there’s not enough parking to start closing rest areas. This might exacerbate a problem that’s already epidemic around many urban areas.”
Comments must be submitted by April 28 and may be filed electronically at http://dms.dot.gov/submit