The lack of safe parking has been an issue for commercial truck drivers for years, interfering with their ability to take necessary rest periods to avoid fatigue and practice proper safety habits. To combat this, House Representatives Mike Bost (R-Ill.) and Angie Craig (D-Minn.) have introduced the Truck Parking Safety Improvement Act with the goal to establish a set-aside source of funds from existing U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) funding to create safe parking spots.
The funding could be used for the construction of new truck parking facilities, expansion of truck parking at existing rest areas, conversion of space at existing weigh stations, or any other innovative solution that increases capacity, explained The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA). Funding would be awarded on a competitive basis and applicants would be required to submit detailed proposals to the DOT.
“The severe shortage of safe parking presents truckers with an untenable dilemma: either keep driving when they are fatigued and possibly in violation of their federal hours-of-service requirement—or park in unsafe, sometimes illegal locations, such as a roadside shoulder,” said American Trucking Associations (ATA) President and CEO Chris Spear. “The health and well-being of our drivers, the safety of the motoring public, and the sustainability of our supply chain all depend on Congress addressing this issue with adequate funding in a surface transportation bill."
In 2012, Congress passed Jason’s Law in honor of Jason Rivenburg, a truck driver in South Carolina who couldn’t find safe parking and settled on an abandoned gas station, where he was shot dead for $7. With the help of Rivenburg’s wife, Hope, along with other family members, friends, and representatives from the trucking industry, national attention has been brought to the issue.
Jason’s Law, a study released in 2015 from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), determined that “most states reported having truck parking shortages occurring at all times of the day on every day of the week.”
That study was updated in 2019, finding there are approximately 313,000 truck parking spaces nationally—40,000 at public rest areas and 273,000 at private truck stops. Between 2014 and 2019, there was a 6% increase in public truck parking spaces and an 11% increase in private parking spaces. However, state Departments of Transportation reported that not many new public facilities or spaces are being developed and that challenges exist in planning, funding, and accommodating truck parking.
Since then, safety advocates have been working to educate and prove the need for increased safety for drivers.
In March 2019, IIS Smart Parking solutions for trucks at rest stops were completed in Ohio, part of the Mid America Association of State Transportation Officials (MAASTO) initiative, which unites eight Midwestern states in the nation’s first Regional Truck Parking Information Management System (TPIMS).
Through IIS Smart Parking, 18 rest stops along Ohio’s Interstates 70, 75 and U.S. Route 33 were fitted with in-ground sensors, which provide information on how many parking spots are open and available for use. That information is then relayed and broadcast – in real-time – on highway signs, so truck drivers will know the availability of parking spaces at the upcoming rest stop.
“The federal government has recognized the parking issue and has stepped up to offer states funds to implement a truck parking management system,” said Brian Heath, president and CEO of ISS, who explained that federal grant money is also available to help states offer rest stop parking notifications. “We expect states with parking issues to take advantage of the funding to make highways safer, and drivers more productive. If a driver can’t find a spot, and their hours of service are about to expire, they’ll often resort to using unauthorized parking spaces, or park on highway shoulders or ramps. By providing real-time information on parking spots, states have the ability to make an impact on the problem.”
OOIDA President Todd Spencer stated that truckers often wonder if anyone in Washington is listening.
“The introduction of the Truck Parking Safety Improvement Act shows that not only are some members of Congress listening, but lawmakers from across the political spectrum are willing to step up and address one of the greatest concerns for professional drivers – the national shortage of safe truck parking," Spencer said. "OOIDA is proud to support this important legislation and will continue to work with our bipartisan champions and industry partners to get it passed.”
Currently, there are more than 11 truck drivers for every one parking space, according to ATA. Studies show that 98% of drivers report problems finding safe truck parking, and the average driver spends 56 minutes of available drive time every day looking for parking. That wasted time amounts to a $5,500 loss in annual compensation – or a 12% annual pay cut. Moreover, 58% of all drivers admit to parking in unauthorized or undesignated spots at least three times per week to meet their parking needs.
“I grew up in a family trucking business and spent years driving over the road,” said Bost. “Since then, we’ve seen the need for more trucks and drivers increase significantly, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic when trucking helped to keep our economy going. However, the number of truck parking spaces hasn’t kept pace. That means that drivers are forced to park in unsafe locations, which puts both them and other motorists at risk. Creating sufficient parking options for long-haul truckers will not only help keep truckers safe during their rest breaks but will also mean safer roads for everyone.”