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February 24, 2022 1:35 PM, EST

ATA, OOIDA Urge Buttigieg to Commit Funds to Truck Parking

Parked trucksATA President Chris Spear said wasted time looking for parking amounts to a $5,500 loss in annual compensation for drivers. (vitpho/Getty Images)

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Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg is being urged to prioritize infrastructure funds to boost the nation’s truck parking capacity.

In a letter to the secretary Feb. 18, American Trucking Associations and the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association said that a truck parking shortage has “plagued America’s truckers for decades, with a wide range of consequences for highway safety, driver health and well-being, supply chain efficiency and the environment.”

“Washington needs to listen to our nation’s truck drivers and respect their most serious needs,” the letter also said. “They are the heartbeat of our economy and directly support the frontlines in the fight against COVID — a battle that will only be won with the help of the trucking industry.”

ATA Letter to Transportatio... by Transport Topics

The trade groups’ letter said that it is critical for the Department of Transportation to coordinate with the White House, state departments of transportation, Congress and other stakeholders.

“Year after year, surveys show the severe lack of truck parking ranks amongst drivers’ top concerns,” ATA President Chris Spear said in a statement. “More than 98% of drivers report problems finding safe parking, burning more than 56 minutes of available drive time every day to find it. That wasted time amounts to a $5,500 loss in annual compensation — or a 12% pay cut.”

National Coalition on Truck Parking by Transport Topics on Scribd

The nationwide shortage of truck parking capacity has been well-documented for decades, and the most recent iteration of USDOT’s Jason’s Law Report demonstrates that the problem is worsening over time, the letter said. “The 2019 Jason’s Law Report found that 98% of drivers regularly experience problems finding safe parking — a sharp uptick from the 75% figure reported just four years earlier in the 2015 report.”

Jason’s Law is named for Jason Rivenburg, a New York truck driver who was murdered at an abandoned gas station in South Carolina in March 2009. Rivenburg was forced to park at the site because of a lack of available overnight parking.

The truck parking problem can be explained with simple math, according to the letter. “There are about 3.5 million truck drivers in the United States and approximately 313,000 truck parking spaces nationally; for every 11 drivers, there is one truck parking space.”

Chris Spear of ATA, Todd Spencer of OOIDA

Spear of ATA (left), Spencer of OOIDA

The joint letter, signed by Spear and OOIDA President Todd Spencer, said drivers too often are stuck in a no-win situation, forced to either park in unsafe or illegal locations, or violate federal hours-of-service regulations when searching for a place to park.

“A staggering 70% of drivers have been forced to violate federal HOS rules because of this common scenario,” the letter said. “As a last resort, drivers reluctantly park in unsafe locations — such as highway shoulders, interstate entry and exit ramps, and abandoned properties — creating heightened safety risks for all motorists. The bottom line is that safety is compromised when truck parking is not readily available.”

The letter stated that the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act did not include dedicated funding for truck parking, but that the bill provided significant increases in accounts in which truck parking is an eligible expenditure.

Bost

Bost

“We ask that you educate state and local partners about this eligibility and prioritize funding for grants that would increase truck parking capacity,” according to the letter. “In addition to this assistance for drivers and the supply chain, we ask that you support the Truck Parking Safety Improvement Act, legislation introduced by Rep. Mike Bost (R-Ill.) that would establish a competitive discretionary grant program and dedicate $755 million over five years to fund truck parking projects across the country.”

The parking problem is exacerbated by e-commerce growth, municipal mandates and a lack of dedicated parking funding, particularly in urban areas, according to recent reports. However, industry experts suggest a mix of public and private investments, creative solutions from shippers and increased use of technology will help reduce parking challenges.
Dan Murray, senior vice president of the American Transportation Research Institute, has said that parking demand remains strong.

“It is one of those issues that is going to be right there in our face until we make a truly concerted effort to do something,” he said recently. “There are no short-term solutions to fix it.”

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Lack of truck parking ranked No. 5 on ATRI’s 2021 list of Top Industry Concerns. It was the 10th year that truck parking has made the top 10 list. Among commercial drivers, it consistently has ranked in their top three, ATRI said.

Natso, an Alexandria, Va.-based association representing the truck stop and travel plaza industry, said in a statement that to the extent that the federal government allocates designated funds for truck parking, such partnerships should be prioritized because the private sector provides 90% of the nation’s commercial truck parking.

“Having said that, Natso has long maintained that the best way to address any truck parking capacity concerns is for motor carriers to negotiate truck parking in their contractual relationships with truck stops and travel plazas,” the statement said. “Because the private sector provides 90% of the nation’s commercial truck parking capacity, Natso also has long advocated for the federal and state departments of transportation to remove barriers to private sector investment in truck parking capacity.”