Use Unspent Funds on Truck Parking, Governors Are Asked

ATA, State Associations Ask for Commitment of Pandemic Stimulus Money or Infrastructure Funds
Digital truck parking sign showing available spaces
A highway sign in Arizona reflecting nearby parking availability. (U.S. Department of Transportation)

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WASHINGTON — American Trucking Associations and other industry stakeholders have asked the governors of each state to use some of their extra federal funds to expand truck parking.

ATA, state trucking associations and two other industry groups wrote letters asking state officials to use unspent pandemic stimulus money or the extra funding they received under President Joe Biden’s bipartisan infrastructure law.

“Drivers are unable to find a safe place to rest after a long day on the road due to a severe shortage of truck parking,” the letter read. “We are asking for your assistance with this long-standing and growing safety problem.”

The letter concluded: “We urge you to examine the availability of truck parking within your state and take such actions as are necessary to ensure that truck drivers have a safe place to sleep when they are out on the road delivering more than 70% of America’s freight.”

The National Tank Truck Carriers and the Truckload Carriers Association also signed the letters.

Example of a letter sent to a state governor, in this case Alabama's Kay Ivey. 

Lack of parking ranked as the No. 2 issue on American Transportation Research Institute’s 2023 annual industry survey of motor carrier executives and personnel as well as truck drivers.

It’s an issue that unites industry and safety groups that normally spar over new rules.

“Safe and secure truck parking is a legitimate safety and infrastructure issue among many that states must balance,” said Zach Callahan, executive director of the Truck Safety Coalition.

Federal regulations allow truckers to drive up to 11 hours during a 14-hour window, and an additional two hours if it’s due to bad weather or something unforeseen such as a major crash. Then they have to pull off the road and rest.

Parked trucks

Trucks parked at a rest area. (Peggy Smith/Transport Topics)

And the problem is only getting worse as more trucks hit the road. During the 12-month period ending May 31, 35.9 million trucks traveled the Pennsylvania Turnpike. That was almost 1 million more than the 35 million that used the toll road during the same period a year earlier.

“This is a struggle truckers deal with every day,” said Lewie Pugh, executive vice president of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association. “Truckers are stopping earlier. They’re stopping sooner. They’re afraid there won’t be parking an hour or two down the road. It makes our supply chain less efficient. It means we need more trucks to haul the same amount of cargo.”

Legislation awaiting a vote on the House floor would provide $755 million over three years in grants for new truck parking spaces. The money would go to build new facilities or expand existing weigh stations and rest areas. Private companies could also apply for grants but couldn’t charge for parking.

The truck parking shortage is particularly acute in Pennsylvania. In a U.S. Department of Transportation report, truckers named the Keystone State as one of the five where it’s hardest to find a place to park when they’re done driving for the day. The other states were New York, New Jersey, Illinois and Georgia.

The report was required under Jason’s Law, named for Jason Riverberg, who parked in an abandoned gas station when he couldn’t find a place to stop for the night and was killed for the $7 on his dashboard.

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Pennsylvania has about 11,600 parking spaces for trucks in its rest areas, welcome centers and turnpike service plazas, according to PennDOT. During peak hours, however, some 12,100 trucks park there and an additional 980 wind up on highway shoulders and ramps.

To help address the shortage, the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission in the last 15 years has added 194 parking spaces for large trucks at four service plazas, with another 63 coming to a fifth area within the next two years.

In addition, variable message signs tell truckers between the hours of 5 p.m. and 2 a.m. whether there are spaces open at upcoming service areas, and the Turnpike sends similar information to trucking apps. The system covers the easternmost 10 of the Turnpike’s 17 service plazas, including those on the Northeast extension.

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC