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September 17, 2012 8:00 AM, EDT

Letter: Alabama Truck Stops

This Letter to the Editor appears in the Sept. 17 print edition of Transport Topics. Click here to subscribe today.

Alabama needs more name-brand truck stops.

I’m an Alabama native who is an over-the-road truck driver living in Northern Virginia. I get a chance on a regular basis to compare trucking facilities and the economic effect they have on communities from state to state.

Alabama ranks in the bottom third among all the states and eighth among the 10 states in the Southeast when it comes to providing public accommodation, rest havens and overnight parking for truckers.

In Alabama, Tuscaloosa ranks No. 1, with five major truck stops and one rest area on Interstate 20/59, followed by No. 2, Mobile, which has three major truck stops among the state’s top 10 markets for truckers.

Conversely, truckers in the Metro Birmingham, Huntsville, Montgomery, Auburn, Florence and Dothan markets in Alabama have been overlooked and underserved when it comes to providing these amenities.

That needs to change.

For example, there is no major truck stop or rest haven on U.S. Highway 280/431 from Phenix City to Birmingham and none serving the Interstate 565 corridor in the Huntsville/Madison market.

Birmingham is Alabama’s largest market by far, and it has no rest haven and only three major truck stops that are vastly undersized and ill-equipped to handle the increasingly high volume of trucks adding to the congestion on the five interstates going into the city.

Meanwhile, future Interstate 759 (the Northern Beltline project) is on the drawing board, and future Interstate 22 and U.S. Highway 280 are rapidly approaching interstate status.

Birmingham also ranks below other comparable southeastern cities, such as Knoxville, Tenn.; Jackson, Miss.; and Little Rock, Ark., in terms of providing these services.

Birmingham desperately needs at least three more major truck stops and two rest havens strategically located in and around the city, including Interstate 459 and future Interstate 759 to keep pace.

National brand travel plazas such as Pilot Flying J, Love’s, Petro, Wilco-Hess and TA create jobs, generate substantial revenue and have spin-off effects that spur economic development because these brands have attained a nationwide reputation for providing a high level of professional service respected by patrons.

Alabama’s state and local officials need to put recruiting more name-brand truck stops at the top of their shopping lists because the trucking industry has become too valuable as a growth engine to the local, state and national economy to do otherwise.

Shakir Muhammad

Alexandria, Va.