These letters appear in the March 13 print edition of Transport Topics. Click here to subscribe today.
Trucking Industry Likely to Solve Parking Problem
Kudos to Tom Lee for a great Opinion piece in the February 13 issue of Transport Topics (p. 9) on the trucking industry dealing with the growing challenge of truck parking in the face of increasing FMCSA regulations. Mr. Lee correctly identifies the lack of local political influence among truck drivers as part of the problem but overlooks a number of key points that have great bearing on this issue.
The U.S. Department of Transportation has been actively working to address these challenges over the years — particularly after truck parking issues were recognized under the 2012 Federal highway bill, MAP-21. Section 1401 of MAP-21 establishes USDOT responsibilities for evaluating truck parking adequacy across the nation and developing metrics to measure it on an ongoing basis. After the Jason’s Law report was published in 2015, USDOT, along with highway safety officials and leaders in the trucking and truck stop industries, established the National Coalition on Truck Parking to work collaboratively on addressing these challenges. The good news is that federal funding eligibility for truck parking projects has expanded dramatically with each successive federal transportation bill over the past two decades. The bad news for the trucking industry is that taxpayer money alone is not going fix the problem.
USDOT can take a leadership role in addressing the problem of truck parking, but any solutions will have to be implemented by the public and private interests that actually develop and maintain parking facilities — namely, highway departments (for public rest areas) and private businesses (for off-highway truck stops).
Truck parking remains a vexing problem for two reasons:
• Highway rest areas have never been seen as a core function for most highway departments, as tradi- tional public rest areas on the interstate highway system never were designed to serve truckers parking for extended periods of time within a highway right-of-way. The expansion of federal funding eligibility for truck parking projects implemented by state DOTs has elevated these projects to the same level of importance as bridges and pavement. However, for most highway departments, parking projects always will take a back seat to their core function of keeping bridges and pavement in good repair.
• For private truck stop operators, the economics of land use often is the biggest challenge. Large expanses of pavement represent an enormous capital cost for these businesses. For large metropolitan areas where truck parking shortages are most problematic, truck stops rarely represent a highest and best use for any given piece of real estate. This same economic reality also makes a truck stop an unattractive land use for any municipal government that relies heavily on property tax revenues.
Ultimately, it is likely that this problem will only be solved when the trucking industry can elevate the concerns of its workers in the eyes of the shippers it serves, and public officials and American consumers alike.
Thomas J. Phelan
Parsippany, New Jersey
Truckers’ Financial Goals Can Be Achieved
My younger brother drove more than a million miles for several major carriers, and my older brother is a truck driver with Covenant Transportation Group. My younger brother is a little different from most truck drivers. He is college-educated (graduated cum laude from a private college) and took a different approach to truck driving — saving as much money as he could while driving.
In order to reduce the turnover of drivers and/or appeal to younger drivers, a better financial education program needs to be understood by your average driver. The fact that he/she is on the road and working all the time can be a positive if the driver sees as a goal saving while on the road versus spending. How many young drivers have a financial plan? Granted, my brother packed his own lunches and watched his pennies — but he had clear financial goals, which he was able to achieve through truck driving.
Data Driven Shipping
Important Coverage Of an Important Issue
Transport Topics’ story “ATA Infrastructure Group Urges Action on Funding” (2-13) was placed on the first page for a reason. They know, as well as American Trucking Associations President Chris Spear, that this action is not only needed for trucking, but as Mr. Spear said: “It is for America.”
Past political leaders have known about this for years, as do our country’s citizens. Yes, it may be a trillion-dollar bill, but that’s because past leaders spent little money to improve the infrastructure of the greatest country on earth.
I believe we are at the beginning of an economic boom in America. We have needed someone to stand up and fix our roads and bridges, and all we got was poor funding.
Mr. Spear feels we are going to make it happen this time. We have wasted billions of dollars during the past decade, and our system could have been fixed but it was not. Now were are faced with a major effort and with a major investment. The good news is that this investment also brings on jobs.
We speak of future self-driving vehicles, yet we won’t repair the bridges or roads they will drive on.
We need to get back to the basics and understand that business people know what needs to be done. The U.S. Department of Transportation also knows what needs to be done and asked for the funding, but politicians ignored the plea for reasons we all know. We work daily to improve efficiencies in transportation management systems, trucks, third-party logistics firms, less-than-truckload and truckload operations — and yet we still drive on pot holes. We have GPS functions that allow us to drive nearly anywhere by the push of the “enter” button, but again, we drive on poor bridges.
Any good business person knows that you have to set the cornerstone and secure the roof before you start bringing in the furniture. President Trump pledged to provide an improved infrastructure, and he is following through on that promise. But, how does Congress continue to ignore this problem?
BestTransport CEO Scott Cummans talks about sales being critical to every company, and that everybody must sell for a company to be successful. Trump is doing just that.
Trump is the lead of this sales effort to show us all that we must work together now to have the new beginning in our manufacturing growth. Our growth in business depends on infrastructure, and we have fallen behind many countries when we used to be No. 1.
Transport Topics placed this on the front page with a picture of new Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao surrounded by members of ATA’s infrastructure task force.
Contact your congressman and demand that we get back to the basics and improve our infrastructure systems before total failure has a negative impact on our rising manufacturing growth.
Reo B. Hatfield
President of Corporate Services