Parking Shortage Worsens

Government, Industry Unite to Seek Solutions
John Sommers II/ Transport Topics
This story appears in the Aug. 31 print edition of Transport Topics.

WASHINGTON — Concerns over the ongoing plight to park trucks safely is prompting a group of national and regional stakeholders to plan ways to improve parking availability, given a new Department of Transportation survey that found dire shortages in metropolitan areas.

Deputy Transportation Secretary Victor Mendez said a National Coalition on Truck Parking would convene in a few months to develop recommendations.

“We know truck parking has been a long-standing problem in our nation, and we need new approaches to fix it,” Mendez said. “Now more than ever, this country needs better planning, investment and innovation from those who have a stake in safe truck parking and transportation.”

More than 75% of truck drivers and almost 66% of logistics personnel reported regularly experiencing problems with finding safe parking locations, according to the congressionally mandated report from the Federal Highway Administration, unveiled Aug. 21.

“As states and private truck-stop operators reported only a few plans to expand truck parking capacity, the incorporation of truck parking analysis and planning into the state or metropolitan freight plan, if one exists, may help to galvanize stakeholders and champions and build off of freight analytical information derived for the plan to help advance opportunities for public, private or public-private investment,” the report said.

The report, titled Jason’s Law Truck Parking Survey, and the formation of the coalition stem from the 2009 murder of Jason Rivenburg. The New York driver was killed during a robbery while parked at an abandoned South Carolina gas station. His widow, Hope Rivenburg, has advocated for federal rules meant to ensure safe parking.

Members of the new coalition include American Trucking Associations, FHWA, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, Natso and the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance.

Trucking executives say a lack of parking for truck drivers is among the most pressing challenges confronting the industry because difficulties in finding places to park pose problems for truck drivers looking for safe stops to rest.

“Real action includes better information for professional drivers, and it requires real money, making truck parking another reason our leaders in Washington must pass a robust, long-term highway bill and for the states to dedicate the resources we need to this critical, yet too often overlooked, necessity,” said Dave Osiecki, ATA’s chief of national advocacy.

FHWA’s survey said drivers, state motor carrier safety officials and state DOTs cited parking problems in every state.

The report indicated that shortages are primarily evident during nighttime hours, from the early evening into late morning. The shortages also occur mostly on weekdays throughout the year, although certain weekends present challenges.

“State departments of transportation recognize that the issue of adequate parking for commercial truck drivers is a serious safety concern,” AASHTO Executive Director Bud Wright said.

Natso, which represents truck-stop operators, praised DOT’s efforts in establishing a coalition focused on the issue but noted the report did not expand on how trucking fleets work to ensure drivers and trucks have safe, legal places to park.

In the DOT report, truck-stop groups indicated there is a need for additional spaces. Very few of them, however, responded that there were actual plans to increase the facilities to accommodate more truck parking.

The report highlights regions and corridors such as the Chicago region and the Interstate 95 corridor in the Northeast with a significant shortage of truck parking, as well as regions with strong showings of unofficial or illegal parking along shoulders and ramps, on local streets and in commercial areas.

Matt Hart, executive director of the Illinois Trucking Association, told Transport Topics that consistent parking options throughout the Chicago region and the Midwest are hard to find for many truckers — a well-known fact among drivers. “Our members’ hope is that [the coalition] finds a way to improve safety for truck parking — safety for the truck drivers and safety for the motoring public that we share the road with. As long as we keep safety as our top priority, I think we’ll be fine,” Hart said.

Gail Toth, executive director of the New Jersey Motor Truck Association, said she hopes the coalition stops studying the issue and starts proposing reforms that would provide safe parking.

“We have a shortage of truck parking. No surprise. We have a couple of truck stops, by no means the size of something that you would find in the Midwest,” Toth told TT. “We already know we have a shortage of over a thousand parking spaces any given night of the week. So where do we put those guys?”