Expanding Truck Parking High on USDOT Agenda, Buttigieg Says
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U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg stressed that expanding access to safe truck parking is a key priority for his agency, and one that he understands ensures the safety of drivers and efficiency of supply chains.
“This is a major issue, and one that we view — not only as a matter of convenience, or fluidity — but really as a fundamental safety issue. When I’m talking to drivers, this is one of the biggest, if not the biggest, issues that I hear about,” Buttigieg said during a wide-ranging interview on Transport Topics’ Newsmakers program. “We’re going to continue supporting the creation of more truck parking.”
Regions that are home to major freight corridors are viewed as core candidates for federal resources to support parking programs. DOT has allocated grants specific to truck parking in Florida and Tennessee.
“Clearly, it’s a supply chain problem if the people we count on — the truckers who are such an indispensable part of keeping our supply chains going — if they’re not safe or not able to park in an area that makes sense,” Buttigieg said. “Even if you’re not involved in trucking directly, I think most drivers who spend time on the interstate see, where trucks are backed up on a ramp or other places, that shows you how this is a problem.”
Reacting specifically to recent attempts on Capitol Hill to advance parking-centric legislation to President Joe Biden’s desk, the secretary said: “I don’t know whether there will be specific legislation. We would certainly welcome more direct attention on this.” He went on, “Certainly, we welcome Congress deciding to do things that are more specific.”
House and Senate policymakers recently introduced legislation to tackle parking concerns. The Truck Parking Safety Improvement Act, sponsored by Reps. Mike Bost (R-Ill.) and Angie Craig (D-Minn.), would help to pave the way for improvements to existing parking areas for commercial vehicles by authorizing $755 million in competitive grants over the next few years. Sens. Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.) and Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.), members of transportation policy panels, are leading the companion bill’s consideration.
Reps. Mike Bost (R-Ill.) and Angie Craig (D-Minn.)
“People in Wyoming are still feeling the impacts of the supply chain crisis, and unreliable truck parking is another contributing factor to that,” Lummis said in March. “Fixing the parking problem will help ease this burden on consumers.”
At the start of the year, House lawmakers introduced a separate bill targeting truck parking concerns. The Safer Highways and Increased Performance for Interstate Trucking (SHIP IT) Act would approve nearly $800 million through fiscal 2026 for parking projects connected to commercial vehicle operations.
According to the bill, “It is the sense of Congress that it should be a national priority to address the shortage of parking for commercial motor vehicles on the federal-aid highway system to improve highway safety.” SHIP IT Act sponsors Reps. Dusty Johnson (R-S.D.) and Jim Costa (D-Calif.) have explained that ameliorating the parking issue would improve supply chain connectivity. As Johnson put it, “Americans experienced a slew of freight disruptions during and after the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The consideration of both truck parking bills has yet to be scheduled in committees of jurisdiction. The American Transportation Research Institute ranked inadequate access to parking third on its “Critical Issues in the Trucking Industry” list in 2022.
Specific to safety, the secretary reiterated the need for improving travel conditions on the nation’s roadways. The department’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recently announced that 42,795 individuals died on the nation’s roads in 2022. The estimate was based on data about motorists involved in vehicle traffic crashes. NHTSA’s figure was a decrease from 2021’s estimate of 42,939.
Reps. Dusty Johnson (R-S.D.) and Jim Costa (D-Calif.)
As he calls on stakeholders to act urgently, Buttigieg also pointed to funding for safety agencies that was approved in the 2021 bipartisan infrastructure law. “We’re not just urging states and local governments to act,” he said. “We’re funding states and local governments to take action on this. And so many of them are. When we talk about Vision Zero — the idea of advancing toward a state where there are no deaths on the roadways — we understand that’s not going to happen overnight.”
Buttigieg added, “I would also emphasize there are a lot of communities that have gotten to zero. Not the biggest cities in the country. But not the smallest either. If there were any other cause of death this frequent, I think it would be getting much more attention. And so we have a responsibility to pay attention to it.”
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