In April 1999 a series of public hearings were held to gather information for a Truck/Bus Safety initiative. A major issue that arose in the investigation process was that there was a lack of safe available truck parking.
The 38 page document established the difficulties drivers face when seeking safe truck parking. Of course the most obvious solution, to create more truck parking was advised. Below is a sampling of the some of the other conclusions made in the National Transportation Safety Board Highway Special Investigation Report:
• “Shippers, brokers, and consignees frequently influence truck schedules and should be an integral part of any solution to the truck parking area dilemma.”
• “…that not enough adequate truck parking spaces are available to accommodate traffic patterns in certain locations.”
• “The Federal and State governments have the responsibility to maintain highway safety and that the lack of available truck parking or the truck drivers not knowing where parking would be available can negatively impact safety.
• “The prohibition against private development of rest area facilities on interstates may be an impediment to the construction of adequate truck parking.”
• “Parking time limits for public rest areas can result in drivers returning to the roadway without obtaining adequate rest or parking unsafely on shoulders or ramps.”
Recommendations were made on page 30 of the report to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) to include the National Industrial Transportation League as a stakeholder, to eliminate “… the prohibition against private development of rest area facilities on interstates…”
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), the American Trucking Associations, Inc., (ATA) the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA), the National Private Truck Council (NPTC), and the National Association of Truck Stop Operators (NATSO) were asked to “…create a comprehensive guide, available both on paper and in electronic format, for all truck drivers to use that will inform drivers about the locations of all parking areas and the space availability.”
The American Trucking Associations, Inc. was requested to distribute the “comprehensive guide” of truck parking mentioned above to their members (trucking fleet executives) who were then supposed to distribute it to truck drivers to help them locate safe, adequate truck parking.
It is now the end of 2013, and no collaborative comprehensive guide has been created or distributed.
In this report, Governors of problem states that were identified as: Alabama, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Virginia, and Washington were advised that when their state had enough “…adequate parking…” that they should “…modify time limits at public rest areas that can prevent truck drivers from obtaining adequate rest…”
One of the highlights in the report occurs on page 4 where is says in essence that”… some motor carriers and drivers indicated to the safety board that truck parking is often available at the delivery site or nearby but drivers may choose not to use these areas because of the lack of necessary services, such as lavatories or showers, or because of concern about the prospects of criminal activity”. I would disagree that “often” is a good choice of words. Parking at a shipper and receiver may be an option occasionally, depending on the shipper/receiver internal policies followed by a determination on the need for services and criminal activity in the area.
It is reasonable that a person would like to be parked somewhere to rest where they can use a bathroom, have a shower and not have a crime committed against them. Truck drivers are human beings and they have the same bodily needs as everyone else. They are often not making truck parking decisions based on a vast array of leisurely choices.
On page 7, the National Association of Truck Stop Owners (NATSO), a $35 Billion dollar lobby organization according to the 2000 report that represents the travel plaza industry disagreed with the 1999 FHWA truck parking study findings. In a NATSO party submission a remark was made that “…private truck stops could meet parking demands, if truck drivers planned their trips better…”. (National Transportation Safety Board, 2000)
This statement is really the nutshell of the truck parking problem. The truck stop industry lobby group seems uninterested in the end users they are to serve. Truck drivers are not on a family road trip. They are not in charge of the scheduling of when their trailer will load or unload. This has been clearly established time and again in truck parking shortage reports, yet the very organization that represents the place where trucks “often” go to park does not seem to know the nature of the trucking business.
It is noteworthy to understand that NATSO is against privatization of rest areas. They continue to fight progress by lobbying to prevent competition with a 50 year old argument that rest area privatization will harm small businesses. I understand that NATSO is fighting for corporate truck stop giants to prevent competition but let’s look at the facts. It takes a great deal of wasted time for a truck driver to exit an interstate, wrangle local traffic and struggle to get into the parking lot, find a place to park the truck, only to go to the bathroom and grab a bite to eat.This could be more efficiently handled in a privatized rest area and there is no reason that a small business or small satellite franchise business could not bid for a rest area location, including those who are represented by NATSO.
To exit the interstate to go to a travel plaza simply for a food stop and bathroom break can waste as much as 30 minutes just due to traffic and poorly staffed food outlets in many of these locations.
What about fuel? This is really what we are talking about. A big rig may stop for fuel once a day and spend between $300 and perhaps up to $700 for diesel. Isn’t that what NATSO is really afraid of, competition for fuel sales on the interstate? The next time you pass a truck stop, look at all the trucks lined up waiting to fuel. Make a quick calculation on how much fuel sales they average per hour and you can see why they keep dragging this 50 year old skeleton out of the closet to prevent commercialization. The major travel plazas that support NATSO are not a small businesses, In fact, truck drivers have little access to small business off the interstate because they can rarely park on the property or anywhere near a small business. Truck drivers primarily have access only to the travel plazas/truck stops and regardless of whether rest area privatization occurs, big truck stop chains negotiate fuel prices with trucking companies. That means the truck will still exit the interstate to buy fuel at the truck stop chain they have negotiated an agreement at least once a day.
Rest area commercialization makes sense because truck drivers can waste 15 minutes of time in one direction trying to get from the interstate exit to the toilet, cash register if they are buying food and still not even get the break they were seeking in the first place. A 15 minute fuel stop on paper can turn into 45 minute ordeal at some locations and 30 minutes when no fuel is purchased.
The current law which prohibits rest area commercialization is an outdated joke but unfortunately not enough people call their elected servants to educate them and NATSO has done a great job of lobbying to prevent competition to their members.
The entire 38 page May 17, 2000 Highway Special Investigation Report on Truck Parking Areas can be read with this link: NTSB May 2000 Report on Truck Parking
This was not the only report that was completed on the topic. There have been many over the years that cost several hundreds of thousands of dollars to produce and STILL, in May of 2012 a report on the commercial truck parking shortage concluded that the “…evidence indicates that truck parking shortages remain widespread and in some areas acute…” (Federal Highway Administration, 2012)
Last week we finished the 2013 Jason’s Law Truck Parking Survey and Focus Group Presentation; it did not cost several hundreds of thousands of dollars to produce. The findings have not changed much except that some of the states identified in previous reports were less of a problem now because they have taken steps to improve and previously defined problem areas have become worse.
Jason’s Law is not simply about getting money from the government to build more truck parking. It is about looking at our own communities and thinking about how we can improve. Moving freight to accommodate consumers should not be a one sided convenience equation.
Our hope is that people start thinking outside the box about truck parking rather than coming out to protest it when a truck stop development attempts to break ground near their community. I hope more people will educate their elected officials about rest area commercialization and why this antiquated law should be overturned. I hope cities that have an abundance of area distribution centers that create local jobs will examine whether they are contributing to the truck parking problem because these centers detain drivers and do not let them park on their properties.
Perhaps clusters of distribution centers should consider collaborating on bull pen staging areas or new innovative private enterprise should step in. Shouldn’t shipping costs include overnight parking fees in known troublesome areas where drivers may need to pay for safe parking or truck stop electrification services if they are the only thing available? If tolls fees are added into shipping costs perhaps parking fees should be as well. The respondents to the 2013 truck parking survey were overwhelmingly company drivers, employees. Truck parking expenses in troublesome areas should not have to be paid by employees. These drivers are unable to plan their trip for a safe parking solution because poor load planning at another level of the supply chain and NATSO should know this about the industry they serve.
Jason’s Law hopefully will be more than just a section in the MAP-21 Transportation Bill that allows funding sources for truck parking which has been in crisis before way before Jason Rivenburg was murdered.
The following Slideshare presentation on the current state of truck parking is a snapshot of the results from the 2013 National Truck Parking Survey and Focus Group. Open comment sections from the survey are still being compiled for publication to the internet.
Federal Highway Administration. (2012). Commercial Vehicle Parking Shortage. The Conference Report accompanying the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act of 2012, Pub. L. No. 112-55, 125 Stat. 552, Washington D.C.
National Transportation Safety Board. (2000). Highway Special Investigation Report – Truck Parking Areas. Washington D.C.: NTSB.
Open Comments Downloadable Comments Links:
“What are the circumstances and how often does it take 60 minutes or more to locate truck parking to comply with your federally mandated hours of service (HOS) rest break?”
Click Here for PDF
States that need most improvement: Click Here for PDF
Please identify which Ports and/or surrounding facilities have an inadequate amount of safe parking. Click Here for PDF
Cities most mentioned that need more truck parking