How to Take Action on a Local Level for Truck Parking by Desiree Wood
The conclusion of the four regional truck parking coalition meetings held during 2016 occurred October 5, 2016 with a final event that was held in Grain Valley, Missouri at the Owner Operators Independent Drivers Association Headquarters. I was able to attend all four brainstorming events including the initial truck parking coalition meeting held November 2015 at the United States Department of Transportation in Washington D.C. thanks to the generosity of our members and mission support sponsors.
Remember that this organization was formed by working truck drivers. As a grassroots movement, we do not have the budget for many travel excursions but truck parking is something so important that these events had to be made a priority in order to make certain the drivers had a voice in the discussions. I was one of only two individuals that attended every truck parking coalition meeting that was held. To attend the final event at OOIDA Headquarters with Hope Rivenburg , champion of “Jason’s Law” was a milestone but there is still work that has to be done.
Through the course of these events I was able to learn that brainstorming innovative solutions alongside representatives from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), National Association of Truck Stop Owners (NATSO) , several State Department of Transportation representatives, and truck parking stakeholders there was still the looming issue of “selling it” to local communities who are not educated on how truck parking serves highway safety.
A number of problem solving initiatives were discussed during these meetings and I personally felt individuals that in the past had not expressed true understanding of the issues walked away with changed perceptions. The big message was that the government cannot fix this problem alone. Public and private partnerships are needed, public education is needed and creative approaches are critical to solving the truck parking shortage that has been identified as a crisis in every state.
A new term for me during these meetings was “MPO” which stands for Metropolitan Planning Organizations. MPO’s are responsible for planning metropolitan areas and this is where truck parking is the biggest problem. Currently, States have been tasked by the Federal government to do something they have never been required to do in the past, that is to create a freight plan. States must have an approved freight plan and freight network in place by December 2017 in order to continue to use their freight formula funds that were made available in FAST Act. See Link: The FAST Act: The Freight Provisions
Truck parking is an eligible activity for FAST Act funds but it is not required. Truck parking is often overlooked as a necessary component to intelligent freight planning. Smart freight plans should be focused on alleviating highway congestion and part of that would be assisting truck drivers who must comply with federal hours of service requirements to prevent unsafe operation of a commercial motor vehicle.
- Truck parking facilitates interstate commerce which must not be impeded by states and local governments
- Truck parking improves highway safety
Hope Rivenburg has worked tirelessly to make sure that “Jason’s Law” for Safe Truck Parking, an initiative named after her murdered Husband would be recognized by the Federal government as a matter of safety. Hope took immediate and relentless initiative to take action for truck drivers. She proved that one person CAN make a difference and she got the ball rolling but now the ball is our court. Truck drivers must keep this issue relevant and they can do that by helping to write emails and making phone calls to educate state agencies that are not aware that truck parking is an eligible activity for FAST Act funds.
This is a call to action
Here are the steps to follow:
- Use this link created by Allen Smith to the MPO Interactive Map to locate your State MPO contact information.
- Use the SAMPLE LETTER located on the MPO Interactive Map Link as a guide by using “cut and paste” and then revise the letter for your particular region and situation. You can use this link to download a PDF of the SAMPLE LETTER TO STATE AGENCIES. ( This letter is only a sample, it is not to be used verbatim, please personalize it to your situation.
- Send a letter, email it or make phone calls to the state agencies you have selected from the MPO Interactive Map to explain the pertinent information in a respectful manner that includes asking if “truck parking is in the freight plan” and if they are aware that “truck parking is an eligible activity for FAST Act funds and it is necessary in their region”.
- Identify to these agency heads in your letter or phone call that the funds “can be used on eligible projects until December 2017. After that, they can only use them if they have their freight plan in place”. (Remember that eligible activities include truck parking and ITS type systems for information sharing and notifications).
- You can also help by calling State Motor Carrier Associations to make sure they understand that truck parking is an eligible project and asking them if they know “What’s in the freight plan?” for that State. The goal is to make certain that the agency representative comes away from the conversation with awareness that truck parking is needed and eligible for funds for their state.
- If possible, get involved in State and MPO area freight advisory committees.
- Ask the State agencies that you contact: “What have you done to improve on Jason’s Law data since the report was published”?
If they have not heard of “Jason’s Law” ask them for their email address to share with them the following links:
Final Advice: Persist with your state by asking the question: “What is in your freight plan?” be tenacious but polite about getting answers.
REMEMBER! There are only 50 States, If you commit to writing at least 2 MPO’s from the interactive map we can make a difference. Stop waiting for everyone else to make a difference for YOU!
Listen to the Replay> Solutions to Improve Truck Parking with Host Allen Smith and Guests Nicole Katsikides Deputy Director of Maryland Department of Transportation Office of Planning and Preliminary Engineering and Desiree Wood President REAL Women in Trucking, Inc.
Much Thanks to Nicole Katsikides for help in drafting this call to action for truck drivers!
with much gratitude,