A shortage of truck parking in many areas has been a problem for some time.  -  Photo: Jim Park

A shortage of truck parking in many areas has been a problem for some time.

Photo: Jim Park

A bipartisan bill introduced in the U.S. Senate would address problems with truck parking, authorizing $755 million in grant funding to expand commercial truck parking capacity.

The Truck Parking Safety Improvement Act was introduced Dec. 1 by U.S. Senators Cynthia Lummis (R-WY) and Mark Kelly (D-AZ).

The Senate bill establishes new funding eligibility criteria, including considerations for drivers' personal safety. The bill also would make routine maintenance expenses eligible for funding, as state transportation officials often cite maintenance costs as a deterrent to expanding parking capacity.

Funding would be awarded on a competitive basis and applicants would be required to submit detailed proposals to the U.S. Department of Transportation. The primary focus would be to construct new truck parking facilities and convert existing weigh stations and rest areas into functional parking spaces for truck drivers.

The text of the Senate bill was not yet posted online at the time of this writing, but the bill is similar to truck-parking legislation introduced by Representatives Mike Bost (R-IL) and Angie Craig (D-MN) in the U.S. House of Representatives that unanimously passed the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure in July. It has not, however, yet passed the full House.

In the House bill, projects would have to be located on a Federal-aid highway; or on a facility with reasonable access to a Federal-aid highway or a freight facility. Charging for parking would not be allowed.

Truckstop-and-travel-plaza association Natso worked with lawmakers to ensure that eligible grant recipients, which include state transportation departments, metropolitan planning organizations and local governments, can partner with the private sector (such as truckstops) to carry out their projects.  

Truck Parking a Top Industry Issue

Truck parking is one area where trucking groups that often differ in their priorities agree action is needed.

The industry says the parking shortage is having a costly, measurable impact on supply chain efficiency, driver health and wellbeing, highway safety, and the environment. When truck drivers are unable to find safe, authorized parking, they're forced to either park in unsafe or illegal locations, or to violate federal hours-of-service rules.

In the American Transportation Research Institute’s annual survey of top trucking issues, among commercial drivers, truck parking topped the list.

The lack of safe parking options is often cited as a serious deterrent to recruiting more women truck drivers. American Trucking Associations’ Women in Motion initiative, in a letter to House leaders, said women truck drivers are concerned about their safety while on the road.

“No single issue encapsulates that worry more clearly than the severe lack of truck parking capacity nationwide.... Creating a more secure work environment for women truck drivers begins by investing in accessible truck parking so that they can keep the nation’s freight moving without worrying about how and where they can safely rest while off duty.”

“A chronic, nationwide shortage of commercial truck parking continues to strain our supply chain and jeopardize highway safety for all motorists,” said American Trucking Associations President and CEO Chris Spear in a news release. “This carefully crafted legislation provides needed investments to remedy the problem while incentivizing public-private partnerships to further expand truck parking capacity.”

ATA pointed out: 

  • A U.S. Department of Transportation report found 98% of drivers regularly experience problems finding safe parking. 
  • The same report found the truck parking shortage exists in every state and region and is most acute along major freight corridors. 
  • 70% of drivers have been forced to violate federal hours-of-service rules because of this common scenario.
  • To ensure they can find a safe and legal space, truck drivers often park prior to exhausting available drive time, surrendering an average of 56 minutes of valuable drive time per day, according to the American Transportation Research Institute.
  • The time spent looking for available truck parking costs the average driver about $5,500 in direct lost compensation — or a 12% cut in annual pay.

The lack of truck parking has been a problem for decades and is only getting worse as capacity has not kept pace with the increasing number of trucks on the roadways, according to OOIDA.

“70% of American freight is transported by truck, yet there is only one parking spot for every 11 trucks on the road,” said Todd Spencer, president of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association. In a statement. “When truck drivers don’t have a designated place to park, they end up parking on the side of the road, near exit ramps, or elsewhere. This isn’t safe for the driver and it’s not safe for others on the road. Senator Lummis and Senator Kelly have heard from small business truckers and are taking meaningful steps to increase truck parking capacity.” 

Jim Ward, president of the Truckload Carriers Association, recently told HDT in an interview, “Truck parking is right now the top issue concerning drivers. Our concern It was well-received on the Hill and a huge bipartisan discussion,” said Ward, who before taking the reins at TCA earlier this year had served as president and CEO of motor carrier D.M. Bowman Inc.

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