Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg meets with truckers at a South Dakota rest area.  -  Photo: US Department of Transportation

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg meets with truckers at a South Dakota rest area.

Photo: US Department of Transportation

During a visit this week to South Dakota, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg met with truckers and addressed the need for better truck parking. The visit was to kick off National Truck Driver Appreciation Week, during which the Department of Transportation announced more than $80 million in funding to improve access to truck parking and advance highway safety nationwide.

“There are countless ways to thank America’s hardworking truck drivers during National Truck Driver Appreciation Week, and today we are doing so by addressing a serious issue that consistently ranks as one of their highest concerns,” said Chris Spear, American Trucking Associations president and CEO, in a news release. “The funding being announced today will help to alleviate a shortage of truck driving spaces that too often puts drivers in a no-win situation. These projects being funded by the IIJA [Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act] are an important step in the right direction.”

The funding is part of President Joe Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, aka IIJA, and will help expand access to truck parking, invest in critical technology, improve safety in work zones, rural areas, and high crash corridors, and more, according to the DOT. Grant recipients will include states, local governments, non-profit organizations, and academic institutions across the country.

“We have stepped up our work on the truck parking coalition and our efforts to encourage states and other decision-makers to make better use of infrastructure dollars to expand parking,” said Buttigieg.

According to the announcement, high-priority grants will include a 65% increase in funding for truck parking projects over last year and will aid in providing other steps to improve highway safety.

Key projects supported by the funding include:

  • Expanding access to truck parking by helping truck drivers locate available rest area truck parking spaces in real-time via dynamic message signs along highways in Kentucky, Delaware, and Indiana.
  • Researching automated, location-based driver alerts via electronic logging devices that inform drivers of upcoming work zones.
  • Enhancing electronic screening technologies, such as automated license plate readers, USDOT number readers, tire monitoring systems, and hazardous materials placard readers, to detect vehicle violations.
  • Providing outreach and education to combat human trafficking, an effort in which truck drivers can play a key role given their time and attention on the road.

Truck Parking Projects

The announcement said this funding builds on the Biden Administration's continued investment in truck parking and safety on the nation’s roadways, which includes more than $80 million invested in new truck parking spaces across the country. Examples of truck parking projects include:

  • Caldwell County, Texas: $22.9 million RAISE grant to design and construct a truck parking plaza that improves safety and convenience for truck drivers. The plaza will include short- and long-term spaces with lighting, fencing, restroom and shower facilities, and 24-hour monitored security.
  • Caldwell Parish, Louisiana: $10.5 million RAISE grant to buy land and build a truck parking facility near the port and a highway. It will have space for 50 commercial trucks, 100 cars, and EV charging stations designed to provide auxiliary power units to power a truck cab’s heating and cooling, without having to run the engine while also recharging trucks. There will also be a system to find parking spaces in real time.
  • I-4 Between Tampa and Orlando, Florida: $15 million INFRA grant for a new truck parking facility with approximately 120 spaces, electric charging stations, and pedestrian infrastructure to access nearby commercial amenities.
  • Memphis, Tennessee: $22 million INFRA grant adds 125 truck parking spaces at a spot along I-40, a critical freight corridor. The project will also upgrade adjacent bridge structures.

Buttigieg’s South Dakota Visit

Buttigieg was joined by trucking industry leaders, drivers, and the media when he visited an Interstate 90 rest area near Salem, South Dakota, on Tuesday. Officials and drivers alike voiced concerns over truck parking.

“The severe lack of truck parking has an enormous impact on drivers nationwide,” said America’s Road Team Captain Dean Kay, a professional driver for Ruan Transportation. “It touches almost every aspect of our profession, from quality of life to compensation, but more than that, the lack of truck parking is fundamentally a safety issue.” (The Road Team is an American Trucking Associations initiative.)

ATA’s Spear likewise stressed the need for parking during Tuesday’s event at the rest area.

“This event is a really fine example of our industry coming together and government officials actually hearing the issues that our drivers face each and every day,” said Spear. “Spending nearly an hour looking for parking. Losing nearly $5,000 a year in wages spent looking for a place to rest.”

Truck Parking Safety Improvement Act

The Truck Parking Safety Improvement Act, which would grant funds to expand commercial truck parking capacity across the United States, was reintroduced earlier this year. As HDT reported, if signed into law, it would authorize $755 million in competitive grant funding to increase truck parking capacity.

"The lack of safe and accessible truck parking places an enormous and costly burden on our nation's truck drivers as they work to deliver for the American people,” Spear said in a press release earlier this year in support of the Truck Parking Safety Improvement Act. “Given the chronic nature of this issue and its national scope, it is imperative Congress takes action to provide dedicated funding to expand commercial truck parking capacity.”

In a letter to Buttigieg on behalf of the trucking industry, the ATA in February stated it is critical that the DOT coordinate with the White House, state departments of transportation, Congress, and other stakeholders to encourage appropriate actions to address the truck parking shortage.

“The truck parking shortage has plagued the trucking industry for decades, and the consequences of insufficient capacity are as wide-ranging as they are severe," the letter stated. "The scarcity of truck parking spaces across the country decreases safety for all highway users, exacerbates the industry’s longstanding workforce challenges, contributes negatively to driver health and well-being, diminishes trucking productivity, and results in unnecessary greenhouse gas emissions."

The letter also referenced the 2019 Jason’s Law Report that detailed how 98% of truck drivers regularly have trouble finding safe parking. That increased from 75%, the number reported in the 2015 report.

“When drivers are unable to find safe, authorized parking, they are stuck in a no-win situation, forced to either park in unsafe or illegal locations or violate federal [hours of service] regulations by continuing to search for safer, legal alternatives,” the letter continued. “A staggering 70% of drivers have been forced to violate federal HOS rules because of this common scenario. As a last resort, drivers reluctantly park in unsafe locations — such as highway shoulders, interstate entry and exit ramps, and abandoned properties — creating heightened safety risks for all motorists.”

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