A NATSO study shows a relationship between public commercial parking and a reduced overall truck parking capacity along a highway. Photo: DanTD

A NATSO study shows a relationship between public commercial parking and a reduced overall truck parking capacity along a highway. Photo: DanTD

Interstate highways with private sector investment have 69% more commercial truck parking spaces per mile than those with public rest areas, according to a report issued by NATSO, an association representing truckstops and travel plazas.

The report analyzed the relationship between public commercial rest areas and the total truck parking capacity along the highway. The research, which evaluated more than 12,000 interstate miles, found that non-commercialized interstate corridors have 6.57 truck parking spaces per mile, compared to 3.88 spaces per miles on the commercialized interstate segments.

Non-commercialized interstate segments have, on average, one truck parking facility every 8.4 miles, compared with commercialized interstate segments with one facility every 12.8 miles. All public and private designated truck parking located within 1 mile of the interstates was included in the totals.

"This study highlights that commercial rest areas result in significantly fewer truck parking spaces and do not represent a viable means of expanding commercial truck parking capacity," said Lisa Mullings, NATSO president and CEO. "This reaffirms the industry's position that truck parking is best handled by the private sector, which provides nearly 90% of the nation's truck parking."

Since 1960, federal law has prohibited the sale of food, fuel and other commercial service from rest areas located directly on the Interstate Highway System to prevent the granting of monopolies along the Interstate right-of-way. Congress permitted the continued operation of commercial rest areas in states where commercial rest areas existed prior to the enactment of the law. This study evaluated those states where grandfathered commercial rest areas continue to operate.

The report was an update to a similar study published in 2010 conducted by Ronald Knipling of Safety for the Long Haul Inc. Compared to the earlier study, NATSO found that the correlation between offering commercial parking at public rest areas and an overall reduction in truck parking capacity had grown worse.

A leaked version of President Trump's Infrastructure Plan purportedly included provisions for commercializing rest stops. At the time Mullings said she was "extremely disappointed disappointed at the prospect that the [Trump] Administration might renew its call for liberalizing tolling policy and commercializing rest areas.”

In November, NATSO came out against a push in the state of Arizona to commercialize rest areas along interstate highways in the state. The group said that it threatened businesses that serve travelers along interstate exits and would hurt local communities. It also said the move would transfer potential sales away from the private sector in favor of a government monopoly.

"Rest area commercialization is sometimes proposed as a means of increasing truck parking capacity along the Interstate Highway System," said Knipling. "This study underscores that the private sector is far better at meeting the parking needs for the nation's truck drivers."

The full study is available for download online

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