Truck parking capacity problem worsens for drivers

When commercial truckers can’t find a place to park it’s a safety problem for everyone on the road. For more than a decade, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) has been talking about the truck driver parking shortage and ways to address it, but inadequate truck parking capacity remains a major problem in every state and region across the U.S. Findings from the National Coalition on Truck Parking, which is spearheaded by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), show that major freight corridors and large metro areas have the most acute shortages.

Furthermore, shortages exist at all times of day, week, and year but are most prevalent overnight and on weekdays. The National Coalition on Truck Parking includes stakeholders who have an interest in solving the parking crisis, including trucking industry associations and representatives of state governments and law enforcement. During a recent meeting of the National Coalition on Truck Parking, Bryce Mongeon, director of Legislative Affairs for OOIDA, noted that the association has been working to educate lawmakers on the dangers of the national truck parking shortage as well as the challenges and stress it creates for truckers.  

OOIDA has been building support for the Truck Parking Safety Improvement Act in Congress. Also known as H.R.

6-10-4, the bill was introduced by U.S. Reps.

Mike Bost (R-Illinois) and Angie Craig (D-Minnesota). This legislation would dedicate hundreds of millions of dollars in existing highway safety funding for truck parking projects through the creation of a competitive grant program. The program would focus funding exclusively on expanding parking capacity, for example, by constructing new truck parking spaces or converting existing space at weigh stations and rest stops.

During the National Coalition on Truck Parking meeting, FHWA presented some of the latest findings from its 2019 Jason’s Law Survey, which is an update of its 2015 report. The Jason’s Law Survey provides a nationwide assessment of truck parking capacity and is a requirement of the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21) legislation that became effective on Oct.

1, 2012. Jason’s Law is named in honor of Jason Rivenburg.

On March 5, 2009, Rivenburg stopped for a delivery in Virginia and then headed toward a delivery destination in South Carolina. While only 12 miles from the delivery location, he needed to find parking to rest through the night as his arrival location was not yet open to receive deliveries. Rivenburg did not have a safe place to park, but he had learned from truckers familiar with the area that a nearby abandoned gas station was a safe location to park, and he proceeded to park there for the night.

He was attacked and murdered at the location while he slept. His killer took both his life and the £7 that he had in his wallet. Since his death, Rivenburg’s wife, Hope, has worked diligently to bring attention to the national truck parking shortage problem.

Her efforts, along with those of family members, friends, and representatives from the trucking industry, helped to push forth legislation to focus national attention on the issue. After the Dec.

2 coalition meeting, Mongeon told American Trucker that OOIDA heard some good ideas from participants, but that there was a heavy focus on implementing more technology and driver apps that would notify truckers when spots are available. The problem with that is making sure the information available on those apps is updated and available in real time. 

“As we look at it, the focus should really be on capacity,” Mongeon said. “There were some other efforts that were talked about, including trying to engage local and state lawmakers in conversations about zoning, land use, and things that could sometimes be an obstacle in expanding truck parking capacity if there is local opposition that might hold up a project.” “If you have a driver who is tired or wants to take a break or they are coming up on a federally mandated rest break, they need a safe place to park,” he added. “Because of the shortage, if they can’t find a parking space, they are put in a no-win situation and have to decide, ‘Do I pull over and park on the highway shoulder? Do I pull over and take a break?

Do I keep driving while possibly fatigued in violation of hours of service rules in order to find a legal parking spot?’ Obviously, that is stressful for the truck drivers, but, more broadly, we are talking to Congress about how this is a safety issue for everyone on the road. If there are trucks parked illegally on the shoulder, that’s a hazard for other motorists.” According to FHWA, there are approximately 313,000 truck parking spaces nationally–40,000 at public rest areas and 273,000 at private truck stops.

Between 2014 and 2019, there was a 6% increase in public truck parking spaces and an 11% increase in private parking spaces. However, state Departments of Transportation reported that not many new public facilities or spaces are being developed and that challenges exist in planning, funding, and accommodating truck parking. “While there was some increase in truck parking capacity, by some measurements, it’s not keeping pace with the need,” Mongeon said. “It’s not keeping pace with the increase in truck vehicle miles traveled over the last few years–that kind of seems like we are treading water.

At the national level, we are unfortunately struggling to keep pace with the need.”  Overall, in the five years since the last Jason’s Law survey was done, the truck parking shortage appears to have worsened. The 2014 survey indicated severe problems in three regions and several new regions of concern, including the entire I-95 corridor, the entire Pacific coast region, and outlying areas of Chicago.

Additionally, 98% of drivers reported they have had trouble finding safe parking. Darrin Roth, vice president of Highway Operations for the American Trucking Associations, also attended the coalition’s meeting. “Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be much of an effort underway by parking providers – both public and private – to address the problem with new capacity,” Roth told American Trucker. “Most states indicated that they don’t intend to increase capacity, as did 79% of private providers.

It also appears that there seems to be a mismatch between capacity location and demand. Whereas 38% of truck tonnage is in 32 urban areas, just 8.5% of truck parking spaces are in these areas. This is likely because land in large urban areas is scarce and expensive, and NIMBYism has likely prevented truck stops from being able to locate or expand in these areas.

It’s critical to drivers that they are able to stay in locations where they’re making deliveries (primarily large urban areas) to maximize efficiency.” The plus side is there is greater awareness and understanding of the problem today than there was a few years ago among stakeholder groups. As a result, many states have begun to look for solutions, including real-time information for drivers, and identification of where shortages exist and why, Roth noted.

“However, federal leadership, including an infusion of federal funds, will be necessary to address the issue,” Roth said.  Scott Manthey, vice president of Safety and Training at Wilson Logistics, has worked in trucking — with a particular focus on safety and operations — for the greater part of his life. So, he was surprised when his daughter, a graduate student studying biological anthropology at the University of Colorado, stumped him with a question about prenatal health and safety in trucking.

“I’d never even thought about that,” Manthey told his daughter. Courtney Manthey-Pierce went on to ask her father about training for women versus men, as well as health and wellness programs for pregnant drivers. Again, he was stumped, as these topics aren’t regularly addressed in the trucking industry.

So, Manthey ended up putting his daughter in touch with Jane Jazrawy of CarriersEdge and the Women In Trucking Association (WIT). Ever since, Manthey-Pierce has been working with WIT on a research project to collect information about the effects that long-haul truck driving can have on women who are pregnant. She and WIT are seeking input from those who are pregnant or who have been pregnant while driving for a Driver Pregnancy Study survey, which is anonymous and now live on WIT’s website.

Overall, the end goal of the project is to create informational resources for all women in trucking and to expand and initiate commercial fleet guidelines regarding prenatal health. “We know from the science side that chronic stress can deeply and negatively impact both mom and baby,” explained Manthey-Pierce. “That’s what started this whole thing. The goal is to expand the support system for women truck drivers who are pregnant.”

Manthey-Pierce also noted that so far, the preliminary results from the survey show there are women in trucking who want guidelines and have questions about maternal health and safety within the industry. The end of the survey asks women what they feel is necessary to be included in their company’s policies, and the biggest concern that surfaced was women in the industry not knowing if they had maternity leave.   “As the industry struggles to attract new drivers, we need to be able to accommodate female drivers who are pregnant,” explained Ellen Voie, WIT’s president and CEO. “What are carriers doing to accommodate these young women who want to have a career and a family?

This research will help us better understand the challenges these women face and how we can ensure they are able to do their job.” Growing up, Manthey-Pierce said her father always emphasized that “people have the right to come home from work the same way that they went there,” which played a major part in her decision to focus on the health of truck drivers working on the front lines. And the question that initially stumped Manthey has now prompted change at Wilson Logistics.

“Now, we have had discussions about what we would do if one of our female drivers came to us about being pregnant,” Manthey pointed out. “We don’t have a formal program outlined, but we have committed to making sure we have resources to assist when needed. It goes back to taking care of people, not being a part of hurting anyone and doing the right thing. “As a safety professional, I find that learning is an important part of continued growth.

It helps take you to the next level when striving for that goal of making sure no one gets hurt,” he continued. “This is an area, however small it may be, where as an industry, we can certainly find ways to get better.”