The federal government’s mandated limit on hours of service requires truck drivers to pull over and rest more frequently. But lack of commercial truck parking options has put CDL professionals in an increasingly tight spot. Drivers are now losing upwards of an hour per day just looking for a safe place to pull over due to overcrowded rest areas and roadside closures.
This perfect storm of poor government policy planning has put America’s valued truck drivers in a position of deciding whether to dole out their hard-earned money or spend restless nights in some dangerous and sketchy locations. We firmly believe that it’s time state and federal decision-makers step up their support for the men and women who deliver the goods and materials that keep our communities thriving.
a Microcosm of the Worst Truck Parking Policies
Rhode Island, the smallest state in the union, made a big splash in 2018 by targeting hard-working drivers with truck-only tolls despite heavy opposition from industry leaders. Officials basically went on a crusade blaming 18-wheelers for the systemically poor condition of 48-mile-long state’s roads and bridges.
“This plan of theirs violates the Constitution’s Commerce Clause, which prevents states from imposing these kinds of burdens on interstate commerce,” American Trucking Associations’ lawyer Rich Pianka reportedly said. “We want to make sure to establish that other states don’t get the same idea and try to use interstate commerce — and interstate trucking — as a piggy bank for their funding issues.”
Despite ATA litigation to block truck-only tolling such as that in Rhode Island, Connecticut appears to be following suit, potentially compounding headaches for drivers traveling in the Northeast Region.
But “Little Rhody” has since touted the disgraceful tolls as highly successful. The Rhode Island Department of Transportation quickly pointed to the $600,000 per month in tolls it pilfered off from the trucking industry as a win. If you’re curious about what this has to do with truck parking problems, well, a lack of fundamental fairness.
For those truckers traveling I-95, the state’s southern Welcome Center on the northbound side has routinely been closed. At other times, it bans overnight parking. Also located in the southern part of the state, the I-95 southbound rest area has been closed on-and-off. In terms of truck parking options, Rhode Island has effectively forced drivers to get off its only major highway and find viable truck parking elsewhere. After handing truckers a raw deal on tolls, one would expect at least safe truck parking in return. Despite the $600,000 monthly money-grab, such has not been the case.
While Rhode Island may highlight perhaps the most discriminatory policies toward truck drivers, the parking shortage tends to be a national issue. Driving America’s highways, it’s common to find rest areas that allow commercial truck parking are overcrowded offering limited opportunities for drivers searching for a space. In many cases, rigs are forced to pull to the shoulder of a stop’s on-ramp. The shortage has many drivers and trucking companies wondering if paid parking will emerge as yet another expensive tariff the trucking industry will have to incur.
Truck Parking Shortage Costs freight haulers Thousands
It seems a significant disconnect exists between the freight-hauling industry and government. The country struggles with an ongoing driver shortage that drives up freight rates, while the government over-regulates the sector and creates impediments such as lack of adequate semi truck parking. Talk about a lose-lose situation for professional CDL holders. According to the American Transportation Research Institute’s Dan Murray, a driver spends about 56 minutes trying to find parking to meet federal downtime regulations.
“Basically, they’re not getting paid, it’s frustrating time and costs the average driver about $4,600 in direct lost compensation looking for truck parking,” Murray reportedly said. “It’s not just a safety and compliance issue. It’s an economic issue for some of these drivers, and our data shows for some of these drivers it’s the last nail in the coffin, and they’re out of here. It’s costing them time and money.”
One of the trending solutions to the truck parking shortages is for freight haulers to pony up and pay to park. National Association of Truck Stop Operators Lisa Mullings has called for incentives to prompt business owners to increase the number of truck parking spaces they have available. That push comes with a price tag. The expectation is that truckers will pay a premium for overnight parking.
“I can guarantee you, the truck parking problems would be gone if people were willing to pay for it. It’s a cost of doing business that the truck stop industry has,” Mullings reportedly said.
While supply and demand may lead to increased paid parking, a petition cropped up on Change.org called “Stop Increasing Reserved Parking at Truck Stops.” The online pushback says that drivers could be reaching into their wallets for as much as “$90 a week, $360 a month, $4320 a year” to pay for premium parking. More than 7,000 people have signed on with a goal of 7,500 signatures. Given the fact truckers keep the country afloat and are appear unfairly treated in states such as Rhode Island, many believe the federal government has a responsibility to improve infrastructure, and truck parking should be part of that conversation.
Jason’s Law Movement Highlights Need for Increased Safe Truck Parking
It’s disheartening to know that tragedy appears to be one of the few ways everyday people get the attention of lawmakers, and the 2009 death of Jason Rivenburg was such a moment.
“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. Jason did not have a safe place to park. Jason had learned from truckers familiar with the area that a nearby abandoned gas station was a safe location to park and proceeded to park there for the night,” the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration reported. “Tragically, he was attacked and murdered at this location while he slept, with his killer taking both his life and just $7.00 that he had in his wallet.”
The tragic murder of Jason Rivenburg prompted studies that reportedly concluded the following:
- Thirty-nine percent of the drivers responding take 1 hour or longer to find parking.
- Drivers indicated that if parking was not found by mid-afternoon or early evening in either a rest area or private truck stop, the next suitable option is a well-lighted shopping area due to safety concerns. However, drivers stated they worried during their rest period they would be asked to leave or given a citation by law enforcement.
- Fifty-three percent of drivers regularly use a commercial truck stop for rest, and 20 percent regularly use a rest area. Other options used regularly include shipper/receiver location (20 percent), on/off-ramp (8 percent), abandoned lot/isolated area (10 percent), and behind a shopping center (11 percent).
- Eighty-eight percent of drivers felt unsafe while parked during mandatory rest or waiting for pickup or delivery of a load over the past 12 months.
- Thirty-six percent of respondents felt safer parked at a shipper and receiver location.
Since those results were released in 2013, the federal Hours of Service Regulations placed even greater restrictions on drivers that pressure them to stop at less-than-secure locations. The current mandate limits drivers to 11 hours following 10 hours of being off-duty, take a 30-minute break every eight hours, and 34 hours off after a 7- to 8-day workweek, according to the FMCSA. That’s a lot of downtime and searching for safe parking while on the road. The result of struggling to find a space and the Electronic Logging Device (ELD) enforcement rules have reportedly caused more than 70 percent of drivers to be in violation.
The truck parking shortage that tired over-the-road drivers see each and every day demonstrates that we are moving backward in terms of safe havens. It’s essential to lobby lawmakers at the state and federal levels to increase infrastructure spending for secure truck parking moving forward. In the interim, there are free apps that you can download to your phone that may help you find truck parking in a pinch.
- Park My Truck
- Trucker Path
- Road Breakers
We hope this conversation about the truck parking shortage and the tragic consequences it can have on our community members inspires more hard-working women and men of the road to raise their voices. We need improved truck parking infrastructure and fewer states trying to reach into our pockets without a reciprocal return for our work.