Use unspent funds on truck stops, governors are told
An Arizona state highway sign reflects the availability of nearby parking. (US Department of Transportation)
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WASHINGTON — The American Trucking Associations and other industry stakeholders have asked each state’s governors to use some of their additional federal funds to expand truck stops.
The ATA, state trucking associations and two other industry groups wrote letters asking state officials to use unspent pandemic stimulus funds or additional funding they received under President Joe Biden’s bipartisan infrastructure law.
“Drivers are unable to find a safe place to rest after a long day on the road due to a severe shortage of truck stops,” the letter read. “We are asking for your help regarding this long-standing and growing safety issue.”
The letter concluded: “We urge you to examine the availability of truck stops within your state and take action to ensure truck drivers have a safe place to sleep when they are on the road delivering more than 70% of America’s needs.” shipping.”
The National Tanker Trucking Association and the Truckload Carriers Association also signed the letters.
Example of a letter sent to the governor of a state, in this case Kay Ivey of Alabama.
Lack of parking was ranked as the No. 2 issue in the American Transportation Research Institute’s 2023 annual industry survey of transportation company executives and employees as well as truck drivers.
It’s an issue that unites industry and safety groups that typically argue over new rules.
“Safe and secure truck parking is a legitimate safety and infrastructure issue among many that states must balance,” said Zach Callahan, executive director of the Truck Safety Alliance.
Federal regulations allow truck drivers to drive up to 11 hours during a 14-hour window, and an additional two hours if it’s due to inclement weather or something unexpected like a major crash. Then they have to pull out of the way and rest.
Trucks are parked in the rest area. (Peggy Smith/Transportation Topics)
The problem gets worse as more trucks hit the road. During the 12-month period ending May 31, 35.9 million trucks traveled the Pennsylvania Turnpike. This is about one million more people than the 35 million who used the toll road during the same period the previous year.
“This is a struggle truck drivers face every day,” said Lewie Pugh, executive vice president of the Independent Owner-Operator Drivers Association. “Trucker drivers stop earlier. They stop sooner. They’re afraid there won’t be parking an hour or two down the road. It makes our supply chain less efficient. It means we need more trucks to move the same amount of freight.”
The legislation awaiting a vote in the House of Representatives would provide $755 million over three years in grants for new truck parking spaces. The money will go towards building new facilities or expanding existing weight stations and rest areas. Private businesses can also apply for grants but cannot charge for parking.
The truck parking shortage is particularly acute in Pennsylvania. In a U.S. Department of Transportation report, truck drivers described the Keystone State as one of the five states where it is difficult to find a parking space after they’ve driven all day. The other states are New York, New Jersey, Illinois and Georgia.
The report was required under Jason’s Law, named for Jason Riverberg, who parked his car at an abandoned gas station when he couldn’t find a place to stop for the night and was killed for the $7 on his dashboard.
Pennsylvania has about 11,600 truck parking spaces at rest areas, welcome centers and main service plazas, according to PennDOT. However, during peak hours, about 12,100 trucks park there, and an additional 980 trucks end up on highway shoulders and ramps.
To help address the shortage, in the past 15 years the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission has added 194 parking spaces for large trucks at four service plazas, with 63 more coming to District 5 over the next two years.
Additionally, variable message signs tell truckers between 5 p.m. and 2 a.m. whether spots are open in upcoming service areas, and the Turnpike sends similar information to trucking apps. The system covers the easternmost 10 of the Turnpike’s 17 service plazas, including those on the northeast extension.
(Signs for translation) Truck stop