Is there a solution to the lack of parking space?
By: Phil Sneed
For as much as companies, consumers and the economy rely on the trucking industry, there are numerous issues that, little by little, lead to ineffectiveness throughout the entire supply chain. One such issue may not seem overly detrimental, but can cause some headaches while drivers are traveling across interstates.
Commercial truck drivers have difficulty finding parking when they need it most. According to Fleet Owner, truck parking is an issue at the forefront that needs to be addressed.
Study examines Jason's Law
The U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration released a study in August 2015 to examine the findings of Jason's Law, which Fleet Owner stated is part of current highway funding legislation.
Jason's Law is named for truck driver Jason Rivenburg. Rivenburg was out for delivery and only 12 miles from his destination in Virginia, but the location was not open. He didn't have a safe place to park to rest and instead took advice from other drivers familiar with the area, who had recommended parking at an abandoned gas station. Tragedy occurred, as Rivenburg was killed while he slept.
"States still report problems with the availability of parking space."
His widow began to campaign and brought the lack of truck parking to national attention. First introduced in 2011 and passed in 2012, Jason's Law, officially part of The Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act, introduced a beneficial pilot program. According to the law's official description, the pilot program would set aside funds to governments and organizations that develop and establish long-term parking facilities along the National Highway System.
Applications are required to incorporate at least one of the following factors, which may be reducing vehicle congestion, improving air quality and developing parking space capacity to help address safety concerns.
A slideshow revealed some of the projects eligible for funding:
- Opening existing facilities to truck parking
- Capital improvement to upgrade public truck facilities that will enable them to stay open throughout the year, instead of closing on a seasonal basis
- Construction of rest areas that are safe and provide truck parking
- The building of parking spaces adjacent to truck stops and travel plazas
Problems still exist
In light of Jason's Law, many states still report problems with the availability of parking space. In an interview with Fleet Owner, Nicole Katsikides, manager of the FHWA's Freight Management Program, said approximately 72 percent of states have difficulty with truck parking, especially in metro areas. Truckers and even logistics management personnel disagreed, however, as numerous industry insiders stated every state – 100 percent – has parking space issues, even in predominantly rural areas.
The top 10 states with the least amount of parking spaces per 100,000 vehicle miles of travel, according to FHWA are:
- Rhode Island
Limited parking spaces can be attributed to many factors, one of which is a result of the trucking industry's turnaround. There were fewer trucks and more spaces in the immediate aftermath of the recession, when the economy and trucking industry were reeling. Starting in 2012, however, trucking made a big comeback and as more trucks hit the road, there were fewer spaces available.
Arguably one of the largest contributors to a lack of parking space is a federal regulation: Hours of Service (HOS). Designed to limit the amount of time drivers spend behind the wheel, HOS regulations can almost dictate a driver's schedule. For instance, a certain number of breaks are required in order to keep driving.
The issue becomes problematic because of traffic, which is common just about anywhere these days. According to Fleet Owner, this means drivers have to park close to their destination. Otherwise, they may risk losing valuable minutes that could be spent heading elsewhere. Time management is important in any job, but HOS often creates difficult time management situations. Due to the lack of parking space, truckers have to use precious minutes to drive further away from their destination to find parking space.
"Truckers have to use precious minutes to drive further away from their destination."
In an interview with Fleet Owner, Scott Grenerth, directory of regulatory affairs at the Owner Operator Independent Drivers Association said the restriction poses many issues.
"That's not a recipe for economic success," added Grenerth.
Parking needs to be a top priority. New approaches have to be taken in order to arrive at strong solution. Old parking lots no longer in use can be converted into space for trucks. Prime candidates for this conversion may be old buildings that have long been closed.
State and local governments will likely have to work with carriers, shippers, owner-operators and private businesses to reach a solution. For instance, a private business owner in Gary, Indiana, wanted to use his property as a short-term parking facility. However, he needed city council approval since zoning restrictions would prohibit parking, and unfortunately, the approval was delayed due to confusion over the request.
Parking space for truck drivers is an increasing need, as highlighted by various reports and first-hand accounts. Regulations are dictating how much time can be spent on the road, but drivers do not currently have plenty of parking options available.