By Aaron Ladage
Indiana law-enforcement officials aren’t doing anything to ease the state’s truck parking crisis, but they are charging bigger fines when truckers can’t find a legal parking spot.
The Indiana fine for illegally parking along interstate highways increased to $500 as of May 1. The fines had ranged from $80 to $150, depending on the county. State officials said the increase was designed to keep commercial vehicles from parking on roadsides as well as on- and off-ramps.
“This has been a longtime issue we’ve been trying to resolve,” said Maj. Ed Reuter, commander of the Indiana State Police’s Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Division. “There’s a lot of people who think that we’re adversaries of the trucking industry, and we’re not – we want to work with them.”
Besides citing complaints from residents along interstates who say parked trucks create a safety risk by limiting visibility for passenger vehicles, Reuter said truckers have left some unwanted parting gifts behind.
“Our people are finding urine bottles and human waste and trash, and the ramps are breaking down,” Reuter said. “We felt that we needed to make this thing more of a public issue, to bring it to their attention and educate them …”
Additionally, Reuter said drivers who are ticketed for ramp parking may also face Level II or Level III inspections of their rigs.
The higher fine does not bode well for truckers already taxed to find parking in the state.
According to a 2002 study on commercial truck parking by the Federal Highway Administration, Indiana was classified as having a shortage of available spots, ranking 39th out of all 50 states for available truck parking.
The lack of parking is compounded by the lukewarm reception truckers are receiving at the state’s rest areas.
Steve McAvoy, facilities management director for the operations support division of the Indiana DOT, said that although the state doesn’t have a policy prohibiting overnight parking, it’s not encouraged.
“The way we kind of look at it now is that if they don’t park there, they (truckers) are going to be a safety hazard driving on the interstate tired,” McAvoy said.
“We basically kind of have to let them stay there.”
Reuter said the State Police are partnering with media outlets to get the word out about the stiffened penalties, and may post information on the large electronic signs over the interstate. So far, he has already seen the ramp-parking situation improve.
However, he said his organization had no intention of adding or looking into adding commercial truck parking spaces.
“That (lack of parking in the state) could be an issue, but it’s going to be a point where they need to study the routes. The burden is going to be on the driver to try to find it,” Reuter said. “They (the drivers) will make do; they’ll find places. Just don’t use the ramps is all we’re asking.
“We feel that we can educate them, and once we educate them, we feel that they’re really on their own.”
Another one bites the dust
The closing of a landmark truck stop in Virginia will make finding a parking spot on Interstate 95 even tougher.
After 40 years of business, Servicetown Truck Plaza, located off I-95 near Fredericksburg, closed its doors April 28. That action eliminated 207 truck parking spots. The location will soon serve as home to a Target store.
According to an April 2004 study by the Virginia Transportation Research Council, parking demand along I-95 already exceeded available truck parking at truck stops by 10 percent to 20 percent. Demand exceeded rest area parking by 32 percent. Stafford County – which does not have any rest stops – lost all of its truck parking when Servicetown closed.
“Anytime you start out with a shortage in truck parking spaces, and you eliminate 200 to 250 out of that area, it’s going to have a pretty big impact,” said OOIDA Board Member John Taylor, who lives about 80 miles from the closed stop.
The 13-acre Servicetown truck stop had the fourth largest number of truck parking spots in the entire state of Virginia, according to the study.