OOIDA member weighs in on rest area closures in Arizona

| 11/3/2009

Approximately four times a month, Carter Baldwin, a 37-year trucking veteran, passes through the state of Arizona on his way to and from California.

While Baldwin, an OOIDA Senior Member from Forest, VA, has always considered Arizona to be a pretty “truck-friendly state,” he said the Arizona Department of Transportation’s recent decision to close rest areas has made him reconsider this statement.

That’s because the state recently closed 13 of its 18 rest areas because of mounting budget woes, and the five rest areas still open may be on the chopping block as the state considers another round of budget cuts.

“I just want to know what the state of Arizona expects me to do now,” Baldwin told Land Line on Tuesday, Nov. 3. “I use those rest areas to check my equipment and use the facilities. If I am too tired to go on, I use them to take a nap. Now I can’t find one rest area open on I-40.”

He said the state’s response that truckers always have the option of pulling into a truck stop to rest really isn’t an option for him. 

“There’s no room at the truck stops if you happen to stop between the hours from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m.,” he said. “For me, I like to ride until midnight or 1 o’clock, then stop, but I can’t even find a spot at that time. I don’t want to park on the shoulder and take the chance that someone might not see me and hit me.  I really don’t know what to do.”

He said that when the federal government built the interstate system, federal money was allocated to the states to build rest areas “to provide safe and well-lit stopping areas for tourists and for people like me who move the supplies across this country.”

He said he’s even considering not spending a dime on food or fuel in the state if Arizona continues to shutter critical rest areas drivers count on for rest.

“If the state thinks it’s hurting now, just wait until drivers decide not to spend one dollar when passing through Arizona,” Baldwin said.

Baldwin said he’s been trucking a long time, and he’s seen a lot of changes in the trucking industry over the years. While he said he doesn’t mind running legal and doesn’t mind ensuring his equipment is safe, Baldwin said he does mind when the states and the federal government don’t do their part in keeping the nation’s highways safe.

“I just want to know who made the decision that they aren’t going to worry about mine and other drivers’ safety except on paper when they want our money.

– By Clarissa Kell-Holland, staff writer