SPECIAL REPORT: Highway Bill addresses parking issues

| 8/16/2005

As any trucker knows, finding a parking space these days can be tough. However, new legislation included in the recently-passed Highway Bill may make that a little easier in the future.

Todd Spencer, executive vice president of OOIDA, said the legislation that addresses parking issues is a small step in the right direction.

"The legislation starts in a direction to address the problem," he said. "But we really need to go a lot further."

The legislation does set up a pilot program for states and localities to expand parking facilities for drivers. Spencer said the program is designed to encourage governments to be creative in their approach.

"(It encourages) use of things like existing inspection and weigh stations and existing park and ride facilities," he said. "It is encouraging states to create turnouts on highways where you can cost-effectively create some parking."

The bill also creates an "Interstate Oasis" program, which is a coordinated effort to make it easier for drivers to find parking and to find truck stops by employing techniques such as better signage. Only 24-hour facilities with parking for trucks will be allowed to participate in the program.

Spencer said another area the bill addresses is that of idling. It provides funding for rest areas to be converted into places where drivers can plug in and take advantage of available electricity. The bill also encourages the use of other anti-idling technologies, such as IdleAire, provided they don't reduce the number of existing parking spaces.

Spencer said the bill addresses some of the parking needs faced by the industry, but there is still a long way to go.

"All in all, I'd have to say that there are some positive things in terms of parking with this bill," he said. "From our perspective it's not nearly enough, but we've got them going in the right direction and it's going to be a matter of drivers continuing to communicate with lawmakers about the seriousness of the problem. That's going to be speaking with lawmakers at every level of government."

Rick Craig, OOIDA's director of regulatory affairs, stressed the need for members to continue to communicate with all levels of government, not just Congress.

"We're seeing states shutting down rest areas because they don't have the money to maintain them," he said. "So their solution is to just shut them down. That's got to be reversed."

- By Terry Scruton, senior writer