FHWA gives final OK for Oasis program

| 10/19/2006

The Federal Highway Administration has issued its final recommendations on the so-called Interstate Oasis Program, but it doesn't assure any more parking spaces for heavy trucks, or even guarantee as many parking spaces as there are now.

The program, which was included in the 2005 Highway Bill and signed into law in August 2005, is a response to a growing trend among states in shutting down public rest areas along interstates.

Under the Oasis plan, highway signs will divert traffic to a participating truck stop or other privately owned facility that provides fuel, food and public telephones, and is within three miles of the highway.

But the FHWA didn't specify how many truck parking spaces would have to be available at an Oasis facility. Instead, it will use criteria provided by Natso, the trade association that represents truck stops.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association submitted comments about the program. The Association came out in support of an effort that would increase truck parking, but condemned the fact that the program does not prevent the closure of public rest areas and parking facilities.

"OOIDA strongly supports the development of additional facilities that would provide truckers with additional parking as well as food, fuel, and sanitary facilities on a 24 hour/7 days per week basis," the Association said in its comments.

"However, OOIDA is concerned that the promotion of such privately-owned facilities will give states an additional justification for closing existing public rest areas, which currently provide essential parking spaces for the commercial trucking industry."

Additionally, the Association argued that the use of the so-called "Oases" should be free of charge, a detail that was not included in the original proposal, but was added to the final policy.

- By Aaron Ladage, staff editor