Truck parking situation no better for drivers in most areas

| 1/25/2008

As the demand for truck parking spaces increases along the nation’s heavily traveled highways, states continue to vie for federal money to help address those woes. Drivers may be heartened to learn that relief is on the drawing board, but want to know what they’re supposed to do in the meantime.

The lack of truck parking at truck stops and rest areas has forced many truckers to change their driving habits. Because of truck parking shortages, many drivers, including OOIDA member Kelly Allen, start looking for parking places before dark to ensure that they have a safe spot to rest.

Allen said that in the past she liked to drive until late at night, pull in somewhere to park, and then head back out late the next morning. Now, with truck parking becoming so scare, Allen said she has to start looking for a place to park around 5 p.m. to make sure she has a safe spot to park her rig for the night.

“I used to be able to drive until late at night, which is the way I like to drive, then pull in somewhere and stop when I was tired,” she said. “Now, if I do pull in somewhere around 11 p.m. or later, I run the risk that I won’t find a parking place.”

She said many frustrated drivers who can’t find a space simply pull off on a ramp and park, which Allen said she has done, but is leery of because of safety concerns.

“I just don’t think it’s safe to park on ramps,” Allen said. “I have seen trucks flip over because one side sank in the mud or they were hit from behind by someone driving up or down a ramp.”

When she’s in Texas, Allen said she counts on parking at the Fifth Wheel of Texas Fuel Stop in Lufkin. She said she was surprised when she pulled in there Wednesday, Jan. 16, only to find out that the truck stop had been torn down.

Allen said just the restaurant next door, Charlie’s, which has about 40 to 50 spaces for truckers to park, is still standing – for now.

“The main building was gone, which was surprising to me, and they were just removing debris when I was there,” she said. “One of the waitresses at the restaurant next door said the truck stop was torn down to make room for the I-69 Corridor, which hasn’t even been approved yet.”

Allen said the waitress at Charlie’s told her the restaurant and a nearby hotel are scheduled to be torn down in the near future.

Land Line called the truck stop and Lufkin City Hall in attempts to confirm future plans for the property, but those calls weren’t returned.

A Virginia Beach, VA, native, Allen said she is quite familiar with truck parking problems. In the 10 years she’s been driving, Allen said she has never been able to park her truck in front of her home. Instead, she rents two separate spaces: one for her tractor and another one for her trailer, which costs her about $185 a month.

Allen said she’s only home about 65 days a year.

“Other drivers told me I would get sick of being out on the road, but this hasn’t happened to me yet,” she said. “I have a great dispatcher who allows me to run as hard as I want, which is great.”

– By Clarissa Kell-Holland, staff writer