VDOT weighs in on state police’s ‘get a room’ advice for tired truckers

| 2/18/2009

When the Virginia Commonwealth Transportation Board passed a law limiting parking to two hours at rest areas more than 20 years ago, Martin Krebs said the intent was not to force tired truckers back out on the road, but to discourage people from sleeping inside the facilities.

And although the time limit is still on the books, Krebs, who is the special facilities financial manager for the Virginia Department of Transportation, said the “unwritten guidance” his agency has given to the Virginia State Police, who patrol the rest areas, is to “be as lenient as possible in enforcing the time limit.”

“We’re all about safety here, not about forcing tired truckers back on the road where they could potentially cause a problem or an accident on down the line,” Krebs told Land Line Magazine on Friday, Feb. 13. “Our direction to the VSP is that if they come across someone who is sleeping and not parked illegally on the shoulder or a ramp, to let them sleep because they are there for a reason: They are tired.”

The two-hour parking limit issue resurfaced recently after an OOIDA member called Land Line after he was ticketed for parking at a rest area in Virginia. When he explained to the state trooper that he was out of hours and would be in violation of federal hours-of-service regulations if he moved his truck, he was told to move on or face possibly having his truck towed and arrested.

Since that initial article ran online Feb. 2, Land Line has heard from countless OOIDA members who have been rousted from their sleeper berths by the VSP and ticketed for violating the rest area’s time limit.

When Land Line called Corinne Geller, a spokeswoman for the Virginia State Police, to discuss the Catch-22 truckers are in when they are out of hours and are faced with their only parking option – a rest area that has a two-hour limit. Her advice to tired truckers was to “get a room.”

“They (truckers) need to make alternative arrangements like finding a hotel room,” Geller said. “It’s not our responsibility to make sure they are in compliance with the hours of service. … So that responsibility sits on the driver to know his or her route and know where there is a place to park.”

Krebs said this latest incident may mean it’s time for VDOT to re-emphasize its message about “lenient enforcement” to the state troopers who patrol the rest areas. He said VDOT has requested a report on enforcement activities at rest areas from the VSP. Krebs said that report is due back in approximately four to six weeks.

“Since the VSP are our partners in enforcement activity at the sites, we are in the process of getting some information from them on how strictly they enforce the time limit,” he said.

In 2000, the National Transportation Safety Board recommended that states like Virginia, which have time limits, do away with them because “time limits for public rest areas can result in drivers returning to the roadway without obtaining adequate rest.”

“A policy of waking up truck drivers while they are sleeping at public rest areas that have parking time limits can pose significant safety problems for drivers and others on the roadways,” according to the NTSB’s report.

However, nine years after the NTSB’s initial safety report, the two-hour limit still exists at Virginia’s rest areas.

Although Krebs said he admits the state of Virginia is deficient in providing adequate parking for commercial vehicles, especially along the I-95 and I-81 corridors, he also said VDOT is in the process of developing a “master plan for our safety rest areas.”

“We are at a point where we are looking to see what we can revise in the administrative code,” he said. “We exist to reduce roadside fatality and accidents, and people need to have access off the interstates to rest to avoid fatigue-related accidents.”

– By Clarissa Kell-Holland, staff writer