Virginia adds truck parking to offset 18 rest area closures

| 7/21/2009

Finding a place to park in Virginia may be a little trickier with the closure of 18 rest areas – but the state says some changes were made so truck parking overall in the state did not take a hit.

The Virginia Department of Transportation made short work of closing 18 of the state’s 42 rest areas starting late in the day Monday, July 20, and finishing up the task by the early morning hours of Tuesday, July 21.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association has been critical of VDOT’s closure plan, highlighting the dilemma that truck drivers face in finding appropriate, safe parking facilities in order to comply with hours of service regulations.

OOIDA’s efforts, along with those of its members, mitigated the damage VDOT’s plan could have had on truck parking.

“Certainly the interest shown by truckers and knowledgeable lawmakers had an impact on the state’s decision,” OOIDA Executive Vice President Todd Spencer told Land Line.

Rather than just shutter the 18 rest areas – without accounting for truck parking – the state reconfigured parking at the remaining 23 locations.

In an effort to reduce the impact of these facility closings on trucks, VDOT implemented changes to its rest area truck parking restrictions on July 21.

The agency removed a number of no parking signs at the remaining 23 rest areas and welcome centers to provide more than 225 legal truck parking spaces. Jeffrey Caldwell, VDOT spokesman, says this move replaces all the truck parking spaces lost in the closure of the 18 rest areas.

“We have tried to address truckers’ concerns by adding 225 legal parking spaces,” Caldwell told Land Line Now. “This will offset every parking space lost at all of the facilities that were closed.”

In another move to address the quandary that truckers face in complying with HOS rest periods in Virginia, the state revamped its parking rules for trucks.

“Previously, we had a two-hour parking limit here in Virginia,” Caldwell said. “That has now been lifted, and truckers are able to get their 10 hours and more.”

While the changes to truck parking locations and time restrictions are not all bad, Spencer said Virginia has still failed to address the bigger problem.

“The rest of the story is that we started with a shortage of places for trucks to park,” Spencer told Land Line. “Closing any that are actually used by drivers is shortsighted and very detrimental to highway safety going forward.”

“Again, in this instance they’re penny smart and pound foolish,” Spencer said.

That may not continue to be the case for long. Both candidates for governor in Virginia say they will reopen the closed rest areas if elected in November.

Democratic candidate Creigh Deeds says he supports commercializing the areas by bringing in private vendors to maintain them.

Republican Bob McDonnell suggests having private organizations participate in an “Adopt-a-Safety-Rest-Stop” program.

Both contend they would reopen the rest areas within a few months of taking office.

In the meantime, truckers needing a place to park in Virginia can see the list of open – and closed – rest areas here.

– By Jami Jones, senior editor

Land Line Now News Anchor Reed Black contributed to this report.