As Minnesota lawmakers continue to haggle over the state’s budget, truck drivers still don’t have access to critical parking.
That’s because all but three of the state’s safety rest areas were barricaded on or before July 1 after Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton and Republican lawmakers failed to reach a budget agreement, and all but the most critical state services were closed. More than 23,000 state employees have been furloughed.
Truck drivers on their 10-hour mandatory breaks were asked to leave the rest areas and forced back on the highways after the rest areas were closed.
The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association and other key players in the trucking industry understand that access to truck parking is critical to highway safety. Minnesota Trucking Association President John Hausladen also made this point at a hearing on July 5 about the shutdown, where he urged that government funding be returned to reopen the state-run rest areas. He argued that these are core functions of the state government since truck parking is already scarce in the state even with the rest areas.
“The shutdown makes an already recognized problem for the industry incredibly more serious,” according to Hausladen’s testimony on Tuesday. He testified before former Minnesota state Supreme Court Chief Kathleen Blatz, who has been appointed the special master of court proceedings in recommending funding for critical functions of the state during the shutdown.
“Truck drivers who run out of hours, but can’t be accommodated at a private stop, will have to make one of two illegal choices. They can drive in excess of their allowable hours to find an acceptable parking spot, or they can park on shoulders and ramps, creating a hazard for other motorists,” Hausladen said.
A second round of talks was scheduled for Wednesday, July 6, between Dayton and key Republican legislative leaders.
Most state-operated websites are down, including those vital to truckers, such as the Department of Public Safety and Driver Services. The Department of Transportation, which halted all ongoing construction projects as of midnight, still has a functioning website, but presents a notice that most state government services will be closed to the public. The governor’s website hasn’t been updated since June 30.
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