DOT reveals results of Jason's Law truck parking survey

By Tyson Fisher, Land Line staff writer | 8/21/2015

Hours-of-service concerns, public perception, denying private truck stops land. Those issues and myriad others are addressed in the Department of Transportation’s highly anticipated results of the truck parking survey.

As mandated under Jason’s Law in the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act, the U.S. Department of Transportation released the results of the truck parking survey conducted this past year by the Federal Highway Administration. The report draws from numerous studies, research and analysis over the past 20 years.

Customized surveys were completed by various industry stakeholders, including the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, American Trucking Associations, truck stop and travel plaza owners, state motor carrier safety officials and state DOT personnel. The survey’s goal is to seek out key areas of truck parking that need improvement.

Parking capacity overview
FHWA found that most states reported a truck parking shortage. States that did not report a shortage tended to be more rural. Shortages appear to be a larger issue with public facilities than with private facilities.

States reporting the most severe parking challenges are New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York, Virginia, Maryland, South Carolina, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, California, Washington and Oregon.


States with the most shortages and most sufficient parking, per OOIDA member survey responses

States with most and fewest parking spaces per 100,000 truck vehicle-miles-traveled. This stat reflects spaces available related to truck traffic.

Drivers reported parking challenges most in the Mid-Atlantic, East-North Central area, New England and Southeast. The top five corridors reported by drivers to be short on parking are I-95, I-40, I-80, I-10 and I-81.

State personnel had a different story about certain locations that drivers felt had insufficient parking. A high number of spaces relative to indicators such as truck vehicle-miles-traveledwere reported in the east/north central region around the Chicago area, the same area truckers indicated having problems. State reports of shortages in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast were consistent with that of the drivers.

Fewer spaces were found in major metro areas. The FHWA report could not determine the reasoning behind the shortage, citing possible explanations of driver preference and zoning/land availability issues. Private truck stops indicated that getting city approval for new locations has been an issue across the country.

A total of 37 states stated they had a problem with commercial vehicle parking. A breakdown of specific areas reveals a major issue with public rest areas:

  • 30 states reported shortages in public rest areas.
  • 16 states reported shortages in private truck stops.
  • 16 states reported shortages in designated pullouts.
  • 18 states reported shortages in commercial areas.
  • 14 states reported shortages at highway weigh stations.

States are seeking more data to understand the needs of stakeholders and what options may be available.

Time of parking
More than 75 percent of drivers reported consistent issues with finding safe parking once rest is needed. Among those surveyed, 90 percent of drivers experienced problems finding safe, available parking at night. According to truckers, this happens mostly during the week.

Based on state comments, the study results concluded that parking was mostly an issue during night hours. FHWA attributed this to a correlation with popular delivery windows and schedules. States reported a lack of funding to support parking projects and enforcement.

In regard to hours of service, states reported that the regulations could make things challenging for truckers whose deliveries have been changed or delayed but must take the required rest period. In fact, the states suggested that unintended consequences of HOS regulations play a major role in parking demand.

Private truck stops
Private truck stops predominate in parking spaces. Of the more than 300,000 spaces documented in the report, more than 272,000 are located at private stops. There are nearly eight private truck stop spaces for each public rest area space.

Most facilities have fewer than 100 spaces available. Nearly 80 percent of private truck stops had fewer than 100 truck parking spaces, with nearly 40 percent having fewer than 25. More than half of all private truck stops surveyed did not have any showers available, which could drive up traffic for the minority of truck stops that do.

Capacity was usually reached during night hours, with some private truck stops reporting to have reached capacity during the day. Although capacity is usually reached midweek, some private facilities reported reaching full capacity throughout the entire week.

New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Vermont and Rhode Island have the fewest spaces available at private truck stops. Louisiana, Indiana, South Carolina and Ohio have the highest number of spaces.

State challenges
With the demands of truckers and private truck stops for more parking spaces, states are finding it a challenge to execute a plan that pleases the trucking industry while staying within legal parameters. Issues involved range from land availability to public perception.

As mentioned above, spaces in major metro areas are limited. States are finding there is also a shortage of land to grant private truck stops within a 20 mile radius of urban areas. In addition to geographical limitations, there has also been a limitation of will. People in residential areas have resisted new truck stops in their area due to poor public perception of the truck stops.

States are also having a problem understanding how the industry works. The report reveals that states are having difficulty quantifying the movement of freight during the peak holiday season and providing parking for those seasons while justifying parking for the remainder of the year. In addition to peak seasons, states also need more information about oversize/overweight trucks in order to address their needs. In its report, FHWA designed a three-tier system that local, state, regional and federal agencies can use to assess, measure and better understand parking needs.

Who is taking the lead? Between associations, law enforcements and government agencies, voices are coming at state representatives from all directions. States described issues with getting law enforcement to collaborate with DOTs and other groups. The report calls for one of the relevant agencies or entities in the public sector to take responsibility and become the “champion” for truck parking needs.

Making things happen
This study and the law that required it stems from the murder of Jason Rivenburg back in March 2009. Rivenburg was fatally shot while parked at an unlit, abandoned gas station. After the murder, Jason’s widow, Hope Rivenburg, tirelessly pushed Congress to pass Jason’s Law, which addresses the availability of safe truck parking spaces.

Back in 2013, Hope Rivenburg released results of her own study regarding truck parking spaces. As mentioned in the DOT’s latest survey, her study found the following:

  • Thirty-nine percent of the drivers responding take 1 hour or longer to find parking.
  • Drivers indicated that if parking was not found by mid-afternoon or early evening in either a rest area or private truck stop, the next suitable option is a well-lighted shopping area due to safety concerns. However, drivers stated they worried during their rest period they would be asked to leave or given a citation by law enforcement.
  • Fifty-three percent of drivers regularly use a commercial truck stop for rest and 20 percent regularly use a rest area. Other options used regularly include shipper/receiver location (20 percent), on/off ramp (8 percent), abandoned lot/isolated area (10 percent), and behind a shopping center (11 percent).
  • Eighty-eight percent of drivers felt unsafe while parked during mandatory rest or waiting for pickup or delivery of a load over the past 12 months.
  • Thirty-six percent of respondents felt safer parked at a shipper and receiver location.

OOIDA weighs in
The long-awaited study results were a welcome start in the process toward addressing the need for safe and secure parking for truck drivers, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association leadership said following the release of the results.

“Thanks to Hope Rivenburg, OOIDA members who participated in the study, and the Federal Highway Administration, the first important step toward improving the parking situation for truckers has now been taken,” said OOIDA Director of Regulatory Affairs Scott Grenerth. “The challenge that is in front of the agency is to not stop there. The problems and hurdles identified in the study must be addressed and the areas in dire need of parking need to be addressed sooner rather than later.”

While OOIDA is thankful the process has started, the Association is pressing for more progress toward resolving the parking situation.

“We encourage the Federal Highway Administration to take the lead in solving this parking crisis. It will take Congress funding a robust program and the efforts of state and industry stakeholders working with FHWA to ensure that parking is available for all truckers when they need it for safe and secure rest,” Grenerth said.

Beyond the obvious need for more brick and mortar parking spaces, Grenerth pointed out that finding safe and secure parking is a problem for everyone – motor carriers included.

“While many large carriers are advocating micromanaging all aspects of the task of driving with the likes of ELDs, speed limiters, etc., it doesn’t seem illogical for them to work with customers to preplan and prearrange adequate parking for their drivers on trips. They are already required to make sure those trips can be done without violating laws,” Grenerth said.

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