Thursday, March 31, 2016

Panel tackles parking concerns

As part of a panel on Thursday morning at the Mid-America Trucking Show to discuss a lack of parking spots for truck drivers, OOIDA Director of Regulatory Affairs Scott Grenerth said the issue involves more than a need for spaces alone.

"Spaces are obviously good, and we know they are needed," Grenerth said. "There are parts of the country that there just aren't enough spaces no matter where you look. But one of the key things that any driver here knows is that you have to be in the right place at the right time as well. That's a huge part of this. You have to be in compliance. Trying to balance keeping the truck safe and being able to earn a living for your family, you have to be able to maximize your time. So having a parking space near where you want to end up is crucial. In my years of driving it seems like all of the new truck stops that open up, you have a metropolitan area here and a metropolitan area there and the truck stop ends up in the middle, kind of in no-man's land. If the parking is 15 miles outside of the downtown area, that 15 miles equates to a 45-minute drive during rush hour. Your hours of service dictates when you're going to be able to do it, so it's a bit more than just the space."

The lack of safe parking for truckers has been a growing concern in many parts of the country. A need for parking has created controversy in areas like North Bend, Wash.

Jason's Law, which tries to give truckers better access to safe rest areas, passed in 2013. The law is in honor of truck driver Jason Rivenburg, who was robbed and killed in 2009 after he pulled into an abandoned roadside gas station to take a nap.

Tom Kearney, of the Federal Highway Administration, said there's a lot that goes into getting the funding for additional truck parking.

"We made truck parking eligible under the highway performance program, highway safety improvement program, and the surface transportation program," Kearney said. "Now we opened up $40 billion under the highway program that could go to truck parking, but now they also get into the shark tank of competing with bridge replacements, pavement replacements, congestion investments. So they got a big checkbook opened, but they got thrown into competition for a highway program that isn't sufficient."

Grenerth said ideas like reservation systems at truck stops have their limitations.

"I bet there are multiple phones out there on the showroom floor right now that flip open," Grenerth said. "Smartphones don't help every driver out there. I guarantee you that. There has to be something that doesn't rely on there being an Internet connection. There is a cost associated with that. Drivers are not getting assistance for purchasing that. I also believe that every chain that has truck parking reservations has a cost associated with that as well."

Grenerth said getting the information to truck drivers about safe parking spaces should become a priority.

"There's a lot of focus on making sure drivers get information about stopping for fuel at this place, because you can get it cheaper," he said. "I hope that same effort can go into finding a parking spot for a driver if they need it. They already have that communication going, so maybe that's a way to move forward with this."