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National conversation on truck parking shortages seeks solutions

National conversation on truck parking shortages seeks solutions

This week, while many of us gather with our families and friends to give thanks, we at the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) remind Fast Lane readers that many of America's commercial truck drivers won't be at their family's table. Instead, they'll be out there on the road, making sure that store shelves will be stocked for Black Friday, that the groceries your guests have consumed can be replenished, and that the wheels of our nation's economy continue to turn.

Our appreciation for the valuable role America's truckers play in our daily lives and in our economy is one reason we're so keen on making sure they have safe parking available on our highways.

Last August, we released the Jason’s Law Truck Parking Survey results confirming a nationwide shortage of safe truck parking. The survey report pointed to a lack of truck parking information and capacity across the nation and called for public and private stakeholders to come together and find solutions.  The Department responded by convening the National Truck Parking Coalition to do just that.  And earlier this month, we held a roundtable with stakeholders to kick off the coalition's work.

One piece of the safety picture is making sure that commercial truck drivers have a safe place to rest.  Drivers parking in unsafe areas like unmonitored parking lots may be crime targets, and trucks parked on shoulders and road ramps present traffic safety risks for other vehicles.  Almost half of the State departments of transportation surveyed reported that a lack of safe parking forced truckers to park in locations that jeopardize their own safety and the safety of others.  So, since safety is our number one priority, it is no surprise that truck parking is at the forefront of issues being tackled at the Department.

Deputy Secretary Victor Mendez, who wrote here in August about the survey and the coalition, kicked off the meeting.  Participation by Hope Rivenburg was also fitting. Hope is the widow of Jason Rivenburg, a driver killed when parked in the lot of a shuttered gas station; she has been a staunch advocate for safe truck parking and is the driving force behind Jason's Law, the survey, and this national effort to find a solution. 

Hope Rivenburg

As the survey results recommended, the coalition includes industry, state, and local representatives --all of whom are affected by the widespread truck parking shortage in this country.  Representatives from the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), the Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA), the American Trucking Associations (ATA), the Owner Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA), and the National Association of Truck Stop Owners and Operators (NATSO) are all key members.  

The group identified challenges and opportunities and shared best practices.  While the coalition might meet again at the national level as necessary, we're looking forward to frequent regional meetings that can be more strategic.

According to our Beyond Traffic study, by 2040 the amount of freight moving in the United States will grow by 45 percent.  This will require even greater attention to the truck parking shortage and underscores the need for more investment in truck parking and rest stops.  Fortunately, Congress has an opportunity right now to meet that challenge.

A long-term transportation bill that invests in trucker safety can help jump-start construction of new parking, while also providing resources for other approaches the coalition will recommend.  We know, for example, that available parking spaces can be more easily accessed with better technology and accurate, real-time information.   

Here in the FHWA, we hope to find and implement the solutions to this challenge soon. We can't emphasize enough that without truck drivers, America’s businesses would suffer, the economy would stop growing, and our daily lives would be drastically affected.  Our nation's truck drivers deliver the goods --literally-- and for that we all should be truly thankful.

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