Feds complete truck parking study

By Tyson Fisher, staff writer

The hard data from a trio of surveys assessing truck parking are in, and they confirm what truckers have known for years: finding a safe place to park is a real crap shoot.

More than 75 percent of drivers reported consistent issues with finding safe parking once rest is needed, according to a Federal Highway Administration parking survey. Among those surveyed, 90 percent of drivers experienced problems finding safe, available parking at night.

In August, the U.S. Department of Transportation released the results of the FHWA study, which was mandated under a provision known as Jason's Law in the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act. The study aimed to evaluate the number and type of parking spaces available for truckers, as well as examine the impact of changes to HOS, and issues of land availability for private truck stops.

Jason's Law stems from the 2009 murder of trucker Jason Rivenburg, who was fatally shot while parked at an unlit, abandoned gas station. His widow, Hope Rivenburg, lobbied Congress to address truck parking as part of MAP-21. She also released her own parking survey in 2013.

The FHWA survey solicited responses from both truckers and state agencies.

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 also 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.

FHWA found that most states reported a truck parking shortage, and shortages appear to be a larger issue with public facilities than with private facilities.

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

The survey found the overwhelming majority of dedicated truck parking to be at private truck stops. Of the more than 300,000 spaces documented in the report, more than 272,000 are located at private stops - roughly eight times as many as those available at public rest areas.

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.

While demand exists from truckers and private truck stops for more parking spaces, the study found states were facing challenges ranging from land availability to public perception.

Some states reported a shortage of land for private truck stops within a 20-mile radius of urban areas. In addition to geographical limitations, challenges have arisen from residents and communities who have resisted new truck stops in their area due to poor public perception of the truck stops.

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. The report also calls for one of the relevant agencies or entities in the public sector to take responsibility and become the "champion" for truck parking needs.

One month after the FHWA parking survey, the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) released the results of its Commercial Driver Perspectives on Truck Parking survey. ATRI, which is the research arm of the American Trucking Associations, found in its survey that drivers were unwilling to pay for reserved parking, and that the burden of paying for such spaces should fall on the carrier instead. LL