Bills in four states address truck parking concerns
Truck parking needs are a topic drawing attention this year at statehouses from California to Virginia.
A bill moving through the state Assembly addresses concerns about where professional drivers can take a break.
Existing law prohibits vehicles from stopping, parking or standing alongside a freeway.
The current version of AB158 from Assemblyman Randy Voepel, R-Santee, would require the California Department of Transportation and the California Highway Patrol to conduct a study evaluating parking availability for commercial vehicles.
The study would be required to evaluate the capacity of the state to provide “adequate parking and rest facilities for commercial vehicles.” Additionally, the study would assess the volume of truck traffic in the state and “develop a system of metrics to measure the adequacy” of truck parking facilities statewide.
The Joint Committee on Transportation held a hearing on a bill concerning truck parking at rest areas in the state.
In 2016, in an effort to save
$1.1 million per year, the Connecticut DOT announced a partial shutdown of a half dozen rest areas along Interstates 84 and 91. One facility along Interstate 95 in Westbrook was closed.
The facilities that remain open are staffed from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. daily.
Sponsored by Sen. Cathy Osten, D-Sprague, SB713 would require the state DOT to open rest areas 24 hours a day for visitors and to allow truck drivers to take federally mandated breaks.
“If the state is unable to provide a safe place for truckers and other vehicles to stop, there will be more opportunity for accidents on our highways,” Osten testified. “Tired drivers jeopardize themselves and other motorists and need a safe place to stop.”
Osten said the cost to keep rest areas open would come from the state’s Special Transportation Fund.
A separate bill, SB192, would require the state’s welcome centers to be reopened by July 1. A plan to recruit volunteers to staff facilities also would be created.
One more bill, HB5162, would establish a task force to study alternative funding for rest areas on state highways.
Joe Sculley, president of the Motor Transport Association of Connecticut, testified that it is difficult for truck drivers to find “safe and legal parking spaces” in the state. He said that a Federal Highway Administration study identified Connecticut as having a severe shortage of safe parking.
He added that the trucking industry is a “heavy funder” of the Special Transportation Fund.
Legislation sent to the governor focuses on travel along the Interstate 81 corridor.
HB2718/SB1716 calls for the formation of a committee of legislators and transportation officials to discuss improvements to Interstate 81, including an analysis and review of truck parking needs. In essence, it’s a study.
Gov. Ralph Northam offered amendments to overhaul the legislation, including the removal of the truck parking study. Lawmakers agreed to the changes, and the bill was signed into law.
A bill halfway through the statehouse is intended to help ease parking concerns for professional drivers.
State law allows visitors to park at rest areas for up to eight hours daily. There is no time restriction if the vehicle is disabled.
Senators voted 33-14 to advance to the House a bill to change allowable parking time from eight hours per day to four hours.
Advocates for the rule change say all anyone needs to do to get around the current eight-hour rule is to remove a vehicle part to claim the vehicle is disabled.
SB5506 would permit the Washington State Police to impound disabled vehicles after 24 hours.
Commercial vehicles would be exempt from the new rules. Additionally, affected trucks would be allowed to park at rest areas for up to an hour beyond federally mandated rest periods.
A spokeswoman for the Washington Trucking Associations testified during a recent hearing on the bill that Washington is the “most trade-dependent state in the nation.”
However, the state is ranked 44th in available truck parking.
“Safe and accessible truck parking is crucial to the trucking industry, and this bill would help with that problem,” WTA Executive Vice President Sheri Call said.
The Association says the truck parking shortage nationally remains one of the biggest issues for truckers.
Mike Matousek, OOIDA’s manager of government affairs, said calling it a truck parking “crisis” is probably a more accurate description of the situation.
“We continue to work with lawmakers and transportation officials in D.C. and across the country, but progress is slow,” he said. “We’re well beyond the point of needing another study, or a working group, etc. We need more truck parking capacity. Period.”
He adds that “if people in a position to make a positive difference continue to drag their feet, this will get much worse to the detriment of public safety and a significant portion of the trucking industry.
“Solutions exist, so it’s time for lawmakers and transportation officials to act.” LL