The Parking Zone – November 2020

November 2020

Tyson Fisher

|

It’s difficult to believe that the results of the Jason’s Law truck parking survey were released more than five years ago. Since then, the trucking industry remains largely in the same situation in regards to parking.

Some states have taken meaningful action to address their part of the problem. Unfortunately, that is not nearly enough to put a dent in the number of truck parking spaces needed nationwide. At the federal level, virtually nothing of consequence has emerged. Sure, there have been federal grants for programs like the Truck Parking Information Management System, but that only tells truckers where spaces are available.

The latest move from the federal government is what one would expect: another survey. The second version of the Jason’s Law survey is expected to be released soon. The survey is supposed to be updated periodically. This second edition was to be released last year, then moved to the beginning of this year, and now here we are almost to 2021.

Considering not much has changed, the updated version of the Jason’s Law survey should be a carbon copy of the original version, with few exceptions.

Surveys are a way for the federal government to suggest it is addressing an issue without actually addressing an issue. If the government actually wants to do something meaningful, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association has essentially giftwrapped a way for it to do so.

HR6104, the Truck Parking Safety Improvement Act, is still alive and well. It will authorize $755 million over five years specifically (and only) to add truck parking capacity. The solution to the problem is readily available. However, there are only 12 co-sponsors as of press time. That’s something, and the co-sponsors represent both sides of the aisle. With all the grandstanding about the importance of truckers and truck parking, that number should be much higher.

Reach out to your House rep and let them know they need to co-sponsor HR6104.

Truck parking addressed in Georgia

During a meeting in September, the Georgia Freight and Logistics Commission discussed truck parking specifically. In fact, Chairman Kevin Tanner called truck parking “the theme of today.” Daniel Studdard, principal planner for the Atlanta Regional Commission, kicked off the conversation.

“(Truck parking) is something that doesn’t get talked about as much, hasn’t gotten as much focus realistically as you can see by our previous planning efforts,” Studdard said. “It’s certainly relevant for the safety of truck drivers as well as anybody on the road.”

Right out of the gate, Studdard mentioned both Jason’s Law as well as the National Coalition on Truck Parking, both of which led to Georgia’s truck parking study that was completed in 2018. In fact, the commission’s meeting was perhaps one of the most in-depth, comprehensive discussions about truck parking at the state level.

Highlighting safety issues, Studdard brought up how truckers are parking on highway ramps or even the side of the road. He said although crashes with trucks parked on ramps and the side of the road are rare, they are significant when they do occur. Studdard also mentioned Jason Rivenburg, the namesake of Jason’s Law, who was killed when parked in an unsafe location after failing to find a safe parking spot.

Further revealing he did his homework, Studdard briefed the commission on hours of service and electronic logging device regulations. He referred to these as the regulatory “perfect storm.” Specifically, Studdard mentioned how paper logs allowed truckers a little wiggle room for finding truck parking. However, ELDs more or less screwed all that up.

Going back to Georgia’s truck parking survey, Studdard said several counties have no truck parking at all, especially north of Interstate 20.

More than half of respondents said it takes more than one hour to find truck parking in the Atlanta region, with 41% stating it takes 30 minutes to an hour. Only about 8% indicated they could find a truck parking space within 30 minutes, with only 1% saying they can within 15 minutes.

Someone asked about parking apps. Studdard suggested that truck stops will not indicate a lot is full because that may lead the driver to go somewhere else, thereby losing revenue from fuel, food, etc. However, if they don’t say they’re full and a driver gets there and finds out they are, the driver may still buy fuel and food while they are there anyway. Other apps are crowdsourced, which also is not reliable. American Transportation Research Institute President Rebecca Brewster pointed out that federal regulations prohibit drivers from using smartphones while driving anyway.

But enough about what we already know. How is Georgia going to solve the truck parking problem? Studdard acknowledged there is no easy “low-hanging fruit” solution. However, he did point out three examples throughout the nation.

First, the private sector can do something. We saw that with the partnership between Unilever and Kriska. Second, state DOTs can step up to the plate. This was done in Missouri by turning weigh stations into truck parking lots. Third, municipal governments may have opportunities. This happened in Elmira, N.Y., and Weed, Calif., both situations featured in previous editions of The Parking Zone.

All of the above information was discussed within the first 30 minutes of the more than two-hour meeting. Although actions speak louder than words, it appears Georgia has a firm grasp on the truck parking problem. LL

Tyson Fisher

Tyson Fisher joined Land Line Magazine in March 2014. An award-winning journalist and tireless researcher, his news reports, features and blogs bring depth to our editorial content, backed with solid detail. Tyson is a lifelong Kansas Citian.