Truck parking 2020 year in review
The Parking Zone – December 2020/January 2021
This year has been unlike any other year, to say the least. This is especially true for everyone involved in the trucking industry. Despite how much damage was caused by the pandemic, there has been some good coming out of it. For truck parking, the pandemic exposed the nationwide problem to the general public and federal lawmakers.
Unsung heroes of truck parking
Truck parking woes were exacerbated in March when the COVID-19 pandemic forced stay-at-home orders across the nation. With a pandemic of this magnitude last seen 100 years ago, no one really knew what they were doing.
That was clear when Pennsylvania closed all of its rest areas in a kneejerk reaction to the pandemic. The state eventually reopened all of the rest areas after the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association rained down hellfire on PennDOT for pulling that trigger. In fact, Business Insider named OOIDA President Todd Spencer in its list of 100 leaders in North America driving change and innovation in their companies and across industries partly because of that effort.
“One key part of Spencer’s advocacy has been pressing the federal government to provide personal protective equipment to truck drivers, which the administration agreed to do in April,” Business Insider wrote. “OOIDA, with other groups, also fought to stop the shuttering of rest areas. Several states, including Pennsylvania, reopened those areas after continued demands from truck drivers nationwide.”
Other states learned from Pennsylvania’s embarrassing mistake and kept their rest areas open, which brings us to a much-deserved tip of the cap.
In October, Washington state Gov. Jay Inslee honored state safety rest area workers for keeping freight moving and travelers safe during the pandemic.
“Rest area crews from the Washington State Department of Transportation kept working in the field as essential workers during the Stay Home, Stay Healthy order,” Inslee said in a statement. “They also increased the frequency of their cleaning to help keep travelers safe. This meant cleaning all 45 year-round state rest areas at least twice a day. At the most heavily used sites along I-5, I-90 and I-82, all touch points, such as door handles, faucets and handrails, were cleaned every two hours. Crews also worked repairing the rest areas to keep them open and in good working order.”
The trucking industry can extend that huge “thank you” to rest area workers across the country. Like truckers, they put themselves in the line of fire in order to ensure Americans received the essential supplies that were getting cleared off the shelves at a rapid rate.
Silver lining of the pandemic
By pure coincidence, Reps. Mike Bost, R-Ill., and Angie Craig, D-Minn., introduced HR6104, the Truck Parking Safety Improvement Act, on March 5. In a way, the pandemic highlighted the importance of that bill.
Less than two weeks after that bill was introduced is when Pennsylvania shut down its rest areas. Trucking industry pressure got those rest areas reopened. If there was any real-world evidence to support the need for a truck parking bill like HR6104, that was it.
Since its introduction, HR6104 has nabbed 12 co-sponsors, including eight Republicans and four Democrats. Twelve is not bad, but considering how nearly every member of Congress praised truckers during the peak of stay-at-home orders, only 12 put federal money where their mouths are. If your House rep is not among those co-sponsors, find one of their public comments calling truckers heroes during the pandemic and remind them that without sponsoring HR6104 that praise was just a bunch of lip service.
Election results and truck parking
The results of the presidential election have a direct effect on the trucking industry. Issues like minimum insurance, emissions, underride guards and hours of service can zig rather than zag depending on which party is in power. When it comes to truck parking, the election results should not matter as much.
As shown with the HR6104 co-sponsor list, truck parking is a bipartisan issue. Insurance, emissions, and even HOS regulations are more safety and environmental issues, which tend to lean a certain direction politically. On the other hand, truck parking is an infrastructure issue. Historically, infrastructure has been a bipartisan effort, with relevant congressional committees seeing more compromises and bipartisanship than most other committees.
Both Joe Biden and President Donald Trump emphasized the need to address our infrastructure needs during their campaigns.
It did not really matter who won that race when it comes to infrastructure.
The Democrats will maintain control of the House, and Georgia runoff elections were set to determine control of the Senate. As Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association Manager of Government Affairs Mike Matousek said in an episode of “Live From Exit 24,” we may expect some continued legislative gridlock as a result.
Although infrastructure has historically been a bipartisan effort, Americans have seen stalemates on related issues. For example, if Democrats demand too many environmental provisions at the House level, the Republican-led Senate may block that version of an infrastructure bill. That is what makes HR6104 such an important bill. We can hope this next political cycle will push a truck parking bill to the Resolute Desk. LL