Bills in four states address truck parking concerns
March 25, 2019
Efforts underway at statehouses from Washington to Virginia cover truck parking needs.
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.
As introduced, the bill from Assemblyman Randy Voepel, R-Santee, called for exempting large vehicles from the rule under certain circumstances.
Voepel amended the bill in the Assembly Transportation Committee to require the California Department of Transportation and the California Highway Patrol to do 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.
AB158 awaits further consideration in the Assembly.
The Joint Committee on Transportation recently 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 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,” Sprague testified. “Tired drivers jeopardize themselves and other motorists and need a safe place to stop.”
Osten said the cost to keep rest areas is below $2 million annually. She said the money 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, calls for establishing a task force to study alternative funding for rest areas on state highways.
Joe Sculley of the Motor Transport Association of Connecticut testified that staffing facilities 24 hours a day in important for the trucking industry.
“It can often be difficult to find safe and legal parking spaces because Connecticut has been identified by a Federal Highway Administration study as having a severe shortage of safe parking.”
He said that the trucking industry is a “heavy funder” of the Special Transportation Fund.
“Out-of-state truckers who are most likely to need the rest areas do in fact contribute taxes and fees to Connecticut’s STF as well. Out-of-state trucks do not travel in Connecticut for free.”
He added that the state gets about $25 to $30 million annually in tax and fee revenue from out-of-state trucks.
Legislation on the governor’s desk address the Interstate 81 corridor.
As introduced, HB2718/SB1716 sought to impose tolls on all users of I-81.
The bills were revised to call for the formation of a committee of legislators and transportation officials to discuss improvements to Interstate 81. The amended legislation calls for a panel to study what travelers would tolerate to access the roadway.
Included in the bills are analysis and the review of truck parking needs along the corridor.
The legislation states that I-81 carries 42 percent of all truck vehicle miles traveled in Virginia. Trucks make up 20 to 30 percent of all traffic on the interstate.
A bill halfway through the statehouse is intended to help ease parking concerns for professional drivers.
The Washington State Department of Transportation owns and operates 47 rest areas. The agency reports that most are open to the public 24 hours each day.
State law allows visitors to park at facilities for up to eight hours daily. There is no time restriction if the vehicle is disabled.
The Senate voted 33-14 to advance 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 permitted 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’s Sheri Call said.
The bill has moved to the House Transportation Committee.
The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers 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.”