Buttigieg: ‘We owe our truckers a safe place to rest’

September 30, 2022

Mark Schremmer

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The nation’s lack of truck parking isn’t a problem confined to the trucking industry, U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg says.

As part of his opening statements at the National Coalition of Truck Parking’s annual meeting on Friday, Sept. 30, Buttigieg said the truck parking shortage creates supply chain and safety problems for all Americans.

“We owe our truckers a safe place to rest – not just because it’s the right thing to do and not only because it’s going to save drivers’ time and money, but because everyone is better off when truckers can do their jobs to the best of their abilities,” Buttigieg said.

DOT leaders, including Buttigieg, FHWA acting Administrator Stephanie Pollack, and FMCSA Administrator Robin Hutcheson, used the meeting to put a spotlight on the longtime truck parking crisis.

Hutcheson reiterated that it’s a problem that should concern everyone.

“We know that without safe truck parking, drivers may end up parking in unsafe locations such as highway shoulders, freeway exit or entrance ramps,” she said. “We have all seen this as we travel this country … We know that large trucks parked on roadway shoulders create safety concerns not only for the occupants of a large truck but also us who may be traveling the roadways.”

The parking crisis across the nation has been well documented. The 2019 Jason’s Law Report found that 98% of drivers regularly experience problems finding safe parking. According to OOIDA and ATA, there is only one truck parking space for every 11 truckers nationwide.

However, recognizing the problem is only part of the battle. For years, OOIDA has been advocating for solutions that will result in increased truck parking capacity. Friday’s meeting pointed to some potential paths to progress.

Grants

The administration is encouraging state DOTs to use existing grant funding for truck parking.

“Because truck parking is eligible under most federal-aid highway apportionment programs, recently released guidance for both the National Highway Performance Program and Surface Transportation Block Grant programs makes it clear that truck parking is eligible and specifically identifies it as a priority to address safety and supply chain concerns,” Buttigieg wrote in a recent letter to OOIDA and ATA. “We will use every opportunity to educate state and local partners about the eligibility of federal funding for truck parking and recommend states work with private sector truck stop operators and the trucking community in the siting and development of truck parking projects.”

A recent memorandum from the U.S. Department of Transportation revised guidance regarding funding eligibility for commercial motor vehicle parking projects.

“Truck parking is a safety issue – both for truck drivers and all other road users, which is why FHWA has updated our guidance to ensure there is no question about eligibility for truck parking projects in new formula and discretionary grant programs authorized under the bipartisan infrastructure law,” Pollack said. “This new information will help states, localities and other eligible entities identify eligible formula funding sources and apply for discretionary grants to fund truck parking projects that not only support the increased demand for truck deliveries and strengthen our supply chains, but also provide safe truck parking, which is critical to protect the truck drivers we rely on, as well as the traveling public.”

The Surface Transportation Block Grant Program, National Highway Freight Program, Highway Safety Improvement Program, National Highway Performance Program, PROTECT funds, Carbon Reduction Program, and the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program are all potential funding avenues states can use for truck parking projects.

Earlier this month, the Department of Transportation announced investments to expand truck parking capacity on the interstate system. These investments included $15 million to add about 120 truck parking spaces in Florida and $22.6 million to add about 125 spaces in Tennessee.

Truck Parking Development Handbook

FHWA released the 2022 Truck Parking Development Handbook on Friday. The handbook serves as a resource for planners, engineers, local officials, state DOTs, metropolitan planning organizations, economic development organizations and other entities involved in freight and land use planning.

Truck Parking Safety Improvement Act

OOIDA worked with Rep. Mike Bost, R-Ill., to introduce the Truck Parking Safety Improvement Act. In July, the bill to allocate $755 million over four years for truck parking was approved by a House markup committee.

Speaking at the coalition meeting on Friday, OOIDA Director of Legislative Affairs Bryce Mongeon said that dedicated funding for truck parking is still needed. Although DOT is making it clear to states that a variety of grants can be used for truck parking, there remains a lot of competition for those funds.

“Oftentimes when it has to compete with other priorities, it just doesn’t make it to the top of the list,” Mongeon said. “But as we know, there is tremendous interest in addressing this problem. So we believe that if there is dedicated funding, there would be definitely interest in using it.”

The Truck Parking Safety Improvement Act, HR2187, has 38 co-sponsors. OOIDA also is hoping a Senate version of the bill will be introduced soon.

“We hope that we will see movement soon in the Senate on companion legislation,” Mongeon said. “We know that the issue is on Senators’ radars, and we hope to translate this in to action on the legislative front.” LL

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Mark Schremmer, senior editor, joined Land Line in 2015. An award-winning journalist and former assistant news editor at The Topeka Capital-Journal, he brings fresh ideas, solid reporting skills, and more than two decades of journalism experience to our staff.