Truck parking emphasized during House roadway safety hearing
June 9, 2022
The national truck parking crisis was addressed during a U.S. House of Representatives hearing discussing roadway safety, reigniting optimism that the federal government will dedicate funding exclusively for projects adding parking capacity.
On Wednesday, June 8, the Highways and Transit subcommittee held a hearing titled “Addressing the Roadway Safety Crisis: Building Safer Roads for All.” Although there was a wide range of topics discussed, truck parking was addressed multiple times, including a plea for dedicated funding from the committee’s chairperson.
Keeping a promise he made more than a year ago, House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Chair Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., dedicated half of his opening comments to talk about truck parking. Specifically, DeFazio was expressing the importance of dedicated funding for building more truck parking spaces.
“We’ve got to do something about (truck parking), and I hope that the administration will use the discretion that they have to deal with that in addition to all the other tools that we’re talking about here for the states and localities to reduce fatalities on the roads,” DeFazio said.
DeFazio reminded the subcommittee that the House version of the infrastructure bill included $1 billion exclusively for projects that add truck parking spaces.
He also pointed out that there have been 2,300 crashes involving parked trucks, including 138 deaths.
Those stats alone highlight the broad safety implications tied to truck parking. Acknowledging “there is an absolute critical shortage of truck parking,” DeFazio also suggested that a lack of parking is “very inefficient” and “discourages people from getting into the profession.”
Doubling down on his stance, DeFazio, along with ranking member Rep. Sam Graves, R-Mo., sent a letter to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg on Tuesday urging the secretary to increase truck parking capacity. For me details about that letter, click here.
DeFazio is not the only subcommittee member addressing truck parking. Rep. Mike Bost, R-Ill., asked witnesses why nothing has been done so far.
Shawn Wilson, president of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, said state DOTs have to compete with private industry truck stops. Federal law prohibits government-owned rest stops from competing with private commerce. Consequently, certain amenities, including fuel stations, are not allowed at rest areas.
Wilson also talked about the not-in-my-backyard approach at the local level. Residents in communities up and down the interstates across the nation are resisting attempts to build more truck parking spaces where they live. Wilson, who is also the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development secretary, said issues regarding land use are exacerbating the problem.
Funding mechanisms are also an issue for state DOTs. Wilson said his hands are tied when it comes to allocating money for certain projects. For the most part, Wilson does not have the authority to expropriate for truck parking, only highway funding in general.
Kicking the can down the road
Considering past attempts at dedicated funding for truck parking, stakeholders may be cautiously optimistic about the latest effort by House members.
In the battle for dedicated truck parking funding, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association has been a leading voice on the frontlines.
When DeFazio promised to “meaningfully address” the truck parking crisis in February 2021, he credited OOIDA President Todd Spencer for presenting the issue.
“I had a long talk with Todd Spencer with OOIDA,” DeFazio said in February 2021.. “We delved into many issues, but one of the most prominent issues was truck parking. I promised him that we would meaningfully address that issue in (the highway bill), and I’ll be happy to work with you on that where we can access the Highway Trust Fund and dedicate some dollars to it.”
That led to a provision allocating $1 billion exclusively for projects adding parking spaces in the House version of the infrastructure. However, that provision was omitted from the Senate version that was ultimately signed into law, despite an amendment that attempted to get the provision back in the final draft.
OOIDA is “thrilled” to see the continuance of a bipartisan effort addressing the national truck parking crisis.
“We are thrilled Democrats and Republicans in the House continue to push for necessary federal investment in truck parking capacity, Collin Long, OOIDA’s director of government affairs, said. “If senators had shown the same commitment to fixing the problem, we probably wouldn’t even be discussing the issue at a hearing on roadway safety, because Washington would have already devoted federal funding to building capacity. Still, we applaud representatives like Chairman DeFazio, Ranking Member Graves, Congressman Bost, and others on the committee for understanding this problem won’t be solved without federal leadership and remaining vigilant.” LL