Washington Legislature approves rest area, port restroom bills

March 9, 2022

Keith Goble


The Washington State Legislature acted in the final days of the regular session to advance two bills intended to aid truck drivers at rest areas and at port facilities.

The Washington Trucking Associations, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, and the American Trucking Associations have worked together in the state to educate legislators about the need for truck drivers to access rest areas and restrooms.

House lawmakers voted unanimously Tuesday, March 8, to give final approval to a bill to direct the Washington State Department of Transportation to keep state-owned and operated rest areas open. The bill would make exceptions for seasonal closures, cleaning, maintenance, and repairs.

The Senate voted unanimously last week to approve the bill. HB1655 now heads to Gov. Jay Inslee’s desk.

Truck drivers need support

Rep. Dan Griffey spearheaded the pursuit at the statehouse to address the lack of safe overnight truck parking in the state.

The Allyn, Wash., Republican took up the pursuit following multiple fall closures of rest areas.

WSDOT owns and operates 47 rest areas across the state. As recently as last month, eight rest areas were closed due to staffing issues, maintenance, and winter conditions.

“The closure of state-owned safety rest areas is contrary to state policy to have zero deaths on the roadways,” Griffey wrote in the bill.

Griffey said availability to rest in designated areas is the upmost importance during the global supply chain shortages.

“We want to support our truck drivers by allowing them to park safely and rest as mandated by law,” Griffey said in a recent press release. “Operating these rest areas will keep our economy moving and prevent additional serious and fatal injuries.”

HB1655 allows WSDOT to initiate a process that addresses the maintenance, operation, and safety of its owned and operated safety rest areas.

Trucking associations advocate for change

Trucking industry officials have been front and center for lawmakers at the Washington statehouse in the effort to get legislative backing for the bill.

OOIDA Executive Vice President Lewie Pugh and independent truck driver and OOIDA Board Member Tilden Curl of Olympia, Wash., provided insight to legislators on the issue.

Pugh highlighted the need for action following the feds failure to take action to address truck parking.

“The United States Congress has failed truck drivers by not including dedicated funding for truck parking in the in the infrastructure bill that was signed into law last year,” Pugh previously testified. “This was a means of preserving existing truck parking capacity, which is critical, and includes keeping rest areas open as much as possible.”

Curl pointed out to lawmakers that the lack of truck parking results in increased costs for every business and consumer located in the affected areas.

“Commercial truck parking is critical for efficient trucking operations and compliance with federal hours-of-service requirements,” Curl wrote to lawmakers. “Truck drivers depend on these rest areas for personal needs, compliance, safety checks on loads and equipment, as well as a place to rest.”

Following passage of the HB1655, Sherri Call, president and CEO of the Washington Trucking Associations, said she is grateful that state lawmakers are taking the lead nationally on the issue of safe truck parking.

“Rep. Griffey and the Washington State Legislature realize that the lack of safe truck parking is a problem and they’re doing something about it. I think it’s fair to say that our state is leading the way on tackling this issue and hopefully more states will follow suit,” Call said in a news release.

John Lynch, senior vice president at the American Trucking Associations, said he hopes the legislation helps motivate other states to follow Washington’s lead and pursue similar strategic initiatives to further address the problem.

“We will continue working with our state trucking association affiliates to do whatever we can to provide more parking spots for the men and women that literally drive our economy,” Lynch stated.

Mike Matousek, OOIDA director of state legislative affairs, adds that HB1655 is a momentum builder.

“Will this solve the truck parking crisis? No. But people like Tilden Curl will notice. And there’s no question it will make a positive difference in his life and the lives of those that routinely struggle to find a place to park in Washington.”

Another bill approved by lawmakers would benefit port haulers.

The House voted 97-1 on Monday, March 7, to advance to the governor a bill to help address the concern of professional drivers about access to restroom facilities. HB1706 passed the Senate with unanimous consent.

Sponsored by Rep. Mike Sells, D-Everett, the bill would give truck drivers operating at ports around the state assurances for access to restroom facilities.

Specifically, HB1706 would require terminal operators to provide “a sufficient number of restrooms” for use by drayage truckers in areas of the terminal that operators typically have access. Areas covered in the bill include inside the gate and truck queuing lots.

Restrooms could include fixed bathrooms or portable toilets.

Terminal operators would be in compliance with the rule when a policy is in place to allow drayage truckers to leave their vehicles at “reasonable times and locations” for purposes of access to restrooms.

Facilities must be in areas where access would not pose an “obvious health or safety risk” to the user.

Drayage truck operators accessing the terminal for the purpose of loading, unloading, or transporting cargo would be covered by the rule.

OOIDA says more help is needed.

As the bill made its way through the statehouse, OOIDA’s Pugh explained to lawmakers that HB1706 covers a daily dilemma for truck drivers, and taking action is an opportunity for the Legislature to address “a basic human need.”

The Association asked legislators to add language to HB1706 to include shippers and receivers in the requirement for providing restroom access. Despite OOIDA’s efforts, the language was not included in the final version.

“I can’t tell you how many shippers and receivers I’ve been at over the years that had no place for truck drivers to use the restroom,” Pugh previously testified. “Let me rephrase that – most places had restrooms, many just didn’t let me use it.” LL

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