Truck Driver Parking Already Limited
Nobody stops to thing what happens when truck drivers stop driving at the end of the day or night. They seem to be always on the road. It is a little known fact outside the trucking industry, but truck drivers are actually legally required to stop and rest. There are about 3.2 million truck drivers in the US and about 1.9 million trucks to drive. This presents an immediate problem in the industry, as there are way too many trucks and not enough places to park them at.
The trucker parking shortage is not a new issue in the trucking industry, yet it is still a continuously growing concern. That notion is true even more so now that there is resurgence in the economy, which has put even more trucks on the road. Trucking is a highly competitive industry that involves many different stakeholders including trucking companies, developers, shippers, transportation authorities, and safety officials. Regardless, there is little representation when it comes to truck drivers and even less accommodation for them on the road.
Trucker parking shortage has been an issue in the industry for more than a couple of decades. It is an issue that doesn’t get much attention except for the truck drivers that have to deal with it on a daily basis. For truck drivers, parking shortage is not really an issue of convenience; it is more of a safety and compliance issue in the industry. On an average, a single semi truck driver will go for close to 100,000 miles on long distance trips. Semi trucks may make up only 15% of commercial trucks nationwide, but they cover almost 42% of mileage driven by the same demographic. Even with these statistics, there are still not enough parking areas that provide a legal and safe place where truckers can stop and where they really need to the most. In addition to this dilemma, safety regulators continue to increase the amount of times truckers are required to rest. It is a simple matter of common sense. In order for truckers to rest, they need a place to stop and park their trucks. According to law, truck drivers must stop at least once every 8 hours of actual work time for 30 minutes and stop driving for the night after 11 hours of driving or 14 hours of work equivalence. Many drivers have reported that besides dealing with their exhaustion and fatigue, one of their biggest concerns in their career is actually trying to comply with federal regulations. Without enough trucker parking, it becomes almost impossible to legally comply with such imposed requirements.
More than being a compliance issue, the shortage of trucker parking is also a fatal issue. It is difficult to grasp the idea of a truck driver’s exhaustion after a long day on the road. And with truck parking shortage, many drivers have to resort to other measures just to be able to get rest. When a tired trucker can no longer keep looking for a legal place to park his truck, he might end up parking illegally in unsafe and secluded places. Many truckers can be seen parked behind empty grocery stores or even on freeway ramps. Some drivers who can’t find parking even choose to just push on and keep driving. This is an even bigger danger as it not only poses a threat to the driver himself, but it becomes a threat to regular motorists as well. There can be nothing more dangerous on the road than a sleepy driver behind a semi truck. This particular situation has resulted to many transportation accidents and fatalities.
There is also a safety issue when it comes to the cargo that trucks carry. Truck drivers are often subject of many theft and robberies. Most of the time, truckers are unable to park their semis in a well lit and fenced in location, so they become easier targets for robbers. Depending on the type of cargo the truck carries, its total value can go up to millions worth. The trucking industry is very attractive to those who seek this kind of thieving work. This poses an even more danger to the trucker as some robbers will do whatever it takes, and if a trucker happens to be asleep on the side of the road, it makes it a lot easier to do.
A California survey on truckers along I-5 showed how 70% of drivers would stop at a truck stop on the way, but truck stops are always full. According to researchers in UC Berkeley, this situation happens every other day for truck drivers. Another study from the Federal Highway Association found that on parts of I-40 along Arizona and New Mexico, there are only 300 truck parking spots for more than 10,000 trucks that go through that area every single day. Even big companies that rely on truckers for shipping such as ThyssenKrupp do not provide truck parking in their facilities, and company regulations do not allow truck drivers to park anywhere unless it’s legal. Another informal survey in 2013 gathered about 4,000 responses from truck drivers regarding the parking shortage situation. Nearly 40% of those who responded said that it usually takes them an hour or more to find a parking spot for the night. Out of these responses, many of them regularly park behind shopping centers and about 45% park in abandoned areas.
Since there is really no single entity that is responsible for the truck parking shortage issue, there hasn’t been any real solution. It was only in 2012 when federal funding became available for truck parking projects, but since that passed, nothing has changed much. The highways are still congested with truck drivers, and there are still not enough places to let them rest in peace and safety. Truck parking has even become a business for some, a completely new industry due to the rising demands. There are places that charge truck drivers a premium just to be able to park for the night. This is a problem that needs addressing not only for the safety of truck drivers but also for safety on the road in general. Truck drivers take care of all our nation’s cargo. It is time they are taken care of as well.