Truck Parking Shortage Remains Fatal Issue For Truck Driversby Jana Ritter - Published: 1/22/2015
While the resurging economy is putting more trucks on the road and safety regulations are requiring truck drivers to pull off the road more frequently, little has been done about the severe shortage of truck stop parking and the dangers it creates for drivers.
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Take for instance the tragic situation that occurred last June when truck driver Mike Boeglin had been enroute to Detroit late at night to drop off a load of coils at a steel plant. He had spoke to his wife on the phone, discussing plans for their new baby on the way and that was the last anyone had heard from him. The next morning, Boeglin’s body was found in his Freightliner, burned beyond recognition. His truck had been set ablaze less than 150 yards from the factory gate and police suspect that robbery was the motive.
While Mrs. Boeglin can’t say exactly why her husband didn’t stay at a truck stop, she assumes that he probably didn’t want to spend money on the extra fuel to get to one or that he didn’t want pay the overnight parking fee. She believes that if he had been allowed to park inside the factory’s fenced-in parking lot, her husband would still be alive. However, most shippers don’t allow truck parking on their lots and often discourage parking in vacant lots nearby.
Mike Boeglin is only the recent of many situations where truck drivers have been robbed or killed as a result of parking in secluded off-road spots. According to the ATA, trucks transported 81% of the freight revenue in 2013 and yet nothing is done to ensure there are enough legal, safe and well-lit parking places where truckers need them most. In fact, the parking shortage has only been getting worse over the last two decades. In 2012, 70% of truckers surveyed along California’s Interstate 5 said they had tried to stop at a truck stop on the route but always found them to be full. More than half of the drivers also said that it was a common situation happening every other day. Another study by the Federal Highway Association also found that there were only approximately 300 truck-parking spots for the 10,000 trucks passing along the I-40 through Arizona and New Mexico daily.
“All the truck stops fill up early. If you don’t find a place by 4 p.m., you’re in bad shape,” says truck driver Debora da Rocha. When sleepy truckers can’t find a legal place to stop, there is really no choice but to keep driving or park illegally in secluded areas behind grocery stores, the corners of shopping malls or freeway ramps and shoulders. It can also take more than an hour just to find those spots.
Because no single entity is responsible for truck-parking facilities and so many different industry players have different stakes and agendas, nobody has really taken responsibility to provide a real solution. But according to NATSO, trucking companies are becoming more focused on the issue as they compete to hire and retain truck drivers. They also say that the fastest, most effective way to increase truck parking is for the trucking industry to demand it from the truck stops that they negotiate fuel contracts with.
What is your experience with the truck parking shortage and what do you think the most realistic solution is?