Truck Stop Safety Concerns Driving Industry's Leaders To Washingtonby Jana Ritter - Published: 2/15/2013
When weather such as last week's north east snow storm forces trucks off the road all at once and tractor-trailers are stacked end-to-end and even spilling out onto ramps and roadways, the truck stop issue (or lack thereof) becomes a lot more apparent to outsiders. But while last week was a result of truckers simply heeding the travel ban and staying off snow-covered highways, truck drivers say its not just during bad weather - the shortage of places for them to park at anytime has been a widespread issue for years. Leading to deadly consequences for both truck drivers and other motorists as well.
Truck driver Bruce Rogers explains. "It means some of the drivers are forced to drive beyond their limits when they're fatigued. It means they're having to drive illegally because they're beyond their hours or they pull over unsafely, and even illegally”, he says.
Two deadly accidents that occurred on the I-95 last December depicts the dangers created by this exact scenario. In one, a truck driver had parked by the ramp to a rest stop and was sleeping in his cab when a drunk driver careened into his tractor, killing him instantly. The trucker's widow had told NBC Connecticut that she wondered if her husband's life might have been spared---if he was able to park farther away from the highway. A week later another fatal collision occurred on the I-95, when again a truck driver had been forced to parked illegally on the shoulder of a rest area entrance ramp so he could rest and a passing car lost control, smashing into the truck. That time, it was the driver of the car killed instantly.
Mike Riley of Connecticut's Motor Transport Association, a trucking industry advocacy group, says that any given night there are up to 1500 truck drivers looking for a place to rest their heads in the fewer than 300 spots at the state's 16 open rest areas and service plazas. "Every one of our commercial facilities, every night is full to overflowing. There's no space there. So we have to improvise. So what they do is they pull into whatever's available in the public arena, and those are all full and overflowing. Then they park on the sides of the highway, they park on entrance ramps to the highway, they try to find a place on a side road where they can park and rest and not have problems,” he said.
Truck stop safety is major issue in almost every state across the US and the Department of Transportation says that while they've been aware of the shortage for years, there's not enough money or space. That doesn't answer the safety concerns for truck drivers and the industry advocacy groups are introducing new legislation this session that aims to force the DOT to come up with new ways to fix the problem
In the meantime, drivers say they try to plan ahead, charting out their routes so they end up near a rest area when it's time to take their federally mandated break.