Potential Rest-Stop Closures

by Jana Ritter - Published: 12/13/2013

One of the big issues surrounding rest area management is providing enough parking for long-haul truck drivers, who are now even more limited by the new federal regulations forcing mandatory rest breaks after so many hours on the road.

Trucks parked

Already, truck drivers repeatedly complain about a lack of overnight parking, and in Iowa it's especially common to see rest areas overflowing with semi trailers at night. If the Iowa Department of Transportation proceeds with plans to close some rest areas and no provisions are made to accommodate trucks, it could certainly worsen the parking problem.

An Iowa DOT study of Iowa's rest areas shows the demand for truck parking is highest between 10 p.m. and 8 a.m., when the number of trucks often exceeds the available parking spaces. When spaces are full, trucks park on shoulders of the rest area entry ramps and exit ramps, or in areas designated for cars. The peak period for truck parking at rest areas is between 2 a.m. and 6 a.m.

“Safety is our top concern, and quite simply, a truck on the side of the road is not a safe situation,” said Brenda Neville, president of the Iowa Motor Truck Association, a trade group for the state’s trucking industry. “It is incumbent upon our industry to continue to address this issue and partner with the DOT and other interested agencies to develop solutions and cost-effective measures that enhance truck parking in the state.”

More planned closures of the two Interstate Highway 80 rest stops in Dallas County in early 2015 will also result in the loss of two large truck parking areas. State officials plan to address those losses by developing additional parking at truck weigh stations on eastbound I-80 in Dallas County and on westbound I-80 in Jasper County, said Mitch Dillavou, director of the DOT's Project Delivery Bureau in Ames.

But Ray Hammond of Flagstaff, Ariz., a long-haul truck driver who regularly passes through central Iowa on I-80, says he wouldn't dream of stopping overnight at a state truck weigh station, which is staffed by DOT law enforcement officers.

“I would never park there. You wake up in the morning and they say, “Hey, here you are. Let’s do a Level 1” truck inspection, said Hammond, who stopped at the eastbound Dallas County I-80 rest area while headed to a powdered milk plant in Elroy, Wis. A Level 1 inspection is a detailed examination of a driver and a truck.

A DOT evaluation of Iowa's interstate highway corridors has found about 85 alternative truck parking locations available at businesses or public facilities near interchanges that equate to nearly 4,700 truck parking spaces.

However, truck drivers say access to alternative locations is sometimes difficult to navigate, and some interchanges become congested during peak travel times. In contrast, most state rest areas are easily accessible to trucks without navigating through interchanges.