Both Sides Agree On One Thing: Truck Parking Solution Is Top Priorityby Jana Ritter - Published: 5/18/2016
On Tuesday, the big vs. small trucking firms faced off during a point-counterpoint panel at CCJ’s annual Spring Symposium in Birmingham, Ala. Todd Spencer of OOIDA and Ted Scott of ATA battled over industry issues such as electronic logging devices, speed limits, interstate laws for 18-21 year old truckers, etc. However, there was one thing that both sides agreed on: The urgent need for unified action to solve the nation’s widespread truck parking shortage.
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When it comes to the on-going truck parking shortage and the increased risks of fatigued driving and crimes endangering truck drivers' lives, both sides conceded that the problem is far from being solved. They also both agreed that Government initiatives and supposed federal funding haven’t gone anywhere. Despite the fact millions of dollars in federal funding has been designated specifically for truck parking over the years, most state DOTs haven’t been using the money to build new parking spaces, or certainly not enough to make a difference. “We have seen FMCSA and the Federal Highway Administration squander $40 million in federal money on alert systems that do little to help fix the problem," Scott said.
Both Spencer and Scott also agreed that the shippers could play a much greater role in offering an immediate solution by simply opening their facilities to overnight truck parking. Scott believes that it may be just be a matter of the industry making that more clear to all shippers. “We probably need to push that more than we do. But some of the shippers out there do make provisions for drivers. They will open a gate early and let them into sleep until they can get to the dock,” he said. However, Spencer has a different view and cited examples showing just the opposite. He pointed out that many shippers have been more adamant about locking drivers out of their gates and leaving them on their own to park in nearby abandoned gas stations, secluded roads or sometimes other facilities. He then brought up two tragic examples where shippers had told the truck drivers to leave the premises and forced them to find an abandoned lot to park overnight. Both men fell asleep in their cab and were murdered in the middle of the night. Jason Rivenburg was one of those men and the relentless efforts of his widowed wife, Hope Rivenburg, have prompted more national attention to the truck parking shortage. In July 2012, a provision known as “Jason’s Law,” was included in the new highway bill – MAP-21, stating that safe parking was a national priority.
But nearly four years have passed and the problem is still just as bad, if not worse. Spencer says that rather than the industry “asking” shippers for permission to park, it should be up to state or federal laws mandating shippers to have designated overnight parking spaces for truckers. “The city and state tell us how many handicap spaces we have to have at a facility. Every shipper or receiver facility that accepts and receives trucks needs to bear some kind of responsibility. How do we get there? We’re raising the issues now,” said Spencer.