Drivers Must Be Able to Rest Safely
We ask a lot from long-haul drivers. While critical to our country’s economic health, their work requires them to spend days away from their homes and families, fitting in essential activities, like eating and sleeping, while they’re on the road.
Safe transport and decent working conditions demand that truck drivers have adequate rest time while delivering the products that keep our households and businesses running smoothly.
Unfortunately, there is an alarming lack of safe, legal, and dedicated parking spots where truck drivers can sleep.
there are currently more than 11 truck drivers for every available parking space
In a March press release, the American Trucking Association reported that in the United States, there are currently more than 11 truck drivers for every available parking space. Located in public rest areas and private truck stops, the roughly 313,000 parking spaces across the nation are simply not enough to serve the number of drivers on the road.
This lack of parking forces drivers to choose between two bad options. Should they park in unsafe and sometimes illegal locations, such as roadside shoulders, putting both them and other drivers in danger? Or should they continue driving when they are tired as they search for a suitable spot to rest?
A shortage of parking can have serious consequences. In 2009, Jason Rivenburg was shot and killed after he had to park his truck in an unsafe location. In acknowledgement of the senselessness of Rivenburg’s death and the seriousness of the parking problem, Congress passed “Jason’s Law” in 2012, which requires the Department of Transportation to conduct
regular evaluations of truck parking throughout the United States.
In 2019, the Federal Highway Administration conducted its second truck parking survey mandated by Jason’s Law. Almost 11,700 drivers responded, providing a clearer picture of the state of truck parking. Preliminary data released last December shows the following:
- 98% of drivers said they had problems finding safe parking, demonstrating how this
issue impacts practically every driver
- Parking is most difficult along key freight corridors and in metropolitan areas
- Public rest area closures present challenges
- Businesses receiving or shipping loads should offer parking on-site
- Parking spaces need to be dedicated for trucks
Survey input from private truck stops, which provide almost 90% of truck parking spaces, show that those facilities are routinely over capacity. Despite the parking shortage, 79% of truck stop survey respondents said they do not plan to add more spots.
In March, bipartisan federal legislation was introduced to allocate $755 million dollars from the Highway Trust Fund to state projects that will increase the number of truck parking spaces. If passed, the Truck Parking Safety Improvement Act will be a good start to tackling a very large problem. More efforts will be needed.
In their press release, the American Trucking Association reported that the average truck driver spends almost an hour of unpaid drive time every day looking for a safe space to park, and they estimate that this time is the equivalent of a 12% salary decrease. We need to ensure that drivers can easily find safe places to park that require little or no extra drive time. After all, the health and wellbeing of truck drivers is very much related to the health and wellbeing of our country.