FHWA Report: There's Plenty of Truck Parking

| September 04, 2002

You shouldn’t have a major problem finding a parking place for your rig in most areas of the country. That’s what the Federal Highway Administration indicated in a report on truck parking. There are plenty of spaces across the United States and only 12 states face an overall shortage, said the report.

But the study also raises the same concern truckers and safety advocates have had for years: there are too few parking spaces in the busiest trucking corridors.

The FHWA released the Congressionally-mandated report in July showing parking areas for trucks and buses along major roads and highways are “more than adequate across the nation when both public and commercial parking facilities are factored in.”

Still, the study conceded, “It is not clear that an adequate number of parking spaces exist in all states or along certain high truck volume corridors.”

“The FHWA hit the nail on the head when it concluded that rest areas are for short-term public parking and truckstops provide long-term rest for commercial drivers. Eight in 10 drivers surveyed in the report prefer private truckstop spaces for long-term rest, compared to just 6 percent who prefer rest areas,” said Scot Imus, vice president of government affairs for NATSO, a trade association representing truck stop and travel plaza operators. “Our industry looks forward to working with the Federal Highway Administration and Congress during the highway reauthorization bill on creative measures that would help the private sector meet the parking needs of professional drivers.”

The study found 12 states – California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Ohio, Texas and Washington – had a overall shortage of public and private spaces while 35 states had shortages in public rest areas. Only eight states had a shortage of private parking spaces. The report says public rest areas along highways were not intended to accommodate truck-parking demand.

A previous FHWA study found rest area parking shortages, but that report failed to count parking at private truckstops, where 90 percent of truck parking is found. In 1996 the American Trucking Associations completed a study for the FHWA that concluded public rest areas were short some 28,400 spaces.

Since that report, state and federal agencies have held forums and studied the issue. Fleets, truckers and law enforcement say the issue is serious and needs to be addressed, while the travel center industry maintains its opinion that adequate parking exists in most areas.

The study includes a state-by-state breakdown of 315,850 parking spaces at commercial and public rest areas. About 90 percent of those spaces were in commercial truck stops and travel plazas; the remaining 10 percent of spaces are in public rest areas. Researchers surveyed drivers and state highway and transportation departments for the study, which found 37 states overall had sufficient or a surplus of parking.

ATA, on the other hand, disputes the study’s findings that adequate parking exists. “The study confirms what America’s professional truck drivers tell us every night after having spent hours searching for a safe, secure parking space in which to get their required rest: that along major trucking corridors in the U. S., the demand for truck parking spaces far outstrips the supply,” said William Canary, president and CEO of the ATA.

ATA is supporting recommendations the study makes calling for states to expand or improve public rest areas; expand or improve commercial truckstops and travel plazas; encourage the formation of public-private partnerships; educate or inform drivers about available spaces; change parking enforcement rules; and conduct additional studies.

NATSO disagreed with a report recommendation that commercialization of state rest areas be explored. “Allowing state-supported commercial establishments on the right-of-way would destroy the competitive interchange environment where over 90 percent of truck parking is found,” Imus said.

The study, which was mandated by the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21), included a nationwide estimate of peak hour demand for commercial truck parking facilities at public rest areas and commercial truckstops and travel plazas. The demand estimate for truck parking facilities was based on total hours of travel, time and duration of stops, and current federal hours-of-service regulations.

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