Long, Bumpy Road

| December 12, 2008

“Rest areas in California are full by 3 or 4 p.m., and rest areas are few and far between,” says Landis. “We usually stop somewhere in Arizona and wait until it’s time to go.” Landis and his wife Toni go to California every week hauling produce, poultry and dry goods.

Texas is another state that made quite a few lists on this year’s Highway Report Card – some good, some bad – including the No. 1 spots for Best Roads, Most Available Overnight Parking, Worst Rest Stops, Best Truck Stops and Best Four-wheelers. Texas also appears in one of the top spots for Best Rest Stops, Weakest Truck Inspections, Worst Four-wheelers and Worst Truck Stops.

“Texas has all those picnic areas that are gigantic. You can tell they’re making an effort to give parking to trucks,” says Landis.

“I seldom have trouble finding parking in Texas at all,” Connot says.

Jack Isham, who has been driving almost 50 years, doesn’t agree with the positive findings about parking in Texas.

“Texas is a huge state, and they have rinky-dinky rest areas that accommodate maybe eight or 10 trucks,” says the Rockford, Ill., owner-operator who is leased to Roadrunner Freight Systems and hauls less-than-truckload. “Why even waste your time?”

“I don’t care for Texas rest areas. There’s no privacy because it’s so open,” Estes says.

A state with a clear parking problem is the Garden State. It was voted first for Worst Truck Stops, second for Least Available Overnight Parking and fourth for Worst Rest Stops.

“New Jersey has the worst truck stops. They’re crowded and cramped,” Estes says.

“That’s because we hardly have any,” says Gail Toth, executive director for the New Jersey Motor Trucks Association. “Truckers have to park on the side of the road. The Turnpike is overloaded, but they did just add some spaces, and they’re trying to develop truck-only rest areas. It’s very hard to find space to build truck stops because property is so expensive. We generate tremendous truck traffic. They wait in New Jersey for the sun to come up before they go to New York City.”

Turnpike officials have tried to make the highway a better option for truckers. Fuel is priced cheaper. Officials have been expanding parking slots, and they’re offering truckers more personalized services by adding and upgrading facilities.

“I worry about these guys that have to park on the side of the road,” Toth says. “If we are going to depend so much on trucking, our drivers need to be safe. They are in desperate need of sleep, and with the new hours of service, it will only get worse. We need places to put them, and even though the public has a negative perception of truckers, their safety should supersede any concerns the public has.”

One state that has consistently overcome parking problems is Florida. The state tops the Best Rest Stops list – for the fourth time in a row.

“We keep track of the conditions through a good comment card system,” says engineer Dave Anderson of the Florida Department of Transportation. “We spend about $22 million a year to maintain the rest areas, which includes armed guards from 3 in the afternoon until 8 in the morning and 24-hour attendants.”

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