It’s been an interesting harvest season for Valley Mills, Texas-based owner-operator Cody Blankenship. In the midst of what was turning out to be the only good pea harvest “in three years,” he says, due to drought conditions that persisted across the mid-South, his 4B Transportation’s fall bread and butter customer, a large canning operation, put him in something of a bind.
It’s a story I’ll be telling more fully later on, but suffice it to say I was on hand for the last unload from this year’s harvest from around 10,000 acres, Blankenship says, of Texas farmland. He unloaded it this morning into storage near a fresh-frozen processing consignee in Bells, Tenn., where he’d run his 2003 Kenworth W900B (pictured) along with the 4-million-mile-plus 1986 Peterbilt 359 of long-running owner-operator Dale Bohne (Texas bull haulers may well know the name — Bohne “did his marching in the 60s,” he says).
In any case, among the conversations held over the course of the long morning, one stands out. Amid talk of the peas and green beans and other of the freight Blankenship runs with his convertible (it doubles as an open top van) Cornhusker hopper bottom, he shared an overnight parking situation from two nights previous that has been becoming all too common. He spent the night on an I-30 off-ramp between Dallas and Little Rock.
“It’s gotten to the point that, if I know I need to run after dark” or even into the late afternoon, he says, “I’ll go ahead and call TA and reserve a spot” — and happily pay for the privilege.
Other problems areas on his route? All of I-40 between easternmost Oklahoma and Middle Tennessee, he says, I-35.
It’s bad all over, with the exception of some areas out west, haulers have told Overdrive repeatedly for the last several years. It’s only gotten worse with the new hours rule, whose restart restrictions have clearly shifted some operations away from overnight drive time, resulting in more-crowded lots at peak shutdown time.
All the same, we got Jason’s Law out of the last highway bill, which made truck parking availability a priority issue for federal funding of state projects — ought we not to be seeing news such as this from last week, showing yet another state looking at the potential of closing rest areas and eliminating a little more valuable truck-parking space?
Make your parking needs known to your representatives on the local, state and national levels as often as possible. Blankenship is skeptical on whether such a tactic, which advocates have routinely suggested (particularly since Jason’s Law’s inclusion in the highway bill), will ultimately work. Upkeep costs seem to be the biggest issue. He knows such costs personally. Back early in the last decade he ran a three-truck fleet of dump trucks and had a contractor to haul out garbage from TxDOT rest areas — he struggled in some cases to break even on some of the jobs simply due to the unexpectedly high volume of clean-up at some of the sites, the large amount, simply, of trash. Then there’s the NIMBY-ism so many locales have about truck parking.
In any case, the issue deserves further attention, no doubt. But now I see we have an electronic log mandate rule to worry about in addition (rule publication likely next week), and there’s the hours problem, and also relative to hours, the time to even spend on calls and letters and other advocacy…
Now: New thoughts on parking, e-logs, hours, etc.? I’m all ears….