Have Parking Space, Will Travel

FHWA determined this by counting up all of the public and commercial parking spaces across the country and dividing them by the number of trucks that need parking on a given night. Using that logic, the supply may be adequate – nationwide. Small consolation if you need a place to rest in Texas, California or any of the other 12 states the study says have parking shortages. The study also points out that the greatest shortages are in the Northeast and the Midwest – two areas that see heavy truck traffic.

Translation? There are plenty of places to park, but they’re all in North Dakota, South Dakota or some other remote location where truck traffic is comparatively light. Sort of like telling the folks in drought-baked Arizona that there’s more than enough rain – it just happens to be falling in Texas, Alabama and Florida.

“You mean to tell me that they actually think that there are plenty of parking spots, the only problem is geographical distribution?” reader Danny Schnautz with Clark Freight Lines in Pasadena, Texas, asks. “Do they propose that we move the parking spots from one state to the next, or shall we move the trucks to the areas where the spots are? Can we get extra miles (pay) for that?”

As if the FHWA’s conclusions aren’t ridiculous enough, trucking groups seem unable to agree on what the study actually says. In testimony before Congress, for instance, the American Trucking Associations said that the study shows there is “a severe shortage of truck parking on America’s most heavily traveled corridors.” Not surprisingly NATSO, the trade association of truck stop and travel plaza operators, insists that the study “disproves the longstanding myth that the country suffers from a lack of parking for commercial vehicles.”

All rhetoric aside, the study does point out that demand for truck parking spaces is expected to grow at an average rate of 2.7 percent nationally. With the possibility of more severe shortages on the horizon, the study recommends exploring ways to ease problem areas, including expanding or improving rest areas and truck stops, encouraging partnerships between rest areas and truck stops, educating or informing drivers about available spaces and eliminating time limits on rest area use.

All of these recommendations sound encouraging, but implementing them will take time – and a fair amount of political wrangling. In the meantime, try and plan your trips so your hours are up in Wyoming. We hear there are plenty of parking spaces there.