Graves Tells NATSO that ATA Will 'Stand Down' on Commercialization

The American Trucking Associations will no longer support commercialization along interstates as a way to gain additional truck parking, said new ATA President Bill Graves Feb. 6.

Graves, speaking at a meeting of NATSO, a trade association for truckstop and travel plaza owners, said ATA will work for solutions of “mutual benefit.”

“We’re exploring ideas ranging from better signage to let folks know not only where stops are located, but where space is available; financial incentives for states that donate land to truck stops that agree to expand parking, even federal grants or loans to help you pay for better access, better security and additional ‘room at the inn,'” he told NATSO members in Orlando, Fla.

At the same meeting a year ago then-ATA Chairman David McCorkle told NATSO that ATA “wanted more spaces any way we could get them,” Graves remembered. “You, understandably, preferred those spaces be located at your businesses. This year, we are presenting a united front. ATA has agreed to stand down on the issue of commercialization.”

As recently as last summer, ATA supported commercialization. Graves’ immediate predecessor, Bill Canary, praised a federal study in June that showed 12 states had an overall shortage of public and private spaces while 35 states had shortages in public rest areas.

“ATA’s motor carrier members support the DOT’s recommendations to solve this problem, including direct and indirect federal funding for truck parking facilities and the possible commercialization or privatization of public rest areas,” Canary said. “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 United States, the demand for truck parking spaces far outstrips the supply.”

NATSO last year disagreed with the study’s 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,” said a NATSO spokesman.

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The group has opposed numerous measures to privatize and commercialize rest areas, and NATSO has long argued that many truckstop parking places go unfilled every night. Programs to inform truckers of those open spots, such as the signage mentioned by Graves, are one way to help, NATSO says.

On other topics, Graves said:

Reducing insurance costs: “ATA is working with a broad coalition to pursue commonsense, rational tort reform at the state level.”

Opposing additional fuel taxes: “The highway bill reauthorization will renew debate on a fuel tax increase. Fortunately, the White House and the Republican leaders in Congress are opposed, but we must remain vigilant.”

Removing the federal excise tax for purchases of idling reduction equipment: “NATSO is working with us to find a location for a pilot electrification project, so we can explore idling reduction further.”

Defeating state toll proposals: “If we’re looking for issues to partner on, misguided toll proposals represent an obvious opportunity.”