Truck parking expansion bill introduced in Senate

Trucking news and briefs for Friday, Dec. 2, 2022:

Senators introduce multi-million-dollar truck parking bill

The Truck Parking Safety Improvement Act, which would authorize $755 million in competitive grant funding to expand truck parking capacity across the United States, was introduced Thursday in the U.S. Senate.

Funding would be awarded on a competitive basis and applicants would be required to submit detailed proposals to the U.S. Department of Transportation. The primary focus would be to construct new truck parking facilities and convert existing weigh stations and rest areas into functional parking spaces for truck drivers.

A companion bill in the U.S. House of Representatives was passed in July by the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, but no votes have been held yet on the House floor.

The Senate version of the bill was introduced by Sens. Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyoming) and Mark Kelly (D-Arizona).

The Senate bill establishes new funding eligibility criteria, including considerations for drivers' personal safety. The bill would also make routine maintenance expenses eligible for funding, as state transportation officials often cite maintenance costs as a deterrent to expanding parking capacity.

[Related: Trucking groups petition DOT for truck parking expansion]

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association praised Lummis and Kelly for bringing the legislation to the Senate.

A full “70% of American freight is transported by truck, yet there is only one parking spot for every 11 trucks on the road,” said OOIDA President Todd Spencer. Senators Lummis and Kelly “have heard from small business truckers and are taking meaningful steps to increase truck parking capacity.”

truck parked on get-on ramp"When truck drivers don’t have a designated place to park, they end up parking on the side of the road, near exit ramps, or elsewhere. This isn’t safe for the driver and it’s not safe for others on the road." --OOIDA President Todd Spencer

The American Trucking Associations also applauded the bill’s introduction in the Senate.

“A chronic, nationwide shortage of commercial truck parking continues to strain our supply chain and jeopardize highway safety for all motorists,” said ATA President and CEO Chris Spear. “This carefully crafted legislation provides needed investments to remedy the problem while incentivizing public-private partnerships to further expand truck parking capacity."

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A U.S. Department of Transportation report found 98% of drivers regularly experience problems finding safe parking and that the truck parking shortage exists in every state and region. According to ATA, 70% of drivers have been forced to violate federal hours-of-service rules because of this common scenario.

To ensure they can find a safe and legal space, truck drivers often park prior to exhausting available drive time, surrendering an average of 56 minutes of valuable drive time per day, according to the American Transportation Research Institute. The time spent looking for available truck parking costs the average driver about $5,500 in direct lost compensation -- or a 12% cut in annual pay.

[Related: How owner-operators can fight back in the war on truck parking]

FMCSA issues three-month licensing waiver

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has issued a three-month waiver extension from certain regulations applicable to commercial learner’s permit (CLP) holders seeking to take a skills test for a commercial driver’s license (CDL) and for states administering CDL skills tests. The agency has issued similar waivers since March 2020.

The waiver is effective December 1, 2022, and expires on February 28, 2023, or upon early termination by FMCSA, whichever is sooner.

FMCSA said it has “determined that it is in the public interest” to issue the waiver “to continue the ability of intrastate and interstate CDL and CLP holders to transport goods and people, and to provide flexibilities to state driver licensing agencies to accelerate CDL testing.”

The waiver:

  • Waives the restriction that limits a state to administering a driving skills test to an out-of-state CDL applicant who has taken driver training in that state. Under the waiver, a state can administer a driving skills test to any out-of-state CDL applicant, regardless of where the applicant received driver training.
  • Waives the requirement that CLP holders are not eligible to take the CDL skills test in the first 14 days after initial issuance of the CLP. Under the waiver, states may, at their discretion, allow CLP holders to take the CDL skills test without waiting 14 days after initial issuance of the CLP, provided the CLP holder has completed applicable entry-level driver training requirements.

FMCSA noted that since March 2020, it has also issued a series of waivers from the requirement that a CLP holder be accompanied by a CDL holder in the front seat of the vehicle next to the CLP holder. The agency previously had issued such exemptions to an individual motor carrier that had applied for and been granted such relief. FMCSA is now returning to the previous practice of issuing such relief on a carrier-by-carrier basis only.

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