The COVID-19 pandemic emptied out airports, train stations, and malls, but it put more delivery trucks on the road than ever as people fully embraced home deliveries of goods ranging from groceries to mattresses to cars bought online. Truckers say that’s squeezed an already big problem: They have nowhere to park for mandated off-road rest.
“‘The hardest thing of the day is to find a parking spot,’ said Doug Smith, a trucker based in Bountiful, Utah. He said the pandemic has made it harder to find bathrooms and places to eat, but parking, a problem even before the pandemic, has been made worse as distribution centers where trucks drop off or pick up loads have barred truckers from parking because of COVID-19 concerns, putting even more demand on truck- and rest-stop parking,” reports Roll Call. Even if they find parking, they’re frequently locked out of restrooms and other amenities due to COVID-19 concerns. Hopes for money to expand parking in a COVID relief bill seem dashed, so truckers are putting their sights on in infrastructure relief bill expected later this year.
Ninety-eight percent of truckers recently surveyed said they had problems finding safe parking for mandated rest periods and overnight. And they’re worried funding for more truck parking–with available restrooms–might be combined with a highway bill many fear will be otherwise anti-trucking, forcing their unions to oppose it even though it would bring parking relief.
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An association of independent truck drivers says despite efforts to provide more parking for truckers to rest, shortages in every state still exist and are worsening.
A spokesperson for the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) told an industry publication that efforts to develop apps and other technologies drivers could use were good steps, but a basic lack of safe parking places and concerns about keeping those apps updated in real time were concerning. Without safe places to park, especially overnight, truckers either drive through their mandated rest time or spend night hours in spaces that are illegal and unsafe, including along highway shoulders.
“If you have a driver who is tired or wants to take a break or they are coming up on a federally mandated rest break, they need a safe place to park, Because of the shortage, if they can’t find a parking space, they are put in a no-win situation and have to decide, ‘Do I pull over and park on the highway shoulder? Do I pull over and take a break? Do I keep driving while possibly fatigued in violation of hours of service rules in order to find a legal parking spot,'” the spokesperson said.
A survey completed last year shows the parking shortage has worsened since 2015, and while federal legislation may earmark funding to develop save parking for truckers, it’s not a sure thing.
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