While many bills related to the trucking industry died in the legislative process in the previous year, many of them are getting a second wind with a new Congress and White House. One of these is an attempt to resolve the perpetual problem of truck parking, a problem that was included in the INVEST in America Act back in 2020.
Jason’s law, named after a truck driver who was murdered when he could not find a safe place to park, has given the Department of Transportation $100 million to expand parking spending, but it has a stipulation in that the DOT has to prove that the expansion must be “reasonable”. As such, truck parking spots have grown at an approximate rate slower than two percent per year.
The Federal Highway Administration reported in 2019 that there were 313,000 legal and public parking spots across the country for heavy-duty trucks (public including truck stops but not including headquarters parking). Even assuming there are only 1.5 million semi trucks on the road, a very conservative estimate since the DOT reports over 12 million large trucks registered in 2017, and it is abundantly clear that there are not enough parking spaces for every truck to fulfill a ten hour off-duty period needed by the DOT in a legal manner.
The problem has not gone unnoticed by drivers. In a survey conducted by the American Trucking Associations, 58% of all drivers admit to parking in unauthorized locations at least three times per week.
Truck Parking Safety Improvement Act
Two representatives, a republican and a democrat, have introduced the Truck Parking Safety Improvement Act to the House floor, a sequel to last year. They hope to set aside funds from the DOT to be dedicated to creating more truck parking spots. The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) says that this funding can be used to convert extra space at existing weigh stations as a relatively cost-effective solution.
The details for the 2021 version of the Act have not been disclosed online yet, but assuming it follows from the 2020 version, the funding plan would be as follows:
- $140,000,000 for fiscal year 2022
- $150,000,000 for fiscal year 2023
- $165,000,000 for fiscal year 2024
- $175,000,000 for fiscal year 2025
Nobody is generally a fan of government spending because it ultimately means higher taxes, but in a cruel twist of fate, the bipartisan issue of infrastructure investment seems to be constantly shelved while hyperpartisan programs get pushed through much more quickly.
More roads, better roads, and more parking spots are vital issues the trucking industry needs to have resolved. With so much of American commerce depending on our big rigs, infrastructure is an issue Congress would be wise to not continue ignoring.