As truck parking difficulties have remained a major industry-wide issue for quite a while now, the U.S. House of Representatives has been presented with a new comprehensive highway policy bill.
The legislation has been pushed forward by Representative Mike Bost of Illinois, and its provision will allow states to receive boosted truck parking capability-related resources from $1 billion in grant funding. Bost, who has joined other industry stakeholders and lawmakers over the last several years to raise awareness surrounding the parking problems truck drivers are experiencing far too often, has made this his latest attempt at legislation that could potentially bring resolution to this ongoing concern.
Certain agencies would receive the grants from this funding in order to be better equipped with the resources needed to facilitate safe areas in which commercial motor vehicles can easily park, such as rest areas. The transportation secretary would also be overseeing these particular grants and send reports regarding the legislation’s progress to Congress.
The bill’s provision would offer $250 million toward grants each fiscal year that would be established for truck parking improvement programs as designated by the secretary of transportation. These grants would be provided each year between 2023 and 2026.
The legislation is intended to bring updates to the federal highway policies that are scheduled to expire in September, and is one of dozens of trucking industry-related policies and provisions incorporated into a $547 billion five-year highway bill. Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California has expressed her intent to pass the bill, and Democrats strongly supported the bill during its committee consideration. Republicans heavily opposed.
Regardless of this Republican opposition, Bost believes funding for truck parking capability improvements are likely to come to fruition–although Bost does have some pressing concerns regarding the overall legislation itself.
“The fact that the Democrats did make the decision to put this in, and the Republicans don’t have opposition to it…I believe [regarding] whatever bill we have out there–when we decide on a bipartisan bicameral bill–I think everybody’s come to the realization with the studies that’ve been done that it’s time to make that investment and send that money to the states,” he said.
Boat, who also serves as a member of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, noted that current hours-of-service regulations, which determine when a trucker must be off-duty in relation to his or her shift, has made it more stressful for some truckers to find safe places in which to park their commercial vehicles.
“Whether you’re approaching a rest area, any off-ramp, anywhere up and down the instate–you see the trucks pulled off to the side,” he explained.
Additionally, the more truck parking availability boosts are delayed, the more opportunities there are for truckers to put themselves in risky situations.
“The longer we take to get it out there and get it started through the process through the states, the more people, drivers–as well as non-commercial drivers–are in danger of multiple wrecks, multiple accidents, multiple deaths, multiple [crimes]–all of the things that I’ve talked about–if we don’t start making the investment now in the trucking parking areas–that will continue and only get worse,” said Bost.
This provision will indeed help ease the worries surrounding this issue, added Representative Peter DeFazio of Oregon, who serves as the chief architect of the highway policy measure and the chairman of the transportation committee.
“We have mandates on drivers, how long they can drive and be safe,” he said. “And so, therefore, they have to have a safe place to park and rest. And, unfortunately, in much of the country, it’s very difficult for them to find a place to park and rest that’s safe.”
Because of this, funding for proper parking and rest spaces is a no-brainer, DeFazio noted.
“It’s reached a very, very critical point for truck drivers,” he said. “They have to rest. We mandate rest. And so, therefore, we have to help them find a safe place to rest.”
This is not the first time truck parking concerns have been so widely discussed–a law named for Jason Rivenburg was passed after the trucker was killed in a robbery when he couldn’t find safe parking in 2009. Because of the tragedy, the law mandated a review of the United State’s conditions surrounding truck parking availability, and was reviewed again in 2019.
During that review, a majority of truck drivers were found to still have major issues finding safe places to park. It was also reported that only about 313,000 designated truck parking spots were available throughout the country.