Many truckers have found that driving a big rig is no longer as rewarding or safe as it once was. With a growing number of problems related to parking shortages for their trucks, especially along major commercial corridors, many drivers have reverted to parking along entrances and exits to freeways and highways. Unfortunately, this can create a safety hazard, not only for the driver, but for other people using this access points, as well.
Some states are allocating funds to develop additional parking spaces for these commercial truck drivers; however, along some of the freight corridors that are most heavily traveled, there is still a significant shortage of available parking spaces. Additionally an innovative method of notifying truckers of available parking facilities is still in the planning stages. The funds for these improvements have been allocated by the federal government to individual state’s departments of transportation with a state-federal government split of 80/20 in most cases.
As part of an initiative to find an effective solution to the problem of insufficient parking for commercial truckers, SAFETEA-LU has developed a pilot program for truck parking facilities. There are efforts underway to address this critical issue, but the problem still exists. Truckers are required to limit their number of hours in service; however, meeting this safety regulation is an ongoing challenge when sufficient long term parking options are not available.
In many areas, truck stops routinely exceed capacity and the overflow spills out onto side streets and grassy areas. These problems are especially prominent in heavily traveled corridors and the problem seems to be escalating. One factor that has added to the problem is the cross-country traffic spurned on by the NAFTA. The North American Free Trade Agreement has opened up a deluge of commercial traffic through the state of Texas, much of it coming through the Metroplex and I-35 corridor. Texas is certainly one of the states that is in immediate need of additional parking facilities for truckers.
Texas is working on improvements to many of its rest areas in an effort to expand available truck parking and as funds become available, outdated rest areas will be converted into areas dedicated for truck parking. Obviously, with more and more truckers on the road, the need for even more appropriate parking facilities simply grows. Meeting this demand is essential so that truckers are not forced to operate their trucks beyond safety limits or when drowsy. Truckers need a place to pull over and rest, when needed. Unfortunately, in some areas, there is simply no such place.
Private enterprises, such as NATSO, the National Association of Travel Plazas and Truckstops, take the position that they are able to handle this increased burden and can provide adequate parking for commercial truckers. The Texas Department of Transportation is reluctant to go into some areas and build additional parking facilities because of the high cost and inherent competitive environment it would face with existing private enterprise locations; however, many truckers feel that NATSO and government efforts have not been able to keep up with demand.
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