What we need, and how to pay for it

The following is a comment from:

http://www.ireport.com/docs/DOC-229510

posted in response to a post of mine on that site, followed by my reply.

Jayberdz writes:

Truckie D, like everything else we need to find a way to “pay” for this security. How we do that I don’t know. I do the government can not do all things all folks want them to do. To do so will have them taxing us where we have nothing left to live on.

This is a valid concern that Jayberdz raises, since “there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch”.

Before we decide how to pay for something, we first need to decide exactly what it is we need.

As I see it, the bottom line is an adequate number of safe and legal parking spaces for trucks.

My definition of “adequate number”, is that any truck driver needing a parking space to take a DOT mandated break, is readily able to find one, without charge, permits, or fees.

My definition of “legal parking space” is one where any truck driver can park for a DOT mandated break without getting ticketed, forced to move,  or towed.

My definition of “safe parking space” is one where the threat level is low enough for a reasonable expectation of safety, either by virtue of being in a low threat area, or one where there is sufficient human, physical, and/or electronic security to provide such reasonable expectation.

Next, we need to figure out where to put these spaces.

Ideally, parking should be located as close as possible to places providing food, fuel, rest, repairs, and to points of loading and unloading.

If we look at those first four things, that pretty much defines what a truckstop is; a place that provides food, fuel, rest, and maybe repairs.  So, there’s one batch of parking spaces already.  However, in many areas of the country, particularly around larger cities, truckstops don’t meet my definition of “adequate”. Many charge for parking (and some are quite expensive), and *very* few have space sufficient for every truck driver who wants to park there.  If you’d like to see for yourself, just go to any truckstop in or near a major city on a weeknight between 9 pm and midnight, and you’ll see what I mean.

When truckstops are built, the amount of parking spaces that are provided depend on what the owner thinks will provide maximum profitability.  There’s probably a formula that they use based on expected traffic count, gallons of diesel sold, and revenue. Between land and construction costs, a truck lot isn’t cheap to build.

This leads us to my first method of increasing truck parking:

  • Provide very low (or even zero)  interest loans to places providing food, fuel, rest, or repairs to purchase land and build truck parking.

As a condition of obtaining these loans, they would be prohibited from requiring purchases, or charging for parking.  These loans could be administered through the Small Business Administration’s existing loan programs, eliminating the need to create another bureaucracy to handle it.  This would go a long way toward adding enough spaces.  There would also be the benefit of stimulating local economies, first through the construction, and then through the added business these places would get from the increased number of truckers able to stop.  New or existing truckstops, restaurants, motels, or repair shops would be able to benefit.

Next up, are places close to points of loading and unloading.

In this category, we’ll first look at industrial parks.  Most relatively modern industrial parks have roads of adequate width to safely allow on-street parking.  Many, however, are posted “NO TRUCK PARKING”, which to me doesn’t make much sense, since they were DESIGNED to have truck parking.  Why is this?  It’s due to the unfortunate fact that some truck drivers are pigs.  They throw trash, drain oil, and worse, wherever they are.  To my mind, even though these are problems, they are not sufficient reasons to prohibit truck parking.  If there are problems, the locality can put up cameras and catch and fine the offenders.  (They were going to put up cameras for safety and security reasons in this area anyway, right?  Offender fines should eventually cover the costs.)  So, this gives us our second method of increasing truck parking:

  • Localities must allow truck parking for DOT mandated breaks, and for waiting to load or unload on roads in industrial areas. Where curb to curb widths are over 38 feet, parking must be allowed on one side; where curb to curb widths are over 48 feet, parking must be allowed on both sides.

This would actually be pretty cheap to implement; all they have to do is take down the signs.

The next place we can cheaply add parking, is at places shipping or receiving truckload freight. If you read my post “Parking in Brundidge, AL”, it goes into quite a bit of detail about the whys and wherefores of this particular issue.  To keep it short:

  • Facilities shipping or receiving truckload freight must provide a minimum of one parking space per facility dock door for drivers to take DOT mandated breaks, and to wait for loading or unloading.  Drivers shall be allowed to park for up to 36 hours before loading or unloading, and for up to 36 hours afterward.  Drivers shall be permitted to drop trailers, leave, and return without restriction, in order to obtain food etc.  Restroom facilities must also be provided.

Right now, some warehouse manager reading this is screaming about the impossibility of this.  Granted, in many city facilities, they simply don’t have the room to do this.  Facilities with no space, and unable to obtain it, would be able to apply for exemption from this requirement. Facilities with limited space would be able to apply for a partial exemption. Where additional space exists or is available, such facilities would also qualify for the low/no interest loans from the SBA in the same manner as truckstops etc. if necessary to meet the requirement. Exemption certificates would be granted by the state’s division responsible for regulating/inspecting Motor Carriers (usually the state police).  Exemption certificates would be required to be clearly posted to be visible to drivers entering the facility.

This now brings us to parking spaces along the nation’s highways.  Specifically, rest areas, picnic areas, parking areas, ramps, and weigh stations.  When it comes to these items, some states are quite good, and others are terrible.  Kentucky gets a gold star — weigh stations with parking available are signposted letting drivers know they  can park there.  They’ve also added truck parking at some of their interstate rest areas.  Arkansas gets a red x. Their weigh stations are posted prohibiting truck parking.   They also (along with a number of other states) now prohibit parking on ramps, and there are insufficient rest areas with inadequate numbers of parking spaces.  The Tri-State Tollway in Illinois gets a double red x and a rasberry. In 40 years, they haven’t added ANY truck parking, and have subjected trucks to HUGE toll increases.  If you’re going through there in a truck, you’d better not need a bathroom.  Here’s what we need:

  • On all interstate and federal aid routes, adequate truck parking must be provided at maximum 30 mile intervals.  Where terrain prohibits this (such as mountains or swamps), intervals may be larger, but an overall adequate number of parking spaces must be maintained.  The number of spaces shall be deemed adequate if average weeknight occupancy by trucks is 80% or less.  Where average weeknight occupancy is over 80%, additional spaces must be provided until the occupancy rate drops to 80% or less.

  • Weigh stations with over 5 truck parking spaces must permit truck drivers to park for DOT mandated breaks up to 36 hours.

  • States are prohibited from permanent closure of all existing rest areas

Funding would come from the economic stimulus dollars that are already earmarked for infrastructure improvements, and from fuel taxes later on.

The above will begin to address needed parkingon the highways, but there remains the question of security.  For example, Florida began providing security at rest areas following the robbery of a number of tourists.  I guess truck drivers getting robbed or hijacked  aren’t as important as tourists, so the provision of security in truck parking areas seems pretty unlikely.  State Police posts and even local police stations could be located within truck parking areas, but that still leaves a pretty big gap to be filled.  It would appear then, that the only practical solution would be to permit truck drivers to be armed.  I can already hear the anti-gun lobby screaming about this.  There are pros and cons on both sides of the argument. If someone has a better and workable idea, I’d be more than willing to endorse it.  My post “Same Story, Different Outcome” shows that an armed driver is capable of self-defense.  My post “No Parking = Violent Death” shows the results of unarmed drivers.  All things considered, it would probably take a terrorist hijacking a hazmat load and using it for nefarious purposes to allow truck drivers to be armed, and maybe not even then.  Whatever solution is finally implemented, it’s essential that something gets done.

The implementation of these items also has other benefits.  With adequate truck parking everywhere, it should increase compliance with the HOS regulations.  Also, the availability of parking should encourage tired drivers to stop for a nap, if needed, thereby improving safety.

All of the suggestions I’ve written about in this post are not the be all and end all of the subject, but are only a starting point.  Some of these things can be done pretty cheaply, so there’s no reason why, even in these dire economic times, that something shouldn’t be done due to lack of funding.

Comments and questions welcome.

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1 comment so far

  1. […] What we need, and how to pay for it […]


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