The Tri-State Tollway

Here’s a story about a truck driver who fell asleep on the Tri-State tollway in Illinois:

http://www.suburbanchicagonews.com/newssun/news/1549245,5_1_WA29_TRCKCRSH_S1.article

http://www.dailyherald.com/story/?id=289658&src=3

At first glance, this would seem to be an unexceptional story. A truck driver fell asleep, and went off the road. Only minor injuries were reported. So, what’s the big deal you ask?

When most truck drivers get tired, they’ll pull over in a rest area and at least take a short nap. In most places at night this can be difficult. On the Tri-State Tollway, at 3:26 am (when the wreck occurred) it’s pretty much impossible.

The Tri-State Tollway is 78 miles long. There are four oases. The list below gives the number of truck parking spaces at each oasis. The number of spaces is approximate. Spaces were counted by using aerial imagery from Google Maps.

Oasis………………..Northbound….Southbound

Lake Forest……………14…………………14

O’Hare ………………….14…………………14

Hinsdale……………….14………………….14

Chicago Southland….24………………….24

—————————————————————–

Total……………………66…………………..66

Lake Forest, O’Hare, and Hinsdale were opened in 1959. Chicago Southland (Lincoln) was opened in 1968.

Doesn’t sound too bad, until you look at truck traffic statistics.

The statistics I found are here: http://www.illinoistollway.com/pls/portal/docs/PAGE/TOLLWAY/ABOUTTOLLWAY/ABOUTTOLLWAY_REPORTS/ABOUTTOLLWAY_CAFR/CAFR_2007.PDF

I wasn’t able to find statistics broken out for the Tri-State by itself, but the whole system handled about 92 million trucks in 2007. That’s about 250,000 a day. I’m going to guestimate that around 100,000 used the Tri-State. We’ll further simplify and just deal with northbound trucks, or around 50,000 trucks. We can see from the table above that there are approximately 66 truck parking spaces on the northbound Tri-State. This means there are about 1,600 hours of truck parking available on the northbound Tri-State, or a little under 2 minutes per truck per day. Not a whole lot of time. This doesn’t tell the whole story though. DOT regulations require truck drivers to take a minimum 10 hour break every day. If all 66 parking spaces are filled every night (and they most certainly are), that means there are really only 924 parking hours available for 49,934 trucks, or about 66 seconds per truck. Now, let’s add in some mealtimes. We’ll be conservative and say that trucks will only stop for 30 minutes for a meal. That means a theoretical maximum of 1,848 truck drivers can stop to eat. That leaves 48,086 trucks who will never be able to stop at an oasis while transiting the Tri-State because there’s no place to park. That means no food, rest, or even bathroom breaks for those drivers. Is it any wonder then, that a truck driver would fall asleep on the Tri-State Tollway?

The implications of this run even deeper than lack of rest. Tired truck drivers will park and go to sleep wherever they can find a place to do so. You can read my posts about truck parking dangers by going to the “Index” tab and scrolling down to “Threads” and reading the posts under “Jason Rivenburg’s Story”.

Building truck parking spaces costs money. Using numbers from the statistics source previously given, trucks account for about 12% of the traffic volume, and 44% of the revenue. However you slice it, trucks are bearing a disproportionately large burden paying for the Illinois Tollway system, while getting a disproportionately small share of the resources. Isn’t it time that the Illinois Tollway start considering the safety of the traveling public in general, and truck drivers in particular?

Comments and questions welcome.

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