While the trucking industry continues to grapple with a labor crunch, which has received a considerable amount of attention, the parking space shortage hasn't gotten the same level of publicity, despite being an all-too-familiar pain point for frustrated truckers. Lawmakers on Capitol Hill, however, are attempting to correct this issue by bringing the matter to the forefront through federal funding.
On Dec. 1, Senators Cynthia Lummis of Wyoming and Mark Kelly of Arizona introduced the Truck Parking Safety Improvement Act. A bipartisan measure, the bill would set aside $755 million in competitive grants to be dispersed over four years toward increasing parking capacity throughout the country.
Sen. Lummis noted that insufficient parking is a problem not only for truckers across the United States, but specifically in the Cowboy State as well, despite its low population density.
"Wyoming is home to three major interstates that carry thousands of tons of cargo a day," Lummis said in a press release issued by her office. "Without safe truck parking, truckers spend an unnecessary amount of time searching for a place to park putting truckers and Wyoming drivers at greater risk for accidents."
During certain times of the year in cities with heavy foot traffic, available parking for passenger vehicles can be hard to come by. But insufficient parking has become a regular part of the job for commercial truck drivers, cited as the third-most concerning problem among stakeholders in the American Transportation Research Institute's latest Critical Issues in the Trucking Industry report. The annual report calls attention to 10 challenges for both truck drivers as well as motor carriers.
In addition to being a hindrance to truck drivers, limited parking also is a safety hazard for everyone who uses the country's highways and byways, warned Sen. Kelly.
"A lack of accessible and reliable truck parking makes our roads less safe," Kelly said in the press release. "Our bipartisan legislation will expand freight truck parking to ensure that truck drivers can safely and efficiently move the goods that support our nation's economy and supply chains."
House passed similar bill in July
The Senate bill serves as a companion to a separate bill that the House of Representatives introduced this past summer, led by by Representative Mike Bost of Illinois. It cleared the necessary hurdles in the House but differs slightly from the Senate's version. For example, the Senate version calls for expanding parking at commercial truck stops and travel plazas. The House version makes no mention of this.
Over the past year, several trucking interest groups — like the American Trucking Associations and Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association — have urged Washington to take action. In February the trade groups' respective presidents co-wrote a letter to Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, imploring him and the federal agency he leads to prioritize truck parking.
Reconciliation is the next step for the respective bills before the resulting legislation can go on to President Joe Biden for his signature.
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