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Saturday, August 21, 2010

Lack of Truck Parking Causing Highway Safety Risk for General Public

Yesterday June 28, 2010 marked a day in history for the National call-in day to support Jason’s Law and the need for more safe and adequate truck parking.  People from all over the country were calling their  Senators and Representatives in Washington, DC, urging them to support HR 2156 and to co-sponsor the bill.

The designated day to call Washington was designed to move the  bill HR 2156 out of committee and passed into law. This much needed bill would begin a targeted pilot program which would address the lack of safe long term truck parking facilities which continues to compromise highway safety within the United States.  Lack of parking has been a major complaint for truckers for many years, and now with a sluggish economy, many more parking facilities are closing down, increasing the need for more government awareness and concern for the problem.

What many do not realize is that the lack of truck parking facilities poses an extreme danger to the general public as well as professional truck drivers.  The problem with inadequate truck parking effects everyone driving the highways:

1  Drivers are allowed to drive just so many hours per day ( Hours of Service Regulations set by Federal Government) Knowing this, a driver must plan their trip accordingly in order to satisfy the law, not exceeding their driving limits.  Note that this is strictly enforced and a driver who violates HOS receives a citation. With the new laws of CSA 2010, these violations can prove to be even more damaging, to both the driver and the carrier, as all violations will be recorded and maintained in a database for safety evaluations.  If a driver can not find parking to rest, he/she not only risks receiving a violation, but more importantly risks the lives of those sharing the highways with them.

2  A truck drivers job is demanding, and the lack of rest can cause serious ramifications in regards to highway safety. If a driver plans his/her trip and there is no adequate parking available in either the rest area or truck stop, he/she is forced to move on, many times driving extremely fatigued.
How ironic, that in a year when the FMCSA is calling for the demand of improved highway safety by implementing CSA 2010, and the new call for Sleep Apnea testing to ensure that drivers are not driving tired due to insufficient quality sleep,  a law which would improve highway safety by creating truck parking and ensuring truckers adequate rest, is not already placed as a priority within the scheme of “safety.”
The fact that truck drivers many times are forced to drive fatigued because of a lack of parking is ludicrous and not at all in alignment with the Federal government Campaign for highway safety. This poses a huge risk to the general public as a driver falling asleep at the wheel can prove to be fatal for the other vehicle.

3  Truckers many times are forced to pull over on the side of a road to rest, many times on an exit or entrance ramp, causing extreme highway safety risks for themselves and the general public.

4  Finally, drivers are forced  many times to park in unsafe surroundings in order to get their much needed rest. This was the case for Jason Rivenburg, who parked in an abandoned gas station which resulted in his violent death. Jason was an open target for predators as he parked in an isolated area and  was shot and killed before he could make his early morning delivery.

Yesterday’s calling campaign to Washington was a success as supporters from the trucking industry stood together and joined forces to get HR 21 56 passed.
The next stage of this campaign needs to be the spreading of awareness to the general public who are unaware of the extreme safety risks they are subjected to on our nations highways. Although the trucking industry represents millions of truckers and transportation employees, it is the general public of the highways that must be aware of the dangers and to also be in align to support the passing of this bill.  They must realize that a tired driver unable to stop for rest could be driving along side of them on the highway.

We personally, once again, made numerous call to the representatives in our state of Florida explaining the dire need for Jason’s Law. We also called all 4 offices in the committees which the bill appeared to be “stuck” in, namely the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and the Highways and Transit Subcommittee.

Transportation and  Infrastructure Committee.

Representative Jim Oberstar (D – 08) 202-225-6211

Representative John L. Mica (R – 07) 202-225-4035

Subcommittee is the Highways and Transit.

Representative Peter DeFazio (D – 04) 202-225-6416

Representative John J. Duncan, Jr. (R – 02) 202-225-5435

The most helpful person among all of our phone calls was Todd Kohr from the office of Jim Oberstar, who is the Chair of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. Although the answers to our questions that we asked were not encouraging, the honesty and transparency was appreciated.

According to Todd Kohr, professional staff member for the Highways and Transit subcommittee, he stated that the reason the bill is not moving is because there are similarities to what Jason’s Law is attempting to achieve in another broader bill, the Surface Transportation Authorization Act.

Now, here is the problem:

When the need for truck parking is attached to another bill, Surface Transportation Authorization Act, and many other transportation needs are also attached, the allocated funds would be dependent upon the other proposals within the bill. This has been the problem for many years now when we look at the track record for providing funds for long term truck parking. Truck Parking Funding  gets lost on the shuffle of “other interests”

Todd Kohr also mentioned another Pilot Program, The Truck Parking Facilities Pilot Program which is under SAFETEA LU (Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient, Transportation Equity Act) which was awarded 25 million over 6 years for truck parking ( THROUGH 2009).
USDOT recently released 6 million dollars to 5 states from this Pilot Program funding: Tennessee, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, Utah, and Oregon.

As we mentioned to Mr Kohr, The Truck Parking Facilities Pilot Program, is a mere drop in the bucket in comparison to the bill, Jason’s Law, which will also be a Pilot Program for meeting the additional  long term truck parking needs, but will be 120 million dollars over a 6 year period. Oddly enough, the 120 million dollars for Jason’s Law has been criticized by many, stating that  20 million dollars per year is not enough to cure the deficit of truck parking facilities. If so, then The Truck Parking Facilities Pilot Program, only awarding 6.25 million dollars per year, surely will not even come  close to meeting the needs for this huge truck parking problem . The other broad bill for transportation, Surface Transportation Authorization Act, which on paper includes addressing truck parking, doesn’t even define ( nor could Mr Kohr tell us in dollars) a predetermined amount of funds which would be allocated for the severe shortage of truck parking.

Our suggestion to the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and the Highways and Transit Subcommittee, is to seriously reconsider the safety needs of the general public and the professional truck driver by passing Jason’s Law as it’s own bill, thus securing allocated funding for the drastically needed truck parking facilities which are causing havoc among drivers along with compromising the lives of those sharing the highways with 80,000 lb trucks.

It is only when Jason’s Law, HR 2156 is passed into law, that the truck parking problems will be adequately addressed and targeted funding will be used for this purpose and this purpose only. It’s obvious now, after more than 10 years of addressing the shortage of truck parking, that attaching it to a “broader bill” just does not work.

Continue to call your state representatives and tell them you want Jason’s Law as it’s own bill, not tucked inside of a broader bill

© 2010, AskTheTrucker. All rights reserved.

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Filed under: DOT • Politics • Safety • Truck Stops • trucking

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