If there’s one thing every long-haul trucker knows, it’s that finding a safe place to park overnight is always a concern at the back of their mind. We’ve heard all the stories. A truck driver winds up at an abandoned gas station or dark side of the road and – in some cases – winds up either assaulted or the victim of a hijacking.
In less stark cases, truck drivers experience wasted hours and end up fatigued simply because it’s difficult to find a safe place to park it. As the economy improves, truck drivers and fleets have increasingly put pressure on state legislators to do something about the growing parking shortage.
The fact is, overnight parking safety has become such an important topic, that now the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) is weighing in on the issue. They have been including measures in highway bills for some time to address this problem.
The problem lies in allocation local funding to develop more secure rest area for truckers, especially those on busier interstate routes. Rural routes also need attention, as these areas provide ample ground for the bad guys to commit their dirty deeds without anyone else around for miles.
Many states felt the call to action in 2009 when trucker Jason Rivenburg was murdered while sleeping at an abandoned gas station. Bills introduced were written to invest in compensating for shortages in safe and reliable rest areas for truck drivers.
New Words, Same Problem
Even as we type these words, we must acknowledge this isn’t a new problem. According to a Department of Transportation (DOT) study completed in 2002, state funding cuts and perilously low budget allocations were crippling efforts to address the critical parking problem.
Yet, was anything done? In some states, yes. In others, there was movement in the opposite direction. In early 2008, Louisiana closed 23 of its 43 public rest areas. While the recession mitigated some concerns, as freight movement increases, suddenly Louisiana finds itself woefully short of safe areas for truck drivers.
While reports of attacked or hijacked truckers shines a light on the problem, this goes beyond the most terrible examples. The entire industry feels a financial pinch when there’s a parking shortage crisis. When a vast majority of truck drivers report having to keep diving when they are tired because of a lack of rest stops, everyone’s safety is put at risk.
Forced Into a Corner
With most rest stops either full or nonexistent, truckers are forced to stop in secluded areas, perhaps behind grocery stores, at shopping malls or on freeway onramps or shoulders.
Another area where the parking shortage is concerned lies in trucker wellness. It’s stressful when a truck driver can’t find a place to park. Truckers must also be concerned of damage. When ten trucks are trying to squeeze into a tight space, the chances of a scrape or other damage increases exponentially.
We are in a time when trucking needs to attract new employees. This is an industry we all love, a job worth being proud of. We are the vanguard of the nation’s supply chain. It’s important that the Knights of the Road have safe places to sleep at night.
What You Can Do
Don’t wait for the state or federal government to act. You can act yourself. Look to solutions that include:
- Sharing safe parking areas and points of interest with a network of truck drivers.
- Utilizing the wisdom of the crowd. When you see a lot of other trucks there, you might be able to consider that a safe place.
- Planning custom route options that change and/or include rest areas that the fleet knows about and can plan for.
In the end, truck drivers need the tools and knowledge to ensure they can park safely when they need to. It’s not only good for truck driver retention, it’s ideal for families at home waiting for their truckers to get home safely.