DOT issues ‘call for action’ on truck parking, forms coalition to take on problem

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night truck stopThe Department of Transportation and several of its trucking-focused regulatory agencies, such as the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, announced on Friday the creation of the National Coalition of Truck Parking, with DOT reps and some industry stakeholders signing a pledge of commitment to the group and its concept.

On hand were DOT Deputy Secretary Victor Mendez, Federal Highway Safety Administrator Gregory Nadeau and Federal Motor Carrier Safety Acting Administrator Scott Darling and Hope Rivenburg, whose husband Jason was murdered in 2009 during a robbery attempt while parked in an unsafe place.

The group also revealed the results of a MAP-21 commissioned study on national truck parking, so-called Jason’s Law.

Mendez called the coalition a “call for action for immediate, near-term and long-term solutions” to truckers’ difficulties finding safe, secure parking places in so many areas around the country. “We’re inviting stakeholder groups,” including trucking organizations, state DOTs and others, to take part, he added, “because commercial driver safety is critical. We’re taking a really hard look at this issue.”

Said FMCSA Acting Administrator Scott Darling, “We must do better on this issue.”

Hope Rivenburg noted during the press conference that her husband was not the first driver whose life was sacrificed by unsafe parking. And, she said, “there have been many since Jason, due to the lack of truck parking.”

Rivenburg’s long-term commitment to and advocacy efforts around the trucking parking issue spurred Jason’s Law and its inclusion the 2012 MAP-21 highway bill. The provision makes available to states appropriations for truck parking safety, security and availability programs.

FHWA Administrator Nadeau emphasized the importance his agency is putting on the parking issue. “As I met with State DOTS across the country this summer, I let them know this survey was about to be released – and that it would be a priority of mine.

“This administration,” he added, had an “unshakable commitment” to make driver safety the “utmost priority.”

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Uncertainty around highway funding, said Mendez, is partly to blame for a relative dearth of state efforts on the issue to date. “We need more investment in our system,” Mendez said, as well as more of a look into the “issue of public and private parking and driver’s rest stops.” The highway trust fund’s recent 34th short-term extension in lieu of a longer-term highway bill shows a “lack of commitment to investment,” he added. At the state level, “investments are delayed” as a result.

Stakeholders expected to be active in the newly formed coalition include FHWA, FMCSA (Acting Administrator Darling detailed ongoing work with states on “smart parking” information-dissemination initiatives reported on at this link), the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, the American Trucking Associations, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, the National Association of Truck Stop Operators and the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance.

Rivenburg urged all present to continue to beat the drum. While she characterized formation of the coalition as a “very important step,” she most looked forward to what comes next, she said, “to correct this problem.”