Highway safety Senate hearing highlights truck parking shortage

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Trucking news and briefs for Thursday, Nov. 9, 2023:

Truck parking, speed limiters among topics at Senate hearing

During witness testimony Tuesday at a hearing of the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Subcommittee on Transportation and Infrastructure, truck parking and speed limiters were topics of concern related to highway safety.

The hearing featured three witnesses discussing issues related to roadway safety and examining the causes of roadway safety challenges and possible solutions. Testifying during the hearing were Karina Ricks, a partner with city planning organization Cityfi; Brenda Neville, president and CEO of the Iowa Motor Truck Association and co-chair of the American Trucking Associations’ Women in Motion Advisory Council; and Karin Mongeon, NDDOT Highway Safety Division Director.

On the topic of speed limiters, Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-North Dakota) said the idea of mandating speed limiters on heavy-duty trucks “give me serious concern,” noting that in his home state, the speed limit on interstate highways is 75 mph. He added that a mandate could create a situation in which trucks travel up to 10 mph slower than the speed limit.

Cramer asked Mongeon whether NDDOT is concerned about the potential for the disruption of traffic flows if speed limiters were to be mandated.

“The North Dakota DOT has concerns,” she said. “Of course, North Dakota's economy is reliant upon efficient transport of industry products. Our concerns include potential adverse safety impacts from creating speed differentials between heavy trucks and cars. So, we are aware that the U.S. DOT has stated its intent to issue, as soon as December, a proposed rule that would require speed limits on trucks, Class 7 and higher. We will review that proposed rule and issue comments, but we do have concerns.”

Neville, speaking on behalf of ATA, said the association is in wait-and-see mode and will file comments when the proposal is published. She declined to offer additional comments.

Another topic of conversation during the hearing was the truck parking shortage. Neville, responding to questions from Sen. Mark Kelly (D-Arizona), noted that with just 313,000 truck parking spaces in the U.S. for approximately 3.5 million truck drivers, “the truck parking shortage is real.” As a result, she said drivers are often forced to park on the shoulder of a road or an on- or off-ramp when their hours of service expire for the day.

She also noted that truck drivers are losing productivity because they are spending time before their hours run out just searching for a place to park, oftentimes outside their route.

[Related: 68 mph? FMCSA backtracks after ‘inaccurate’ reveal of speed-limiter intentions]

Numerous trucking groups, others call for passage of truck parking funding bill

The day before the Senate Environment and Public Works subcommittee hearing Tuesday, a group of trucking associations and other trade organizations on Monday penned a letter to EPW members expressing their support for the Truck Parking Safety Improvement Act, introduced in the Senate by Sens. Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyoming) and Mark Kelly (D-Arizona) in March.

Among trucking-related groups that signed the letter were the American Trucking Associations, Truckload Carriers Association, Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, National Association of Small Trucking Companies, Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance, Mid-West Truckers Association, Transportation Intermediaries Association, National Association of Truck Stop Operators and more.

The groups said the bipartisan bill “addresses an important safety concern that negatively affects the trucking industry, the American public, and the national supply chain.”

Among benefits of passing the legislation, according to the letter, are:

  • Improved driver well-being
  • Better driver recruitment and retention
  • Maximizes federal dollars
  • Enhanced highway safety
  • Economic prosperity
  • Reduced roadway congestion

“We urge you to prioritize consideration of the Truck Parking Safety Improvement Act in the EPW Committee and the Senate,” the letter said. “We hope that the Committee will follow the lead of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, which approved companion legislation earlier this year by a vote of 60 to 4.”

[Related: Bill introduced in both houses to address truck parking]

New ADAS features now available on Kenworth T680s

Kenworth recently announced the latest iteration of its Advanced Driver Assistance System (ADAS) is now available for Kenworth T680s.

The enhancements are part of the Bendix Fusion system and feature Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) Stop and Auto Go.

When a truck follows a lead vehicle in cruise control, this enhancement enables the system to apply braking to maintain a safe following distance and will bring the truck to a complete stop, if necessary, and will hold the truck in place. When the truck can move forward, it will automatically accelerate to the vehicle set speed without driver intervention and maintain a safe following distance.

In the event a truck departs the roadway, the new Highway Departure Braking to Zero feature will provide an audible chime and apply braking to reduce vehicle speed if the vehicle begins departing the roadway. In some circumstances, the system may reduce the vehicle speed to a full stop until the driver re-engages.

“Driver assistance systems play a key role in making commercial trucks easier and less fatiguing to operate,” said Jim Walenczak, Kenworth assistant general manager for sales and marketing. “These new features will complement safe driving behavior and provide drivers more convenience operating in cruise control.”

In addition to these new features, Kenworth is building upon its previous driver assistance system offerings with improved Adaptive Cruise Control, Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB), and more. Kenworth’s ADAS driver technology suite includes Collision Mitigation, Lane Departure Warning, and Side Object Detection.

[Related: Proper maintenance critical to keeping ADAS on the mark]

Peach State Truck Centers breaking ground on 14th location

Peach State Truck Centers will soon host a groundbreaking ceremony for a new dealership in Villa Rica, Georgia. The official groundbreaking is scheduled for 10 a.m. Eastern on Nov. 14. The event will include guest speakers such as the President and Dealer Principal of Peach State Truck Centers, Rick Reynolds, and local dignitaries.

Located at the corner of Edge and Liberty Road off exit 26 on I-20, the new dealership in Villa Rica is strategically positioned to serve the growing needs of the commercial trucking industry in west Georgia and eastern Alabama.

Peach State said the new facility will sit on 30 acres right off the interstate and will feature a wide range of commercial vehicles, including new and used trucks from Freightliner, Western Star vocational trucks, Thomas Built Buses school buses and Spartan fire trucks and other emergency vehicles. The location will also have at least 40 service bays and a parts warehouse with significant inventory added to their already $60,000,000 on-hand inventory across their dealerships.

“As the Atlanta market continues to expand west from our Atlanta metro locations and east from our Birmingham and other Alabama locations, we want to be able to provide a wide range of services to the commercial trucking industry along that I-20 corridor.” said Greg Althardt, Peach State’s COO. 

The new Villa Rica location will mark Peach State Truck Center’s 14th location, and its opening in the fall of 2025 will mark the beginning of consolidation for Peach State’s Austell, Georgia, location.