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ATA, OOIDA team up on parking letter sent to Buttigieg

Two groups that often find themselves at odds over government policy relating to trucking have teamed up in a letter to Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg focused on the issue of truck parking.

A letter sent Friday to Buttigieg was signed by Chris Spear, president and CEO of the American Trucking Associations, and Todd Spencer, president and CEO of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association. 

“On behalf of America’s trucking industry, which employs 7.9 million Americans and moves more than 71% of domestic freight throughout the country, we write to request assistance from [DOT] to address the nationwide shortage of truck parking capacity,” the letter says in its opening sentence.

The letter is mostly a recap of the current situation for drivers facing a dearth of parking. But it does champion one particular piece of legislation: the Truck Parking Safety Improvement bill introduced by Rep. Mike Bost, R-Ill. (A similar bill under the same name introduced in 2020 had bipartisan backing but did not make it into law.)

Almost a year after the legislation was introduced and referred to the House Subcommittee on Highways and Transit, the Bost bill has languished. The bill’s webpage shows no activity on the proposed legislation since it was referred to the subcommittee late last March. However, it has picked up 28 co-sponsors, some as recently as December, and the co-sponsors are bipartisan. 

“We ask that you support [the Bost legislation] that would establish a competitive discretionary grant program and dedicate $755 million over five years to fund truck parking projects across the country,” the letter says. 

Spear’s and Spencer’s letter also notes that while a $1 billion parking allocation was pulled from the infrastructure bill last year — Bost was the sponsor of the amendment to add that parking funding — there is allocated money for transportation projects in the infrastructure law that could include parking. 

“We ask that you educate state and local partners about this eligibility and prioritize funding for grants that would increase truck parking capacity,” the letter says.

The joint Spear/Spencer letter is just two pages and cites several data points to support its argument that parking remains a significant problem for the industry..

– The letter discusses the results of the 2019 Jason’s Law survey driven by input from drivers. That survey, according to the letter, found that “98% of drivers regularly experience problems finding safe parking, a sharp uptick from the 75% figure reported just four years earlier in the 2015 report.” The letter also says the full Jason’s Law report has not been released, and its authors urge Buttigieg to expedite the full publication. “Ultimately, the pervasive truck parking shortage can be explained with simple math — there are about 3.5 million truck drivers in the United States and approximately 313,000 truck parking spaces nationally; for every 11 drivers, there is one truck parking space.” 

– When truck drivers can’t find parking and are confronting driving limitations due to hours of service rules, “they are stuck in a no-win situation, forced to either park in unsafe or illegal locations or violate federal HOS regulations by continuing to search for safer, legal alternatives.” The letter says 70% of drivers have “been forced” to violate HOS rules because of a lack of parking.

– Citing an American Transportation Research Institute study from 2016, the letter says drivers need to “surrender” an average of 56 minutes of available drive time per day, as they’re parking earlier than they need to because they’ve found parking availability. “The economic impacts of the inefficient use of a driver’s time are profound and the practical impact of productivity losses create issues throughout our supply chains.” 

– The letter closes by saying that if parking is more available, “drivers will be safer and healthier, fleets will be more productive, the trucking workforce will be more resilient and trucks will reduce their fuel needs and emit fewer emissions into the environment.” 

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