Jason’s Law truck parking update under review at FHWA

A long-awaited assessment on truck parking capacity in the U.S. is expected to be ready for publishing by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) before the end of this year.

An updated Jason’s Law survey, which was initially scheduled to be published before the end of 2019 only to be postponed to the first months of this year, will now be made public during an upcoming virtual meeting of the National Coalition of Truck Parking, according to FHWA.

Top 10 critical issues in ranked by commercial drivers. Source ATRI 2019 survey

Coalition members include the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, along with representatives from the trucking industry, commercial vehicle safety officials, state departments of transportation, and commercial truck stop owners and operators. The FHWA confirmed on Wednesday that data analysis is complete and the report is being cleared for publication.

Caitlin Hughes, director of FHWA’s Office of Freight Management and Operations, said that “key capacity data” from the survey will be posted to the web in advance of the meeting. “This data may be of use to states and others who are working on truck parking plans or need updates for freight planning and analysis.”

An activity report released Wednesday from the coalition’s working group stated that in addition to statutory requirements calling for periodic updates to the first Jason’s Law survey released in 2015, the project will update progress made since the 2015 survey to:

  • Update the inventory of truck parking and identify improvements to truck parking availability.
  • Evaluate truck travel by state for the purposes of evaluating increases in truck parking demand.
  • Evaluate the types of technology being used to monitor availability and demand that have resulted from recent advances in truck parking information systems and applications.
  • Compile truck parking plans, studies, and projects completed by states and Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs), particularly as it relates to new freight planning requirements of the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act. 

A cause that began with Hope

The 2015 Jason’s Law survey was the result of a truck parking movement started by Hope Rivenburg, whose husband, Jason, was murdered in 2009 while he slept in his cab at an abandoned gas station after being unable to find safe parking. The tragic event elevated the issue of the truck parking shortage to a national safety concern.

“The Jason’s Law update was supposed to be released last year, so it’s real important that it finally seems to be coming out,” Desiree Wood, president of the advocacy group REAL Women in Trucking, told FreightWaves. Wood, who has participated in state and local meetings with Hope Rivenburg to advocate for increasing truck parking capacity, said the updated data will be critical for states seeking federal funding for truck parking projects.

Truck parking problem locations
Source: State Department of Transportation Survey

“Educating the state is a huge part of this. When they meet a real truck driver, they pay attention – especially when you mention Hope and Jason’s story. A lot of people want to help, but the problem is that once meetings conclude, it’s difficult to get states and MPOs to follow through.”

Based on the first survey, states reporting the most severe challenges included New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York, Virginia, Maryland, South Carolina, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, California, Washington and Oregon.

The survey found that regulations and restrictions related to driver hours of service influence route planning and parking decisions and can be a challenge for drivers when a trip is delayed or changed but rest hours are necessary.

Top 15 interstates cited for parking shortages. Source: ATA, OOIDA surveys

In addition, “the added aspect of congestion means that there could be low reliability and high variability in route planning and identification of truck parking locations that work with delivery schedules. Delay may cause the truck driver to have to rethink routing and identify other truck parking options,” according to the 2015 survey.

Truck parking ranked No. 3 on the latest list of top 10 trucking issues cited by commercial drivers, according to the American Transportation Research Institute.

A need for legislation

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA), which worked to get bipartisan truck parking legislation introduced in March incorporated into a major infrastructure package passed by the House of Representatives in July, will likely see both efforts come up short as no action on either bill is expected by the end of the year.

However, “the parking issue is one that we’ve been fighting for years, and we’ll continue to push for that in the next highway bill or any stand-alone legislative opportunity as well,” OOIDA Executive Vice President Lewie Pugh told FreightWaves last month.

According to the latest update from FHWA, future priorities of the truck parking coalition will:

  • Explore contractual relationships between truck stops and fleets for fuel purchases.
  • Consider how to implement staging in urban and suburban zones. 
  • Hold a peer exchange with international partners and stakeholders to discuss parking capacity.
  • Analyze the use of truck parking fees as a revenue source for private and public parking.
  • Analyze tax incentives for the private sector to build new parking capacity. 
  • Track the amount of money being spent and types of projects being developed by states for truck parking projects.

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