Owner-operators seek dedicated federal funds for parking

A bipartisan bill to create a dedicated pool of competitive grant funding for new truck parking capacity will be introduced in Congress in the coming weeks, according to backers of the proposal.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA), which has been working over the past year to help craft language in the bill, wants to see the bill incorporated into the next surface transportation reauthorization.

“Too many federal dollars have been spent recently on technology-based solutions that fail to address the root of the problem,” testified OOIDA Vice President Lewie Pugh at a U.S. Senate hearing on truck safety issues on Feb 4. “We’ve determined federal investment in the expansion of trucking parking capacity is key.”

The legislation, to be introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives, would use funding from existing highway safety programs. “We want to create dedicated funding — a ‘lock box’ only for truck parking that actually puts pavement out there.”

Collin Long, OOIDA’s director of Government Affairs, said that while only public entities will be able to apply for the funding, the bill will encourage innovative proposals that incorporate partnerships with the private sector.

“The problem is, while truck parking projects are technically eligible under a number of existing programs, they compete with highway capacity programs,” Long told FreightWaves. “If we’re able to set some of the highway money aside for use exclusively for truck parking capacity, the states are going to want it. They all know there’s a problem, and there’s no lack of interest.”

The American Trucking Associations (ATA) also supports federal aid dedicated to solving the problem. “Truck parking has not been a priority given a shortage of funds for essential highway projects,” ATA President and CEO Chris Spear testified at the hearing. “Therefore, ATA supports the creation of a new discretionary grant program with dedicated funding from the federal-aid highway program for truck parking capital projects.”

According to the ATA, the truck parking capacity shortage ranked third in 2019 among issues that concern truck drivers, behind compensation and hours of service.

Darrin Roth, ATA vice president for Highway Policy, noted at this year’s Transportation Research Board meeting that 40% of drivers are shutting down operations 31-60 minutes early just to ensure they can find parking. That leads to a yearly loss of 9,300 miles of wage-earning potential, Roth said, equivalent to more than a $5,500 potential wage loss — or a 12% cut in annual pay.

The results of the latest Jason’s Law survey, a Federal Highway Administration (FHA) survey of truck parking availability among states, will be due out within the next several months, according to the FHA, and industry officials say the results could be used to help inform the next highway bill reauthorization. However, Pugh said, “it seems all it has done so far is produce studies and research to tell us there’s a truck parking problem that we already knew existed.”