Lack of access to parking remains a priority issue for the trucking industry, and Rick Crawford wants something done about it.
Crawford is Arkansas’ representative from the 1st Congressional District and is perfectly situated to have influence on such issues as a member of the House Committee on Transportation & Infrastructure, where he is chairman of the Highway & Transit Subcommittee.
Crawford’s subcommittee advanced a bill Tuesday that would provide $755 million in federal money over the next three years to state agencies to expand truck parking access. But the bipartisan House bill has a long way to go before it becomes law. (There is also a bipartisan Senate bill under consideration along the same lines.)
“If you ask the trucking industry what’s their most pressing issue, I think everybody is going to say — resoundingly — truck parking,” Crawford said in an interview with Transport Topics. “And yet there was no consideration given to truck parking, instead putting all these resources into [electric vehicle] charging.”
The American Transportation Research Institute, a nonprofit connected with the American Trucking Associations, has asked truckers and their employers what their most pressing issues are. Parking has been a top five concern annually since 2015; this past year, the most recently completed in the survey, lack of parking was third.
Looking closer at the survey, more than 47% of the survey respondents were truckers, while more than 38% were carrier executives. Truckers voted parking their No. 1 concern; executives ranked parking at No. 10.
The ATRI said that a 2019 survey by the Federal Highway Administration found that there were 313,000 truck parking spaces nationally — one space for every 11 drivers looking for one.
Private lots fill up fast, truck stops are routinely crowded and public rest areas have been disappearing as states try to make budget-saving cuts. The parking issue is even more pronounced on the most heavily traveled corridors. It is illegal for drivers to park on on- and off-ramps, but it isn’t hard to understand why some are forced to do it.
“Truckers are trying to follow the rules,” Crawford said. “You tell them you’ve got to rest certain amounts of time, but you don’t give them any space where they can. That creates safety problems, and it creates other issues [when] you’ve got on-ramps and off-ramps full of trucks because they don’t have anywhere else to park.”
Chris Spear, the CEO of the ATA, was a featured speaker at the Arkansas Trucking Association annual conference May 17 in Little Rock. He said it was important that industry members actively lobby and “put leaders on the spot” about votes for the trucking industry.
“The upshot for you all is you have outstanding elected officials,” Spear told the Arkansas audience. “The lion’s share of them are engaged, not just on the right committees but on the right issues: our issues. Issues that matter to you.
“Rick Crawford is a great example. He is chairman of the highway subcommittee on T&I. It couldn’t be a more relevant committee that we need somebody like Rick Crawford to be on and to be able to talk about truck parking.”
Spear said the trucking industry must have a unified voice in light of the political conflict in Washington, D.C., with a divided Congress and a president whom he called strongly pro-union.
But politics can make for strange bedfellows. Spear and the ATA are often at odds with the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA), but the two groups often work together on the 90% of the issues they agree on, Spear said.
“We need both [political] sides to listen and understand and champion our issues,” Spear said. “We cannot rely on one party or the other. We need them both.
“It’s an American story. Strategically it is vital we come together on issues that matter to each and every one of the segments of the supply chain.”