Highway parking areas adequate for trucks, FHWA report indicates

Truck parking areas along major roads and highways are in more than adequate supply across the United States when both public and commercial parking facilities are factored in, according to a Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) report.

However, the study indicates that public rest areas along the National Highway System were never intended — and will never be sufficient — to accommodate truck-parking demand. As a result, the commercial truck stop and travel plaza industry, state highway agencies, and turnpike authorities should and will continue to be principal suppliers of parking facilities for commercial vehicles along major roads and highways nationwide.

The study includes a state-by-state breakdown of commercial and public rest areas. Based on that combination, the study showed a sufficient supply in eight states, a surplus in 29 states, and a shortage in 12 states. Shortages at commercial truck stops and travel plazas were far less common and largely offset public shortages in 35 states. Alaska was excluded in the study because it did not report a supply of commercial spaces.

The study showed that an estimated 315,850 parking spaces at public rest areas and commercial truck stops and travel plazas serve Interstate highways and other national highway routes. About 90% of those spaces were in commercial truck stops and travel plazas and about 10% were in public rest areas.

Mandated by the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st century, the study included a nationwide estimate of peak hour demand for commercial truck parking facilities at public rest areas and commercial truck stops and travel plazas. The demand estimate for truck parking facilities was based on total hours of travel, time and duration of stops, and current federal hours-of-service regulations.

Response of the states to the adequacy of truck parking issues varies. Many states periodically review their rest areas to help ensure that these facilities address current demand. Some states say they expect expansion of commercial truck stop and travel plaza facilities will meet the demand for truck parking. Others are involved in public-private partnerships to seek new solutions to the truck parking issues.

Individual state action plans are the core strategy for reducing shortages. During the course of the study, individual states drafted plans for addressing truck parking shortages. Recommendations for states fell into six categories: expand or improve public rest areas; expand or improve commercial truck stops and travel plazas; encourage formation of public-private partnerships; educate or inform drivers about available spaces; change parking enforcement rules; and conduct more studies.

Another factor is safety. The Department of Transportation estimates that driver fatigue contributes to about 800 deaths in truck crashes each year. A preliminary estimate by the department's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration indicates that fatalities involving large trucks declined slightly to 5,192 in 2001 from 5,211 in 2000.

A copy of the full report can be viewed on the agency web site at http://safety.fhwa.dot.gov/repctoc.htm.

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