Inadequate truck parking has contributed to a shortage of drivers, an ongoing issue that has exacerbated global supply chain issues, experts say.
All Carl Smith wants is a place to park his freight truck. He thinks it’s a simple request that’s never fully granted.
Over his four decade trucking career, there have been times when the Ohio man needed to pull over because he was tired or had encountered dangerous weather.
It’s becoming increasingly difficult for him to find a place to legally park, however.
“There are times during inclement weather where you have to find a place to park,” said Smith, 61, who delivers liquid chemicals to Milwaukee. “Pretty much, all vehicles are going to want to get off the road and there just aren’t enough adequate parking spaces.”
His dilemma is not uncommon among the 3.5 million American truckers transporting freight from state to state, drivers said.
Inadequate truck parking over the past several decades is one reason why truckers have left the industry, contributing to the nationwide shortage of roughly 80,000 drivers that has exacerbated global supply chain issues, experts say.
“The answer is absolutely, yes. It’s one of the top reasons why they are leaving,” Daniel Murray, senior vice-president of the American Transportation Research Institute, said of the lack of truck parking. “When truck parking goes south, they just throw up their hands and say ‘I’m out of here’ and find another job that doesn’t create the stress and anxiety.”
The American Trucking Associations and the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association last month asked the U.S. Department of Transportation to use funding from the federal infrastructure bill to construct designated parking areas for truckers to improve safety and working conditions.
“The scarcity of truck parking spaces across the country decreases safety for all highway users, exacerbates the industry’s long-standing workforce challenges, contributes negatively to driver health and well-being and diminishes trucking productivity,” the groups wrote Feb. 18.
The associations said truckers move more than 70 percent of the country’s domestic freight.
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said during a Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing Tuesday that the agency is "very concerned" about the lack of parking.
"This is a very important issue and if you talk with any truck driver, it is not only an issue of convenience, it is an issue of safety," he said.
Experts and drivers say parking woes have plagued the trucking industry for decades, but the problem has worsened during the pandemic with states opting to close many rest areas to save money.
The ones that remain open are usually overcrowded with other truckers searching for a place to stop when they are tired or have to take a mandatory work break.