On March 5, 2009, truck driver Jason Rivenburg stopped 12 miles short of his South Carolina destination, needing rest and knowing that his customer was not yet open to receive freight. Truck parking was nowhere to be found. Through the driver grapevine, Rivenburg heard that an abandoned gas station was safe for parking. Sadly, it was not. As he slept, Rivenburg was attacked and murdered for the $7 he had in his wallet.

Jason’s widow, Hope, began to advocate for safe truck parking. Through her tireless work and that of many others, Congress passed Jason’s Law as part of The Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21stCentury, commonly known as the “2012 highway funding bill.”

Jason’s Law required the U.S. Department of Transportation (U.S. DOT) to conduct a survey in coordination with states and motor carrier representatives. The purpose is to evaluate the capability of each state in providing adequate parking for interstate trucks, assess the volume of commercial motor vehicle traffic, and develop metrics to measure the ongoing adequacy of truck parking. Most importantly, Jason’s Law authorized federal funding for the construction of new truck parking and rest areas.

Recently, the National Coalition on Truck Parking met under the auspices of the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), part of the U.S. DOT, to discuss findings in the latest Jason’s Law survey.

The survey showed approximately 313,000 truck parking spaces nationwide. Of these, 40,000 are at public rest areas and 273,000 are at private truck stops. Over the five years between surveys, public truck parking spaces grew by 6% while private parking spaces saw an 11% increase. But even that growth in available parking has not kept pace with truck volumes and the new parking spots are not always located where they are needed most.

The American Trucking Associations noted that 38% of truck tonnage heads to urban areas that offer only 8.5% of the truck parking spaces. Despite state efforts, drivers have difficulty finding parking along I-5 in California and the I-95 corridor on the East Coast. Also, most states continue to report that few public facilities or spaces are being developed, while challenges exist in planning, funding and accommodating truck parking, according to FHWA.

To reach the necessary amount of safe truck parking requires support for continued and increased federal funding. Until that happens, motor carriers can take the following steps to help their drivers avoid truck parking dangers:

  • Plan. Evaluate common routes for available parking. Ask drivers to report potential parking locations, and then follow up with property owners and local officials to determine availability, safety and legality.
  • Work with customers. Some may allow overnight parking. Many will accept the 30-minute rest break on their property, if only asked. If parking at their facility is not possible, work with the customer to find safe and legal truck parking
  • Educate drivers on recent HOS rule changes. Two recent hours of service rule changes create more flexibility in drivers taking the 30-minute rest break, alleviating the need to find short-term truck parking. For overnight parking, drivers should clearly understand how to use the “personal conveyance” option to reach a safe parking location.
  • Eliminate guesswork. We should learn from what happened to Jason Rivenburg and look for safe and legal parking options before driving. Open communication among all carrier team members can remove the driver grapevine as a source of accurate information.