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Jason's Law Truck Parking Survey Results and Comparative Analysis

I. Introduction

This report documents the findings of the Jason’s Law Truck Parking Survey. This survey is a requirement of The Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21; P.L. 112-141) legislation that became effective on October 1, 2012. “Jason’s Law” was established to provide a “national priority on addressing the shortage of long-term parking for commercial motor vehicles on the National Highway System (NHS) to improve the safety of motorized and non-motorized users and for commercial motor vehicle operators.”1 Specifically, Jason’s Law requires the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to conduct a survey and comparative assessment in consultation with relevant State motor carrier representatives to:

  1. Evaluate the capability of [each] State to provide adequate parking and rest facilities for commercial motor vehicles engaged in interstate transportation;
  2. Assess the volume of commercial motor vehicle traffic in [each] State; and
  3. Develop a system of metrics to measure the adequacy of commercial motor vehicle parking facilities in [each] State.2

The DOT is required to make the results of this work publicly available on a website and periodically update the survey. Even without the legislated requirements, the issue of truck parking has long been a priority for the DOT and its operating administrations. Jason’s Law helps to advance a more comprehensive set of programs, efforts, and research to improve truck parking and provide States and Metropolitan Planning Organizations with resources to identify parking needs and to encourage improvements and investments.

Jason’s Law is named in honor of Jason Rivenburg. On March 4, 2009, Jason stopped for a delivery in Virginia and then headed toward a delivery destination in South Carolina. While only 12 miles from the delivery location, he needed to find parking to rest through the night as his arrival location was not yet open to receive deliveries. Jason did not have a safe place to park. Jason had learned from truckers familiar with the area that a nearby abandoned gas station was a safe location to park and proceeded to park there for the night. Tragically, he was attacked and murdered at this location while he slept with his killer taking both his life and just $7.00 that he had in his wallet.

Since his death, Jason’s wife, Hope Rivenburg, has worked diligently to bring attention to the national truck parking shortage problem. Her efforts, along with those of countless family members, friends, and representatives from the trucking industry, helped to push forth legislation to focus national attention on the issue. After several versions of the Jason’s Law legislative language were brought to Congress, the legislative language described above was incorporated into MAP-21.

Truck Parking – A National Challenge

Truck parking shortages are a national safety concern. An inadequate supply of truck parking spaces can result in two negative consequences: first, tired truck drivers may continue to drive because they have difficulty finding a place to park for rest and, second, truck drivers may choose to park at unsafe locations, such as on the shoulder of the road, exit ramps, or vacant lots, if they are unable to locate official, available parking. Numerous public, private, academic and non-profit studies have been completed on the adequacy of truck parking, and these studies have some common findings, including an expected growth in truck activity, severe shortages of parking for trucks, lack of information on truck parking opportunities, and challenges due to limited delivery windows and specific rest requirements. More detail on these studies is provided below.

Previous Truck Parking Studies and Key Findings

The U.S. Department of Transportation

The DOT has completed several studies addressing the Nation’s truck parking needs:

  • To evaluate safety issues related to driver rest requirements, the 1996 Commercial Driver Rest and Parking Requirements: Making Space for Safety study investigated the need for truck parking facilities acknowledging the difference between publicly supplied truck parking spaces and spaces available at privately operated facilities.
  • To evaluate the amount of parking availability in 2002, the FHWA completed the Study of Adequacy of Truck Parking Facilities, which addressed an array of issues tied to truck parking and determined that the demand for truck parking spaces was underserved by the supply.
  • In 2012, FHWA re-assessed the truck parking demand and availability needs using volume and congestion data in the Commercial Motor Vehicle Parking Shortage report that was submitted to Congress in June of that year. This report employed FHWA’s Freight Analysis Framework and Freight Performance Measure program tools in determining that there was a widespread shortage of truck parking facilities and that in certain areas the shortage was acute.
  • In 1998, the USDOT National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) report Traffic Safety Facts 1998: Large Trucks documented the growth of large trucks on the Nation’s highways and the increasing involvement of large trucks in fatal crashes. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) evaluated this work and found consistent links between “catastrophic truck and bus accidents” and “commercial driver fatigue,” suggesting a need for truck parking and appropriate rest.3
  • In 2000, the NTSB issued the Highway Special Investigation Report that found parking adequacy, information, and hours available as primary challenges for truck parking. This study concluded that representatives of the full supply chain should be part of the truck parking discussion because they all impact the truck schedules and routing. Additionally, this study found that there is not enough parking to accommodate traffic, lack of parking availability information is problematic and impacts safety, and there are challenges associated with siting parking facilities.

American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials / National Cooperative Highway Research Program

AASHTO has also studied the truck parking issue. During the fall of 2013, a survey of State departments of transportation (State DOT) conducted by AASHTO (independent of the Jason’s Law Survey) resulted in the following findings:

  • Nearly 14 percent of respondents indicated that the truck parking issue/problem was “very significant” in their State.
  • Approximately 57 percent of respondents had studied or analyzed truck parking needs and availability.
  • Over three-quarters of respondents had analyzed truck parking availability and geographic distribution in light of just-in-time delivery demands, hours of service (HOS) requirements, and patterns of highway and freight movement.
  • In 2003, the National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP) completed the Dealing with Truck Parking Demands study (NCHRP Synthesis 317), which further confirmed severe shortages of truck parking and outlined challenges related to legislative authority and regulatory issues in developing truck parking locations. This report highlighted a number of State DOT practices and potential solutions to truck parking challenges, including Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) strategies to improve the accessibility of real-time information about available parking spaces for truck drivers.

Jason’s Law Movement

Since her husband’s murder, Hope Rivenburg has worked to highlight commercial truck parking needs and to enact Federal legislation that would improve parking conditions. In addition to her legislative efforts, Hope sponsored a survey of truck parking conditions. Results of this survey were released in 2013 and included the following findings:

  • Thirty-nine percent of the drivers responding take 1 hour or longer to find parking.
  • Drivers indicated that if parking was not found by mid-afternoon or early evening in either a rest area or private truck stop, the next suitable option is a well-lighted shopping area due to safety concerns. However, drivers stated they worried during their rest period they would be asked to leave or given a citation by law enforcement.
  • Fifty-three percent of drivers regularly use a commercial truck stop for rest and 20 percent regularly use a rest area. Other options used regularly include shipper/receiver location (20 percent), on/off ramp (8 percent), abandoned lot/isolated area (10 percent), and behind a shopping center (11 percent).
  • Eighty-eight percent of drivers felt unsafe while parked during mandatory rest or waiting for pickup or delivery of a load over the past 12 months.
  • Thirty-six percent of respondents felt safer parked at a shipper and receiver location.

Truck Parking Funding Programs

The Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users

The Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU) legislation (PL 109-59) established the Truck Parking Facilities Pilot Program (Pilot Program) under Section 1305. Congress intended the Pilot Program to make funds available to address the truck parking shortage on the NHS. The Pilot Program was established as a $6.25 million per year program totaling $25 million over the 4 years prescribed by SAFETEA-LU (Fiscal Year (FY) 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009). In FY 2008, Congress rescinded the funding to the Pilot Program but made it available in FY2009. Through the extensions of SAFETEA-LU, the Pilot Program was funded through the end of FY 2012. Over the course of the Pilot Program, $231 million in project requests were submitted to FHWA, and approximately $34 million in funds were made available to support awards made to 20 projects. Activities designated by Congress as eligible for funding under the Pilot Program were:

  1. Constructing safety rest areas (as defined in section 120(c) of title 23, United States Code (USC)) that include parking for commercial motor vehicles.
  2. Constructing commercial motor vehicle parking facilities adjacent to commercial truck stops and travel plazas.
  3. Opening existing facilities to commercial motor vehicle parking, including inspection and weigh stations and park-and-ride facilities.
  4. Promoting the availability of publicly or privately provided commercial motor vehicle parking on the NHS using ITS and other means.
  5. Constructing turnouts along the NHS for commercial motor vehicles.
  6. Making capital improvements to public commercial motor vehicle parking facilities currently closed on a seasonal basis to allow the facilities to remain open year-round.
  7. Improving the geometric design of interchanges on the NHS to improve access to commercial motor vehicle parking facilities.4

Of the approximately $34 million awarded to projects under the program, close to $20 million was awarded to ITS-based truck parking projects as described in item four above. The first two awards made under the program were made to the I-95 Corridor Coalition (I-95 CC) and the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans). The I-95 CC project will build a space availability detection system with information to be made available through traffic management centers (TMCs) across a seven State area (Connecticut to North Carolina). The Caltrans project will be delivered on the I-5 corridor. This project is innovative in providing truck parking information as it features a reservation service. Each of these projects was awarded approximately $5.5 million.

The other noteworthy, large-scale, ITS-based truck parking projects funded through the Pilot Program include:

  1. The “Rest Area Parking Information and Deployment System” on I-81 in the vicinity of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
  2. The Michigan Department of Transportation received $4.5 million to develop a space detection and availability notification system compatible with 5.9 GHz telecommunication technology on I-94.
  3. Minnesota received approximately $2 million to build an automated space detection and availability notification system on I-94.
  4. Wisconsin Department of Transportation received $1 million in funding through the program to build a space detection and availability notification system on I-94.

The last three of these projects form a corridor approach to improving truck parking in a corridor and region. The FHWA hopes that the information provided to truckers is coordinated across the three adjacent States.

The Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act

In addition to authorizing the Jason’s Law Survey, MAP-21 established eligibility for truck parking funding under different programs instead of in a Pilot Program. The activities previously eligible for funding under the Pilot Program became eligible for funds under the NHPP, the Surface Transportation Program, and the Highway Safety Improvement Program. While truck parking projects do have to compete with other types of important projects, this re-alignment provides increased opportunity and flexibility to fund truck parking projects.

The large-scale, ITS-based truck parking projects funded through the SAFETEA-LU Pilot Program are also being viewed for inclusion in the “Smart Roadside Initiative” (SRI) prototype application project, jointly sponsored by FHWA and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). The SRI prototype will be able to interface with these systems to make information available very efficiently to truck drivers in need of rest in order to maintain compliance with their HOS requirements. The SRI prototype is currently in the system design phase.

Truck Parking: Background and Key Issues

The Federal deregulation of the trucking industry, which began under the Motor Carrier Act of 1980, resulted in a sharp increase of new competitors in the industry and a corresponding growth of truck traffic on the highway system. This growth of truck traffic, coupled with a corresponding increase of passenger vehicles, has resulted in a substantial increase in traffic volumes on the largely completed Interstate Highway System. Ongoing growth of freight volumes is likely to place an increasing strain on the system; Freight Analysis Framework (FAF3.4) data indicates projected growth in total freight tonnage of more than 51 percent between 2007 and 2040. This growth was exacerbated by changes in logistics practices aimed at reducing inventory costs and streamlining supply chains. These changes require close coordination between the needs of shippers and the operational requirements and limitations of the trucking industry.

Much truck parking activity is driven by safety considerations and the associated need for adequate rest for drivers. The FMCSA HOS rules have undergone several changes in recent years, starting with a major revision in 2005 and culminating in the most recent amendments that were implemented starting on July 1, 2013. Some of these amended 2013 rules were suspended under the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act of 2015 (passed on 12/16/14). These changes have involved fine-tuning of various elements of the rules, but a general underlying trend since 2005 has been the FMCSA’s adoption of provisions aimed at improving safety through longer continuous rest periods for commercial drivers. Drivers cite two particular changes in the HOS rules in 2013 that have influenced changes in truck parking characteristics across the industry. These are: (1) the requirement for a continuous off-duty window under the “34-hour restart provision” to include two consecutive late-night periods of 1:00 AM to 5:00 AM; and (2) the requirement for drivers to take a 30-minute rest break during the first 8 hours of a shift. Because timing for deliveries and scheduling adequate rest is critical, driver’s need to carefully consider parking needs in planning their routes and deliveries.

Prior studies of this issue, including the 2002 FHWA Study of the Adequacy of Truck Parking Facilities that served as the benchmark for documenting this issue on a national basis, determined that demand for truck parking exceeds the available supply in public and private facilities across much of the country, and that in some regions this shortage is particularly severe.

The ongoing Federal efforts related to this issue are driven by two compelling public interests:

  • Protecting truck drivers and motorists from issues related to driver fatigue on the Nation’s highway system, and
  • Providing safe parking facilities on or adjacent to the NHS for commercial drivers to allow for adequate rest as required by the Federal HOS regulations.

One challenging aspect of truck parking is that issues must be addressed in the context of regulations driven by competing interests of different private industries. One regulatory element underlying this entire issue is that of the competing interests between public facilities operated by highway authorities along highway rights-of-way, and privately owned retail sites near highway interchanges. Striking a balance between the needs of the trucking industry at public facilities and the interests of private retailers in maintaining viable travel centers has long been a challenge to both public agencies and private industry groups. Public rest areas are prohibited from offering commercial services such as food and fuel on the interstate system under title 23, Section 111 of the U.S.C.5 Service plazas with retail services do exist in parts of the country with older limited-access toll roads because the law included an exemption for facilities that were in place before January 1, 1960.

Land Use Issues and Real Estate Economics

Land use issues and the changes in these land uses over time play a major role in decisions on both the public and private sector side. A heavily used roadway system in an urban area must serve a variety of different users who compete for roadway and parking capacity as well as other services at roadside rest areas and service plazas. These requirements result in divergent uses between autos and trucks and between different uses among motor carriers (long-haul, short-haul, local distribution, terminal-to-terminal, etc.). In addition, many roadside rest facilities were originally sited in exurban and rural areas along Interstate highways, specifically to accommodate intercity travelers and long-haul truckers who were likely to find few opportunities for rest and retail services on long trips. As metropolitan areas have grown in recent decades, the areas around many rest facilities have become increasingly urbanized. The changes occurring around these areas have created challenges due to the mix of activities and adjacent land uses.

Rising real estate costs make it more difficult for highway-oriented retail uses that cater to truckers to compete with other, more profitable land uses in the vicinity of highway interchanges. These interchanges have typically been the ideal locations for traditional truck stops and multipurpose travel centers. But the cost of land, as well as potentially lengthy land use review processes at the municipal level for new sites, has made it impractical to build a large-scale, privately owned travel center in many regions with heavy truck parking demand.

Congestion and Highway Safety

In addition to these factors, auto and truck activity on the Nation’s highway system is resulting in extended periods of time when the highway network operates under constrained conditions, particularly during peak commuter periods. Truck operations on these roadways becomes less productive over time as travel conditions deteriorate due to congestion, and this has affected rest/parking demand for truckers. Congested conditions reduce travel speeds and increase travel times throughout the highway network, yet the physical limitations of drivers (i.e., their need for rest facilities and supporting amenities) and HOS regulations that govern their work environment are time-based, not distance-based. Increasing congestion tends to generate an increase in parking demand at rest areas and off-highway service areas.

Deficiencies in truck parking capacity at existing rest areas and service plazas have become apparent in recent years in many parts of the country. Through previous reports and in FHWA’s communications with stakeholders, truck drivers and State officials have often discussed problems at existing rest areas where truck parking demand often exceeds the available capacity of these facilities (particularly during overnight hours). They have also discussed challenges where lack of parking creates scenarios where trucks can be found parked along the entrance and exit ramps at these sites. Similarly, challenges are reported in trucks parking in unofficial areas during peak overnight periods at highway interchanges or along wide shoulders in regions where parking demand exceeds the capacity of existing facilities.

Highway Safety

Stakeholders cite safety challenges where parking shortages create scenarios where trucks are parking along the entrance and exit ramps and shoulders of highways. When trucks park on shoulders or ramps of highways, maneuvering in and out of traffic to access or exit the shoulders and ramps poses safety risks to the truck driver and other vehicles due to the mix of higher speed traffic and the slower speeds of the trucks in and out of these areas. Crashes involving trucks parked on shoulders and ramps of higher speed traffic and have been reported and have involved injuries and fatalities. Stakeholders from the driver community have often discussed the challenges of parking in these types of locations but cite the reasons of doing so due to shortages.

The Law Enforcement Dilemma

Trucks that park along limited-access highways present a difficult problem for law enforcement. Parking on the shoulder of a limited-access highway is prohibited by law in most States. Vehicles parked on the shoulders of these roadways are a serious potential hazard to other motorists because they are fixed objects within the roadway cross-section that are unprotected by a barrier or horizontal buffer area.

However, law enforcement officials presented with clear violations of these statutes may be reluctant to enforce them because of the dilemma presented by a situation involving a truck driver who must observe Federal HOS regulations but may not be able to find a safe place to park off the highway. A driver sleeping in a truck parked on the side of a highway may be more of a danger to other motorists if he or she is awakened and ordered to vacate the premises. Police officers presented with this scenario often find themselves in the uncomfortable position of weighing the competing hazards of an illegally parked truck and a fatigued driver.

Truck Parking Initiatives

The last two decades have seen a convergence of a number of factors that have raised the profile of truck parking on a national, regional and State level. The primary issues of concern include the safety aspects of fatigued truck drivers when trucks are parked on shoulders and ramps along highway segments due to insufficient parking capacity and overflowing rest facilities, and the personal safety of truck drivers who must park for rest requirements but are often unable to find adequate parking when and where they need it. The research on truck parking metrics documented in Section IV of this report includes a number of studies that have been undertaken by public agencies and private industry groups at various levels. The 2002 FHWA study was a transformational effort that included an analysis of various factors that generate parking demand aside from the geographic locations and other characteristics of existing public and private facilities. Other studies in New Jersey and Pennsylvania were performed using the same underlying analytical approach as the 2002 FHWA study, while various studies completed by State DOTs have typically focused on capacity, demand, and operational issues on a facility-by-facility basis.

In recent years the issue of truck parking has also received an enhanced national focus because of outreach efforts in the trucking industry that have helped document issues faced by truck drivers that are not always addressed in studies by public agencies. These outreach efforts and driver surveys include the 2013 national truck driver survey spearheaded by Hope Rivenburg. Much of the information gleaned from these outreach initiatives is anecdotal and reinforces the human element of the truck parking issue beyond the traditional analyses of parking locations, supply, and demand that have been documented in various studies by public agencies.

About This Report

This report draws from public and private truck parking studies and efforts over the past 20 years, as well as a significant amount of research, analysis, and survey input from States and truck parking stakeholders, to provide an updated understanding of the magnitude of truck parking issues and a means for States and MPOs to evaluate truck parking in a consistent way moving forward. One major challenge identified in this process was the inconsistent focus throughout the Nation on truck parking. While some States and regions have robust programs to count spaces or identify issues and needs, others lacked information and resources. The FHWA worked with States to collect as much information as possible through a variety of State resources. However, FHWA did not require States to conduct detailed truck parking research if information was not available. Noting that the information States could provide varied in detail, it is the goal of this work to provide a system of metrics that can be used consistently in the future to provide an assessment of truck parking, which will better inform the dialogue on the issue and focus on needed investments.

This report is divided into five sections including this introductory section (Section 1). Section 2 describes MAP-21 Section 1401 (c) (1) (B) “to assess the volume of commercial motor vehicle traffic in the State.” This section primarily includes a resource of State maps of truck volumes and parking locations. Section 3 describes the results corresponding to MAP-21 Section 1401 (c) (1) (A) “to evaluate the capability of the State to provide adequate parking and rest facilities for commercial motor vehicles engaged in interstate transportation.” Section 4 corresponds to MAP-21 Section 1401(c) (1) (C) “to develop a system of metrics to measure the adequacy of commercial motor vehicle parking facilities in the State.” Section 5 concludes the report and recommends areas for future research to support truck parking analysis.

Jason’s Law requires a survey of each State to evaluate parking, commercial motor vehicle traffic volumes, and to derive a system of metrics to measure truck parking in each State. In order to conduct the survey, FHWA divided the three requirements into three separate survey efforts: 1) to evaluate the capability of the State to provide adequate parking, FHWA developed a questionnaire for States and relevant private sector stakeholders that was administered with the support and assistance of national representative organizations for these stakeholders; 2) to assess the volume of commercial motor vehicle traffic, FHWA used a yearly survey or census of States for transportation data that FHWA collects, which provides truck volumes as reported by each State; and 3) to develop the system of metrics, FHWA worked with the national representative organizations for stakeholders to collect inputs on appropriate metrics and metric system design.

1 United States Public Law 112-141 Section 1401. [ Return to note 1. ]

2 Ibid. [ Return to note 2. ]

3 U.S. Department of Transportation National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Traffic Safety Facts 1998: Large Trucks. DOT-HS-808-952. Washington, DC. [ Return to note 3. ]

4 Citation: PL 109-59; 1305(b)(3) [ Return to note 4. ]

5 Vending machines were permitted in public rest areas since the 1980s, when the provisions of the Randolph-Sheppard Act of 1936 granting retail concessions in Federal buildings to persons who are legally blind were extended to rest areas on the Interstate Highway System. [ Return to note 5. ]

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