Trucking agency and group look for safe spaces for drivers to park
The parking space for large trucks along Arkansas freeways has been identified as a safety concern, which is why the State Department of Transportation and the State Truckers Association have come together. partners to create more space for truckers needing a break.
Under an 8-year-old law, the ministry has up to $ 2 million to promote commercial vehicle safety through public-private partnerships. The money comes from part of a 15% increase in commercial vehicle registration fees that the Arkansas General Assembly approved in 2013.
“Providing ample truck parking makes it easier for drivers to rest when they need it and then get back on the road to safely deliver US freight,” said Shannon Newton, president of the association. “Professional drivers must adhere to strict hours-of-service rules that ensure they are rested and ready to go. “
Parking for 18-wheelers has been a problem for decades, and not just in Arkansas, she said.
“For the 3.5 million truck drivers in the United States, there are only about 313,000 trucking spots,” Newton said in an email. “The situation is particularly bad here in Arkansas, with only 66 to 83 parking spaces per 100,000 daily truck miles driven, according to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA).”
The roads are okay.
“There is a great need nationwide for safe parking in the trucking industry,” said Holly Butler, spokesperson for the agency.
The parking shortage was compounded by the covid-19 pandemic and, more recently, the May 11 closure of the Interstate 40 bridge over the Mississippi River in Memphis.
Pandemic lockdowns have kept people away from physical retailers. As a result, online shopping has skyrocketed. Trucks were needed to deliver these packages.
The closure of the bridge left limited options for moving freight across the river. Truckers faced long delays, at least initially, if they chose the Interstate 55 bridge, which also connects Arkansas and Tennessee to Memphis. Or they could travel for miles in either direction to find another place to cross.
“The lack of available parking places puts drivers in a precarious position: they are forced to operate illegally until they find safe parking; parking in a dangerous or illegal location, which can put themselves or other motorists in danger, “Newton said.
It also costs the truckers money.
“According to the American Trucking Associations, the time spent looking for available truck parking costs the average driver about $ 5,500 in direct lost compensation, a 12% reduction in his annual salary,” Newton said. “Truck drivers are giving up an average of 56 minutes of available driving time per day to park early rather than risk not being able to find parking on the road.”
The Arkansas Commercial Truck Safety and Education Program Committee, made up of agency and industry leaders, wants to leverage safety money to make more parking available by converting the site from a former visitor center on I-40 in West Memphis.
“We are using a property that we already own,” said Butler.
The first phase of the project involves around 60 parking spaces, as well as an Arkansas Traffic Police washroom and substation, she said.
The committee has allocated $ 4 million for the project. But when the bids opened last week, the lower of the two bids received was for just under $ 7.6 million from Fort Worth’s Kiewit Infrastructure South Co.
The department has several options. These include adding more money to the project, reducing it, or moving in another direction. Agency officials plan to discuss the options “in more detail” this week, according to Butler.
Meanwhile, the committee was due to meet later this month to consider funding for a similar project at the White River Tourist Information Center, according to Newton.
Now it is almost certain to revisit the West Memphis project.
“The committee reviews funding requests for commercial truck safety issues annually,” said Kelly Crow, vice president of the association. “There are plans to meet later this month, when I anticipate these issues will be addressed.”