Not enough parking on U.S. Hwys: NTSB report says

by Matthew Sylvain

WASHINGTON, D.C. -The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has released a report that concludes that there is a “lack of safe available commercial vehicle parking on or near interstates for truck drivers who want or need them.”

Highway Special Investigation Report: Truck Parking Areas, is the result of an April, 1999 NTSB initiative to investigate safety issues relating to trucks and buses.

Research for the report included a series of public hearings, which were attended by representatives of the truck and bus industries, vehicle and equipment manufacturers, labor unions, safety advocacy groups and state and federal agencies.

Both the American Trucking Association (ATA) and the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) made submissions to the hearings.

The ATA said “there is a clear consensus that we need more rest stops. There is a national shortage of rest stops. When truck drivers are tired, they need to be able to rest.”

According to a survey of OOIDA members, over 90 per cent had had difficulty finding parking spaces in rest areas at least once a week.

The NTSB said that statistics indicate that over the last five years, the number of motor vehicles on U.S. roads has increased by more than 10 per cent and, furthermore, is expected to increase by another 10 per cent by 2005.

Statistics also show that in 1996, there were roughly seven million commercial vehicles on U.S. highways. By 2005, the number will swell by 19 per cent to 8.25 million.

The NTSB says that truck parking has been recognized as a problem for several years, but the issue is coming into sharper focus due to the attention being paid to driver fatigue. It noted that the number of available parking spaces has a direct impact on driver fatigue.

It reports that research by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration “suggests that truck driver fatigue may be a contributing factor in as many as 30 to 40 per cent of all heavy truck accidents.”

The study also contends that truckers lack information about parking and the state-enforced parking time limits.

Another problem at truck parking lots is over-crowding, which can lead to accidents. In the report, the NTSB recounts a Jackson, Tenn. collision between a tractor-trailer exiting the highway and three rigs parked on the entrance ramp.

Also, time restrictions are one problem that plagues several state rest areas and truck parking lots. The current limits may promote vehicle turnover, but prevent drivers from getting adequate rest, the NTSB says.

The NTSB wrapped up the report with eight conclusions, among them that “shippers, brokers, and consignees frequently influence truck schedules and should be an integral part of any solution to the truck parking area dilemma.” n

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