Study says lack of safe rest areas comes at a high cost

by Truck West

CORVALLIS, Ore. – A study from Oregon State University’s College of Engineering says the cost of having too few safe rest areas for truckers resulted in $75 million of “crash harm.”

The study was conducted over a seven year period on a 290-mile stretch of Hwy 97, which runs the entire north-south distance of the state along the eastern slope of the Cascade Range.

“Current crash data collection forms don’t have an explicit section for truck-parking-related crashes, but we can operate under the assumption that specific types of at-fault truck crashes, such as those due to fatigue, may be the result of inadequate parking,” said the study’s lead author, Salvador Hernandez, a transportation safety and logistics researcher at Oregon State.

Hernandez said the particular stretch of Hwy 97 was chosen because the idea for the study originated from the Oregon Department of Transportation’s Bend office near the highways Oregon midpoint, and a motivation for the research was the 2012 passage of Jason’s Law, prioritizing federal funding to address a national shortage of truck parking. The law was named after Jason Rivenburg, who was robbed and fatally shot in South Carolina in 2009 after pulling off the road to rest at an abandoned gas station.

“Around the country, commercial drivers are often unable to find safe and adequate parking to meet hours-of-service regulations,” Hernandez said. “This holds true in Oregon, where rest areas and truck stops in high-use corridors have a demand for truck parking that exceeds capacity. That means an inherent safety concern for all highway users, primarily due to trucks parking in undesignated areas or drivers exceeding the rules to find a place to park.”
The study also looked at what other states were doing to address the issue, surveyed more than 200 truck drivers, and assessed current and future parking demand on Hwy 97.

“Crash trends in terms of time of day, day of the week, and month of the year follow the time periods drivers stated having trouble finding places to park,” Hernandez said. “In Oregon, if we do nothing to address the problem and freight-related traffic continues to grow, we’ll face greater truck parking shortages. A possible solution is finding ways to promote public-private partnerships, the state working together with industry.”

And according to Hernandez, waiting for autonomous vehicles to take over is not the answer.

“There are many issues yet to be worked out with autonomous commercial motor vehicles,” he said, “and even if autonomous commercial motor vehicles become commonplace, we’re still going to need truck drivers in some capacity. For now and in the foreseeable future, we need truck drivers and safe and adequate places for the drivers to park and rest.”

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