Pay To Stay - Will This Become The Norm?
This weekend, Ed and I were in Bordentown, New Jersey. There are only two truck stops there; a Pilot with very limited parking, and a Petro with 490 parking spaces. You can park at the Pilot for free but if you want a space at the Petro, you either have to pay $12.00 a day to park,buy $25.00 worth of fuel, or rack up the same amount in the c-store; every day you're there. The Pilot was the obvious choice for us because we didn't need fuel and weren't planning on doing any shopping in the convenience store. Plus, I have a thing for Pilot.
We were lucky to get a spot; like I said, it's a small lot. But luck is often on our side when it comes to finding parking spaces across the country. Because we're self-contained with our shower, bathroom and kitchen, we don't often needa truck stop and all the amenities they offer. That wasn't always the case though, as we didn't always have the kind of truck we currently own, and it's not the case for most drivers. When drivers stop for the night, they not only need a place to sleep, they often want to eat and shower allat the same location.
Parking is always a problem, especially in urban areas. Sure, you can find a parking spot in Montana, but what about New Jersey when Vince Lombardi is full? Or how about Virginia with all the rest areas they're closing? And don't even get me started on California; if you go to the port in Long Beach, you better hope you have something that takes you past Barstow or Ontario because you're not finding any parking nearby.
What Is Being Done About It?
Research has been done, reports have been written and legislation has been drawn up, but we still have no place to park. Currently, due to the financial problems many states are experiencing, a lot ofrest areas are closing, not just in Virginia. It's not unusual to be driving along and see a sign that says "Rest Area 47 miles" and then get there only to discover it's been closed. If you don't have a Plan B, you could be in for a long night fueled by Red Bull.
You would think turning those closed rest areas into more travel plazas would be a no-brainer for some enterprising individual, but private or commercial use of rest areas is prohibited by the Federal Government. Who knew? In US Code Title 23, Chapter 1, Section 111, Paragraph a, it clearly states that private or commercial use of the interstate highway right-of-way is strictly prohibited.
And according to an article in The Congressional Quarterly (05/18/91), entitled "Efforts to Commercialize Rest Areas Has Businesses Crying Highway Robbery," author Mike Mills reported that in 1991 the Bush administration proposed allowing food and fuel "travel plazas" to locate at the 1,400 rest areas along the Interstate Highway System. That would have been nice, but NATSO (National Association of Truck Stop Operators), the McDonald's Corporations, and locally owned businesses fought the legislation on the grounds that privatization of rest areas would create unfair competition and ultimately devastate smaller communities that depend on the business at interchanges. The proposal never saw the light of day. It doesn't surprise me that NATSO would block such legislation; naturally, they want drivers to park in truck stops. But as a driver, it's clear that truck stops don't have the ability to accommodate the volume of trucks and in some places, there's nary a truck stop to be found.
There Are Other Alternatives - Why Aren't They Being Given Any Consideration?
What would be nice is if we were able to use the large open spaces that are available;vacant parking lots at retail stores. WalMart (which does allow truck parking in some locations), Target, mini-malls, shopping plazas, industrial parks and office complexes. These parking lots are largely empty in the evening hours and are often located in areas just off the interstate. More importantly,they can be found inurban areas where parking is severely limited. There are issues with alternative parking locations andsome of them center around security, liability and sanitation (which is another blog post altogether).
The security issue is a big one and it was brought to light when Jason Rivenburg, 35, was murdered during an attempted robbery on March 9, 2009 when he was parked in an abandoned gas station lot in South Carolina, just twelve miles from his delivery destination. As a result of that murder,a bill was introduced to the House over a year ago by Congressman Paul Tonko (NY-D). Jason's Law directs the Secretary of Transportation toimplement a pilot programto increase truck parking facilities. It's great that it's been introduced, but it hasn'tgone anywhere yet.
Issues Raised About Alternative Parking - And With Good Reason
Liability, which I'd imagine is a big concern for businesses allowing trucks to park overnight, or for extended periods of time in their lots, is most likely costly. Where does that money come from? And who is going to cover the insurance cost should something happen when you're in that lot? That being said, I don't really see a lot of difference between parking in a mall lot to shop or parking in a mall lot to sleep.
And the sanitation issue? HUGEproblem. We've all stepped out of our trucks into a parking lot that smells like urine and we've all seen pee bottles in parking lots and on the sides of roadways. It's truly the fewin this case that ruin it for the rest of us.Who wants to arrive at a mall parking lot that is strewn with urine filled containers? Um, not even a truck driver.
The best advice I can give is to do your best to respect the places you park, take note of the places you've been that have parking available (and like a good fishin' hole, don't tell anyone!)and finally, if you can forge a relationship with a location that allows you to park there, do it.
I feel our needs must be addressed, and as a group of millions, our voice needs to be heard. We help keep this country moving. The least they can do is give us a place to sleep when we're not.