The acting assistant administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, Julie Anna Cirillo, said lack of parking for truckers along America's highways is becoming a threat to the health of the industry.

"We need to get out of the situation where police officers are forcing truckers, under the pain of a citation, to get back out on the highway when they're tired - in violation of the law," she said in a speech at the National Press Club last month. "This increases the risk to the motoring public and truck drivers themselves," said Cirillo.

On the more pressing need for parking to let truckers get needed rest, Cirillo said more cooperation is needed from government agencies and the business community. "Many truckers are forced to find other parking because receivers are unwilling to let them park near their facilities overnight," she said. "Many local officials are unwilling to allow overnight parking at rest stops."

Some progress has been made, especially in Kentucky, California, and Maryland, where state officials have opened weigh-station parking and other government areas to allow truckers to park overnight.

"Parking on the highway shoulder is very dangerous," Cirillo said. "If you have to park along the highway to get rest, though, the best and safest spot is the midway point of an exit-entry ramp to the highway."

Cirillo acknowledged that the debate over expanding the capabilities of highway rest stops, not only to let truckers park for long stretches but also to provide fuel and food service, is controversial. "The issue of privatizing rest stops concerns a lot of people, especially those that developed truck stops and other private enterprises at Interstate interchanges," she said. "There are groups for and against rest stop privatization and we need to hear all of the pros and cons before we move in any direction

The long-running battle over how much long-distance companies should pay to payphone owners for toll-free calls finally ended June 16. That's the day the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit let stand a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) ruling that 24 cents per call was fair compensation to payphone owners. In two previous rulings, both overturned by the D.C. Circuit, the FCC had set the fee at 35 cents, then 28.4 cents. The FCC ruling only applies directly to payments by long-distance companies who, in turn, are free to charge subscribers to its toll-free service a higher amount. Fleet operators that receive a lot of toll-free payphone calls from drivers or others need to pay attention to this charge.

The U.S. and Europe share many commercial vehicle safety issues, including a debate over longer combination vehicles, a shortage of truck drivers and integration of emerging technologies designed to make the industry safer and more efficient. As part of an ongoing program to learn best practices from other countries, the Federal Highway Administration has issued a report detailing what U.S. trucking stakeholders can glean from European experiences.

The report, "Commercial Vehicle Safety Technology and Practices in Europe," focused on three areas - driver, vehicle, and regulations and enforcement - in France, Germany, the Netherlands, and Sweden suggested areas for advancement in the United States.

* Drivers. The report suggests that U.S. efforts should include developing a well-rounded standard driver curriculum and performance-based driver assessments.

* Vehicles. The report suggests that U.S. truck makers develop standard systems mainly for cab-crashworthiness and driver-truck equipment interfaces.

* Regulations & Enforcement. The European Union (EU) creates safety regulations for its member nations. Ideas for new regulations come from the nations themselves. The report suggests that U.S. regulators study opportunities for self-certification of motor carrier safety systems and improve use of in-company inspections and third-party advisors to increase carrier compliance. This move could help governments focus on high-risk carriers.