The Federal Highway Administration awarded $1 million to the state of Florida to add 90 truck parking spaces at a new truck stop near the junction of Interstate 595 and State Road 7 in an effort to ease the severe shortage of truck parking spaces in South Florida.
Some highways in the area carry as many as 10,000 trucks a day, according to a report in The Sun Sentinel, but a lack of places to park force truckers to park on a highway shoulder or exit ramps to rest.
“We have trucks parking all over the place, along the road, under bridges, in mall parking lots, in our park and ride lots,” Jeff Weidner, a Florida Dept. of Transportation project manager, told the Sentinel.
The news report points out that the reduction in driver hours of service in 2003 didn’t address the lack of parking issue, which often leaves truckers hanging when they are required to stop and rest.
“Ironically, it was a federal initiative to improve truck safety that led to a safety problem,” the Sentinel reporter wrote, adding that trucks parked off the highway increase the odds of collisions and leave the truck drivers vulnerable to theft and other crimes.
Until the Florida 595 Truck Stop opened in Davie in May, the paper reports, the nearest full-service truck stop along the interstate was 60 miles away in Port St. Lucie. The 595 Truck Stop currently has only 35 paved spots for big rigs, so it fills up quickly every day.
The federal funding covers cost of design and construction of the lot, drainage, lighting and landscaping. The state will also provide fiber optics that will allow truck drivers to see live pictures of traffic from cameras posted along South Florida highways. In the next few years, the Sentinel reports, truck drivers also will get real-time information on parking availability along I-95 from Florida to Maine. When completed in early 2013, the truck stop will have about 125 paved spots for big rigs and about 50 to 70 unpaved spots.
“This is good for everybody on the road,” Florida Trucking Assn. spokeswoman Tisha Keller said. “It’s not safe for truck drivers or for motorists to park along exit ramps or the shoulders of highways.”
More should be done to provide safe parking for the nation’s truckers, the news report suggests. And some legislators are working on it. Last year U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko, D-NY, introduced a bill named Jason’s Law — after a New York trucker killed while parked in an abandoned South Carolina gas station — that would provide $20 million annually for initiatives to improve truck parking nationwide and to keep rest stops open.