We’ve seen stories in the paper and on TV about the Georgia Department of Transportation’s idea of building special lanes for commercial vehicle/truck traffic on Interstate 75. Only one other state, New Jersey, has built such lanes, and the idea of Georgia doing it is still a long way off. Nonetheless, truckers would like it, as they worry about weaving in and out of automobile traffic, and they don’t want to contribute to traffic congestion.
FURTHERMORE, THEY have another concern, which I heard a lot about the other day during a conversation with three over-the-road truckers at the rest stop in south Monroe County. They were parked in the area reserved for truck parking. The lot was nearly full, even though it was only 5 in the evening and there were plenty of hours left in the day to drive. But they had claimed their spot and they weren’t going anywhere.
TRUCKERS DO a lot of that these days. There are so many trucks on the road that they must devote the last portion of their daily allotment of allowable drive time – 11 hours a day – to finding a spot where they can park for the night. If they don’t, they risk exceeding their driving time limit, which could have dire consequences on their driving license or their status with their employer, or both.
TRUCK LANES are going to mean more trucks, and there just aren’t enough parking spaces to accommodate them.
THE SHORTAGE of big rig parking can be seen at the entrance and exit ramps of the interstate. I’ve seen at least eight trucks parked on the shoulder of the southbound entrance ramp from the Bolingbroke rest stop. Trucks can be seen parked on both the entrance and exit ramps at Johnstonville Road, and the shoulders of the entrance ramps in McDonough often are filled with parked big rigs.
THE TRUCKERS said the problem is getting worse as the number of trucks on the road increases. One guy said he was recently nearing his destination – and his allowable driving time limit -- so he pulled up to the gated entry to a business, which had closed for the day. He needed to shut down his rig for the night so he found a place on the street. It wasn’t long before a police officer arrived and gave him a parking ticket.
“BUT WHAT am I supposed to do?” the trucker asked the officer.
“IT’S NOT my problem. It’s yours. Find somewhere else to park.”
BUT THERE aren’t many places to park, so the truckers look for “free parking” on the shoulders of roads, in rest stops or in weigh stations after hours, or they may resort to paying the $15 to park at a truck stop like the one just north of us at Highway 36 to Jackson – if there’s a spot available.
WHAT DO you get for parking there? I asked. A shower, perhaps?
“A BOTTLE of water if we’re lucky,” he said.
SOME TRUCKING companies forbid their employees from parking on interstate exit/entrance ramps – especially the exit ramps, where vehicles are traveling fast and are more at risk of hitting parked vehicles. A trucking company person told me this is their “sitting duck” policy, and getting caught violating it meant immediate termination. Of course, independent truckers can set their own policies, so most of the rigs we see parked on the ramps are most likely the independent truckers.
DEPENDING ON what the trucker is hauling, it may not be possible for him or her to leave the truck. If the trucker is hauling hazardous materials, or high-value goods, these vehicles probably can’t be left unattended, which might prohibit the use of a motel as a place to stop for the night. But motels are a problem anyway, not only due to the cost but because most do not have parking lots that can accommodate semi-trucks.
MOST OF these big rigs do have comfortable sleeper compartments, however. Many truckers would prefer to sleep in their truck, which probably has a TV, heating or air conditioning, and plenty of room. The only problem, though, is where to park that rig.
SO, THE discussion about creating commercial vehicle/truck lanes on Interstate 75 through Monroe County, and elsewhere in Middle Georgia, is a discussion that needs to include a provision for additional truck parking, whether it’s somehow provided by the public sector, or whether there’s a profit opportunity that provides incentive for it to be provided by the private sector. There just aren’t enough parking spaces.
THE MEN and women who drive these trucks must have room to park and rest. We don’t want them parking on the road shoulders or along residential streets, but that’s where they will be if we don’t provide an alternative.
Bill Weaver lives in northern Monroe County. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.