Keep on truckin’
It has been said that nearly everything we use in our daily lives has been transported by a heavy truck. Goods move around the world in the global marketplace, transported across oceans and continents, and delivered to the store down the street. But how do they get there? Mostly by heavy trucks.
At the beginning of August, I attended the 4th Annual Governor’s Freight Industry Summit sponsored by the Wisconsin Department of Transportation and the Transportation Development Association. The summit brought together diverse leaders with a wealth of experience to discuss the current issues with transporting 318 million tons of truck freight annually across the state of Wisconsin in a safe and efficient manner.
With more trucks on the road every year, our transportation system faces several challenges beyond roadway capacity. Recent changes in hours of service push drivers to a maximum work week of seventy hours while also requiring daily rest. Seventy hours on the road each week is tiring – just ask any parent driving on a long-distance vacation (are we there yet?). The safety of our roadways depend on drivers being well rested, especially since heavy truck accidents kill over 5,000 people each year. Truck drivers have limited rest options; they can’t pull off to the side of the road for nine hours to sleep in between shifts.
In Wisconsin and nationwide, there is a shortage of truck parking facilities, impacting when and where drivers can get their required rest. Truck stops can be found at many gas stations along the interstate. Rest areas and weigh stations provide truck parking as well, but with too few stalls. Finding a solution to this challenge requires a partnership between industry and departments of transportation.
The simple solution is to provide drivers with more stalls. Yet whose responsibility is this? The public sector or the private sector? And are there more creative solutions that involve utilizing intelligent transportation systems (ITS) and mobile technologies to provide parking information? The answer could be found through cooperative efforts between industry and government.
While more physical parking stalls will be needed to handle the expected increase in trucking (24% growth by 2022), new technology will help guide truckers to the empty stalls. Several states are currently researching how to locate available spaces and share lot information through dynamic highway signage, websites and smartphone applications. Providing real-time parking information to drivers is essential to providing opportunities for rest and highway safety.
In the meantime, we as transportation professionals will need to collaborate with the industry to find solutions allowing commerce to travel freely and safely across the nation.
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