Truck drivers have a big problem: Rest stops are shuttering across the US, leaving them to scramble for places to sleep, eat, and use the restroom
- States are beginning to close their rest stops amid the threat of coronavirus. Pennsylvania, which closed all but 13 stops to truck parking, is the most notable case.
- Truck drivers say these closures are forcing them to scramble for parking at night, as well as a place to use the restroom and fill up on water.
- Rest stops are a key place for drivers to sleep at night. Truck drivers aren’t able to park their vehicles anywhere to rest while on the road.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
When truck driver Chad Williams is moving a load through America’s East Coast, finding a place to park his semi-truck and sleep for the night can be a challenge.
“By 4 p.m., the rest stops fill up,” Williams told Business Insider. “There’s nowhere to park.” That also means there are few options for food, water, or rest. Along with truck stops like Pilot or Love’s, truck drivers depend on state-operated rest stops to eat, fill up their water bottles, use the bathroom, and park their trucks at night.
Adding pressure to truck drivers’ already-complicated daily lives, some state-owned rest stops are shuttering as the novel coronavirus forces stores and restaurants nationwide to close. Pennsylvania closed all 30 of its rest stops earlier this week, but announced it would open 13 back up to parking and portable toilets as of Thursday. Michigan closed its 14 welcome centers, which serve nearly 8 million commercial and non-commercial drivers annually, on Monday.
A Nebraska DOT representative told Business Insider that some of its rest stops are being closed when an attendant isn’t present to prevent toilet-paper theft, although truck parking will still be available. Texas closed its 12 welcome centers on Tuesday, leaving truck parking and outdoor restrooms available. Truck drivers: Email the reporter Rachel Premack at [email protected] with your experiences on how the coronavirus is changing your job.
Parking at night is perhaps the most crucial service from a state-owned rest stop. There are few places a driver can park their semi-truck, so rest stops and commercial truck stops aren’t just a place to use the bathroom and buy snacks – they’re a place to sleep. “Rest areas are critical because of the shortage of parking,” truck driver Rachelle Tuttle told Business Insider. “Truck stops cannot accommodate all of us by any stretch.”
Nearly 80% of truck drivers said in a survey conducted by the Department of Transportation that they struggle to find parking at night. Another survey of Atlanta-area truck drivers showed that 51% of them spend more than an hour driving around for a place to park.
A Pilot Flying J truck stop in Little Rock, Arkansas.AP Photo/Danny Johnston
The partial closure of the Pennsylvania rest stops is hitting truck drivers the hardest. Pennsylvania is a key conduit for many of the nation’s highways and freight flows, and fewer options for food and rest in that dense area can leave truck drivers scrambling.
After significant pressure from drivers and the American Trucking Associations, the biggest trade group of trucking companies, Pennsylvania reopened 13 stops for truck parking only on Thursday. These stops have at least five portable toilets in the parking lot, which the state government said are being cleaned regularly. “Every decision made has been in the interest of mitigating the spread of COVID-19 and we are constantly reevaluating our response,” PennDOT Acting Secretary Yassmin Gramian said in a press release on Wednesday. “That said, we also recognize the importance of freight movement and that drivers need access to rest areas.”
If drivers can’t find a place to park, that pushes them to park on the shoulders of freeways — illegal in some states — or in deserted retailers or gas stations. These options are potentially life-threatening. Jason Rivenburg, a father and truck driver, died in 2009 after an armed robber shot him in the head, stealing all of £7 from Rivenburg’s possession.
The truck driver was forced to park his truck in an abandoned South Carolina gas station after no other truck parking existed. Rivenburg left behind three children and a wife when he died at 35. In response to Rivenburg’s death, Congress passed “Jason’s Law” to study the shortage of truck parking nationwide.
“Truck drivers are currently out on highways all across the country delivering food, fuel and medical supplies to beat back this crisis,” American Trucking Associations spokesperson Sean McNally said in a statement. “While they may be working tirelessly, drivers do need to park, rest and take advantage of the facilities at rest areas so we are pleased to see these facilities being reopened for America’s truck drivers.” Do you work in the trucking industry? How is the coronavirus affecting your daily life?
Read more about how the novel coronavirus is affecting America’s 1.8 million truck drivers
In an unprecedented move, the Trump administration suspended an 82-year-old road safety law for some truck drivers, showing how much coronavirus is pressuring retailers and hospitals to maintain cleaning and medical supplies Coronavirus just crashed a critical survey of trucking outlooks to an all-time low, and it’s a chilling sign for the economy Experts say coronavirus is already having ‘disastrous’ effects on global supply chains — and UBS estimates UPS and FedEx will have 70% lower revenue from Asia this month
- ^ Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories (www.businessinsider.com)
- ^ announced (www.penndot.gov)
- ^ its 14 welcome centers (www.michigan.gov)
- ^ on Monday (www.michigan.gov)
- ^ to prevent toilet-paper theft (journalstar.com)
- ^ on Tuesday (www.timesrecordnews.com)
- ^ [email protected] (www.businessinsider.com)
- ^ said in a survey conducted by the Department of Transportation (ops.fhwa.dot.gov)
- ^ more than an hour driving around for a place to park. (www.ttnews.com)
- ^ in an abandoned South Carolina gas station (ops.fhwa.dot.gov)
- ^ to study the shortage of truck parking nationwide (ops.fhwa.dot.gov)
- ^ [email protected] (www.businessinsider.com)
- ^ In an unprecedented move, the Trump administration suspended an 82-year-old road safety law for some truck drivers, showing how much coronavirus is pressuring retailers and hospitals to maintain cleaning and medical supplies (www.businessinsider.com)
- ^ Coronavirus just crashed a critical survey of trucking outlooks to an all-time low, and it’s a chilling sign for the economy (www.businessinsider.com)
- ^ Experts say coronavirus is already having ‘disastrous’ effects on global supply chains — and UBS estimates UPS and FedEx will have 70% lower revenue from Asia this month (www.businessinsider.com)
- ^ America’s 1.8 million truck drivers can’t work from home and often lack health insurance — and that may stymie the fight against coronavirus (www.businessinsider.com)
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