Highway Safety Infrastructure, Parking and Driver Education
Truck Parking, Safer Infrastructure and Share the Road Education
The highway is the workplace for truckers, and it is important that they have a safe workplace. Past highway bills have made significant improvements in ensuring that state departments of transportation dedicate funds to improving highway safety infrastructure: signage, guard rails, rumble strips, pavement markings, and geometric improvements such as redesigning curves to reduce accidents. There is more that can be done, however, to focus investments in this area on countermeasures that will have a real impact in reducing heavy-duty truck crashes, especially rollovers around curves.
An additional safety infrastructure priority for all truckers is addressing the nationwide shortage of truck parking along our highways. A lack of parking has a direct safety impact on all motorists as truckers are forced to park unsafely along the highway or on interchange ramps. Truckers are also put in the Catch-22 situation of parking in an unsafe location or driving on in the hope of finding parking, putting them at risk of violating federal hours-of-service regulations or driving while tired. Matters are made even worse when shippers and receivers prevent truckers from parking on their property for their rest periods, or when law enforcement evicts truckers from a rest area in the middle of their night’s rest.
MAP-21 included important provisions focused on truck parking – Jason’s Law – that makes truck parking an eligible expense under core federal highway programs and requires the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) to conduct a survey and evaluation of the adequacy of truck parking in each state. Building on the success of Jason’s Law and MAP-21 is a major priority for truckers across the country.
Finally, more needs to be done to ensure that our passenger car drivers, especially teen drivers, understand the safe way to drive around commercial motor vehicles. Tractor-trailers, heavy-duty trucks, and other CMVs operate differently than even large pickups and SUVs. It is important that while we are focusing on training new tractor-trailer drivers for safe operation that we also place a new emphasis on educating new drivers about how to safely operate around these vehicles before they develop unsafe driving habits. Further, states and the federal government should take steps to partner in conducting a safety campaign focused on educating all drivers about the importance of sharing the road with commercial vehicles, much like the campaigns focusing on reducing drunk and distracted driving.
Truck Parking: Building on Jason’s Law
MAP-21 included the passage of Jason’s Law, which sets up broad funding eligibility for truck parking improvements and new facilities.
To ensure that state DOTs are making the necessary investments in truck parking to address highway safety challenges, truck parking availability should be added as a performance measure that will guide state investment of federal highway dollars.
Local transportation planning organizations and state DOTs should be a focus of education and outreach efforts to ensure they recognize the benefits of truck parking on safety, congestion, and the environment.
Dollars should be prioritized for cost-effective methods to increase truck parking capacity versus deploying technology to monitor parking conditions and inform drivers.
State DOTs should increase their work with private truck stop operators to increase parking availability at existing truck stops.
Other private sector partners, including owners of distribution centers and factories, should be partnered with whenever possible, and local governments should examine ordinances requiring adequate truck parking at these facilities in the same way they require adequate employee and visitor parking especially before tax incentives or other public benefits are provided to site developers.
The DOT and state and local transportation officials should also take steps to ensure that truck parking is an eligible expense under the Projects of National & Regional Significance Program from MAP-21.
Safer Infrastructure to Reduce Heavy-Duty Truck Accidents
The Highway Safety Improvement Program is the chief program for funding safety infrastructure like signs and guardrails, but this program does not have any focus on heavy-duty truck accidents.
Develop language that would require states to focus attention on using these tools to reduce heavy-duty truck accidents if accident rates rise.
FHWA and state DOTs should place special attention on heavy-duty truck accidents on “high risk rural roads,” including those seeing increased truck traffic due to domestic energy production.
Educating Teen Drivers and All Passenger Car Drivers about Sharing the Road with CMVs
NHTSA, FMCSA, CVSA, state motor vehicle administrators, truck drivers and other stakeholders should come together to develop a model curriculum for teaching new drivers about how to drive safely with heavy-duty trucks and ensure greater focus on sharing the road as part of driver training and testing.
Develop a new NHTSA effort to conduct “share the road” driver education campaign through advertisements and other safety efforts similar to those used to combat drunk drivers and distracted driving.
These efforts should engage the truck driver community to help spread the message, including working through existing efforts like Trucker Buddy International and other opportunities where truckers speak about the importance of safe driving.