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Truckers Urge Indiana & Other States To Upgrade Rest Areas

Truck

(Joey Mendolia WFIU/WTIU)

While rest areas give drivers a chance to stretch their legs or use the bathroom during a long trip, they are essential for long haul truckers.

“I love to see what's over the next tail around the next curve. I just I just loved to be out there in a truck,” said Mike Barnes, a trucker for Stone Belt Freight in Bloomington.

Earlier in the spring, Barnes made several trips to the Dallas area to deliver limestone. 

It’s about a 12-to-13-hour drive from Bloomington, depending on road conditions.

However, a federal law requires truck drivers to take at least a 10-hour break after working 11 consecutive hours.

“Every truck now has ELD which is electronic logging device, the driver has to sign into the truck. It shows the truck how many miles he's driven and how long he's been running the truck,” said Ted Benckart, owner of Stone Belt Freight.

Parking at rest stops in Indiana and beyond is scarce, leaving truckers like Barnes with very few options.

Rest Area
Trucks parked at a rest area on I-65 north of Columbus, Indiana.

“I had to park on an off ramp going into a truck stop because it was all full. And I was just getting up. My time was up. And I was just getting up when Arkansas State Trooper got stopped and said hey, you can't park here you got to move,” said Barnes.

Parking on a shoulder, ramp or in poorly lit areas is a safety risk for the trucker and other vehicles on the road.  It also leaves truckers vulnerable to being robbed.

“Had it happen in Chicago, where we were the driver was robbed while he was waiting to make a delivery,” said Benckart.

Private truck stops offer a place for truckers to shower, eat and sleep.  But spots there are limited, and must be paid for in advance by the trucker.

“The 2020 edition of the American Transportation Research Institute report has moved truck parking to the number three greatest concern,” said President of the Indiana Motor Trucking Association Gary Langston.

The industry is working with private truck stop companies like Flying J and Pilot, to expand their locations in Indiana and beyond.

Flying J
A Flying J truck stop north of Evansville, Indiana.

According to INDOT, there are 28 rest areas around the state, including welcome centers. Each of these locations average 48 spots for trucks, tractor trailers and buses.

INDOT is already in the process of expanding truck parking at rest stops around the state on a rolling basis, with the goal of increasing them from 1,400 spots statewide to 2,500.

“But adding truck stops in Indiana would help drivers from other states. Likewise, if adding truck stops or rest areas in Missouri would help our guys that are going west,” said Benckart. 

In March, a bi-partisan group of house members introduced the Truck Parking Safety Act, which would address the critical shortage of truck parking around the nation.

“There are more than a million trucks that go through Indiana each day. And you know, that it's typically not the Indiana drivers that are using the Indiana parking places, its spaces, it's people coming through ahead in other places,” said Langston. 

In addition to expanding rest areas, the Indiana Motor Trucking Association is hoping the Biden Administration will consider allotting a significant portion of money from its infrastructure bill to expanding the interstate system.

“Additional capacity is what we need, we need three lanes of border to border on 65. And it's just it's so much safer, and so much easier to relieve congestion,” said Langston.

Benckart believes the government should take a more targeted approach to expanding highways.

“We don't need four more lanes between Indianapolis and California. But we need help in specific areas where we're going through major metro area.”

The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the importance of trucks, which bring vital goods from coast to coast. 

As traffic increases on our nation’s roads heading into the summer, Benckart is asking the driving public not to forget about them.

“Just remember, when you see that truck on the road, it's not a nuisance. That's your livelihood.” 

Since being introduced in March, no action has been taken on the Truck Parking Safety Act.

Want to contact your legislators about an issue that matters to you? Find out how to contact your senators and member of Congress here.

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