A recent study has drawn attention to the lack of rest areas for truck drivers. Researchers at Oregon State University surveyed a 290-mile stretch of highway over a seven-year period. In the area analyzed by the research team, researchers concluded that there were not enough safe parking areas to meet the demand of truckers and federal hours-of-service regulations. They found that negligent and fatigued truck drivers were responsible for around $75 million of “crash harm” in the area, and that the crash trends in terms of time of day, day of the week, and month of the year, corresponded to periods when truck drivers were having the most trouble accessing rest areas.
The researchers analyzed a stretch of United States Highway 97, which traverses the north-south line along the eastern side of the Cascades. Researchers found that the demand outweighed the capacity for trucker parking areas. This correlates to a serious safety concern for anyone who uses this stretch of highway, not only because it means more drowsy drivers, but also because truck drivers are more likely to park in undesignated areas, or speed to make it to the next rest area to sleep.
Although the researchers isolated the stretch of Highway 97 in their study, the problem extends throughout the country. Researchers chose this stretch of highway because the concept of the study originated with the Oregon Department of Transportation’s office located at the midpoint of the stretch of road. The study was motivated by the passage of Jason’s Law in 2012, which prioritized federal funding in a manner intended to address a nationwide shortage of safe, accessible truck parking.
The researchers at OSU College of Engineering for the Oregon Department of Transportation canvassed more than 200 truck drivers about the problem, and looked at how other states were handling the shortage in safe, accessible rest parking. They utilized historical crash data to identify trends and danger areas, and to quantify “crash harm.” One possible solution that they considered was finding ways to promote public-private partnerships. This way, the state could work together with businesses to ensure that truckers have sufficient rest areas.
Federal regulations require truckers carrying cargo to stop after 11 hours of driving. They are legally required to exit the highway and park and rest for a full 10 hours before resuming. Although current crash data does not have an explicit categorization for truck-parking-shortage-related-crashes, researchers operated under the assumption that truck accidents caused by fatigue are likely the result of inadequate parking, at least in part.
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