3 Reasons to Be Suspicious of Wide-Spread, Private, Reserved Truck Parking
I love ATRI – the American Transportation Research Institute. They publish serious, scholarly research on lots of different topics relevant to trucking and transportation in general. One of their latest surveys, which asked drivers if and how much they would be willing to pay for reserved truck parking, was revealing.
- 48% of drivers said they would never willingly pay for truck parking
- 20% said they would pay $1.00 to $5.00
- 19.8 said they would pay $6.00 to $10.00
- 9% said they would pay $11.00 to $15.00
- 2% said they would pay $16.00 to 20.00
- 0.9% said they would pay $21.00 or more
You can read the entire survey here: http://atri-online.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/Managing-Critical-Truck-Parking-Tech-Memo-1-FINAL-09-2015.pdf
ATRI also concluded that the willingness to pay for truck parking seemed to correlate to someone other than the driver themselves shouldering the cost. What a surprise.
This last suggestion, coupled with the figure that about half of all the 1,400 respondents surveyed would not willingly pay for truck parking, should make us consider whether pay-for reserved parking is really the solution for resolving issues of driver and cargo safety and preventing more accidents due to fatigue. Here’s three reasons why I think we should be suspicious of it
One – If the Feds want to increase Hours of Service compliance and decrease fatigue, they should provide the facilities for secure rest.
Every driver and carrier knows that responsibility for and maintaining their equipment and profitability falls to them. Carriers and owner-operators also help to pay for the maintenance of the Interstate system by paying into IFTA and paying weight-mileage taxes in OR, NM, KY, and NY.
The Feds and private industry have made a tacit agreement to help one another in maintaining America’s logistical capacity, which in turn enables the easier movement of goods and persons and helps the economy. Why should truck parking be excluded from this infrastructure and tacit agreement? Why should carriers and drivers pay IFTA and other weight-mileage taxes to keep our roads structurally sound (or at least, they should be, but that’s another story…) and safe and then have to pay an additional fee to accomplish that same goal? Provide the facilities for rest or let drivers park on the roadside and accept all the possible consequences that come with it.
Two – Uncontrolled Rent Seeking Development Has Lots of Negative Exeternalities
As much as I support the free market, the alternative to the government providing truck parking leads me to my next point. Developers LOVE, LOVE, LOVE finding new rent-seeking opportunities, and they will most certainly try to get into truck parking if it can provide them with a consistent source of revenue. While some products and real estate can be converted to other uses when the demand for their original use decreases, large, vacant parking lots are not so fungible. Demand will eventually contract for truck parking as pricing competition for lot space spurs new parking lot creation. It may take ten years, but I doubt new development plans for truck parking will come with conversion plans for the lots when demand dries up. Much like the ghost shopping malls that litter America, local municipalities will be left with large swaths of asphalt for which they won’t have an immediate use. Municipalities will also be left with a large gap in their property tax expectations. So, You might ask, if there might be demand for more truck parking, why hasn’t it already been created?
Three – NIMBY: Not In My Back Yard
There’s a lot of stereotypical scenarios associated with truck stops: increased congestion, noise, increased crime, prostitution, etc… Whether or not these scenarios would result from the creation of new truck stops, one can only speculate. However, we can say with confidence that, for better or worse, Americans don’t like living near real estate associated with industrial use, which would include truck stops and distribution facilities. While the NIMBY problem would present less of an issue in the West and Midwest, where additional truck parking is most needed – in the Northeast – is also the area where it would encounter the most resistance from local municipalities. It’s going to take a lot of negotiating, local rezoning initiatives, and Federal incentives offered to municipalities to increase parking capacity where its needed the most.
In my mind, there’s two clear alternatives to private, reserved truck parking. I think existing industrial land can be re-purposed to create more truck parking in urban areas using public-private partnerships, but it will take a long time and not provide for parking that is needed right now. Here’s the other alternative:
The Feds and the states simply build more truck parking connected to the Interstate and basically sidestep the NIMBY requirements by using their eminent domain prerogative. Also, this solution will not completely resolve the negative exeternalities associated with building new truck parking in populated area, but it will force the government to take ownership of the project to resolve those difficulties (or lease the land and facilities to a private partner who can) and plan alternative uses for the land and/or compensate local municipalities who have to shoulder those costs. Finally, although almost no one likes an eminent domain project, an eminent domain project would force the process of development and construction to be transparent and subject to public review. This will encourage the government to negotiate directly with the relevant parties affected.