Thursday, June 9, 2011

Roadside Lullaby

I’ve been interacting with truck drivers and other folks who work in the trucking industry through MoDOT Motor Carrier Service’s Facebook page ***SHAMELESS PLUG *** - - for several months. I’ve learned several things.

What I think is interesting is sometimes met with, well, not really silence. It’s more like deep sighs and the sound of crickets.

Some drivers spend their windshield time thinking of ways to tease MoDOT employees. Yeah, Tony. I said it.

Sometimes, when I pass along news I think won’t go over well, drivers take it better than I expected. Case in point – I reported that the Wright City rest areas, including truck parking spots, will be closed for two weeks in June while the plumbing is completely overhauled. The first comment was, “At least you’re fixing them instead of shutting them down.” Wow. I thought that kind of inconvenience would merit a gripe or two.

Want to make a driver happy? Let them know that MoDOT added 124 truck-parking spaces in one day when the Marston and Hayti Welcome Centers opened. Want to make them cry tears of joy? Let them know more are on the way near Mineola, Mo.

It surprises a lot of folks that something as simple as finding a place to park or take a break from the road is a passionate subject for truck drivers. I know I learned a lot when I started looking into it.

In some places, states are so strapped for funding, they’ve closed rest areas. Completely. Nearly all of them.

No worries, some think, they’ll just go to a truck stop to rest. And they do. But so do the other several hundred drivers out there. In and out. All night. Starting motors. Hissing airbrakes. Then the knocking. Entrepreneurs of the illegal stripe like to hang out in some truck stops and knock on drivers’ doors. All night.

Drivers can strike out for a quieter locale, but is it safe? Stories abound of folks being assaulted, robbed, even killed after parking in an area they didn’t know was dicey.

MoDOT’s funding issues are well known. It’s not like we’ve got wads of cash. But we’ve nearly doubled the number of State-provided safe, quiet truck parking spaces in the past six or seven years.

How? It’s been a matter of taking advantage of situations. Weigh station no longer needed? Knock it down and make it a truck parking area. Ditto for obsolete rest areas. Have the opportunity to blend state and federal funds to build a welcome center? Configure it to separate trucks from cars and squeeze as many truck spots as possible into the footprint. When we add truck parking, drivers use the facilities and take good care to keep them clean and safe.

If you have any doubts whether making truck parking a priority is a good call, ask yourself this question:

Do I want to be on this highway with a truck driver who didn’t sleep well?

Sweet dreams, driving pros. Rest easy.

1 comment:

Jim O'Briant said...

Great article!

Jim O'Briant