North Carolina is facing a shortage of parking spaces for truck drivers to rest, making some drivers “reluctant” to travel through the state, according to a study presented Wednesday to the N.C. Board of Transportation.
The truck parking study was requested by state legislators after a 2015 News & Observer report detailed a State Highway Patrol crackdown on truckers stopping for naps along interstate ramps.
The additional enforcement efforts had been requested by a campaign donor of then-Gov. Pat McCrory, and troopers initially focused on Interstate 77 in Surry County, near the donor’s home. The donor said the parked trucks were unsightly and generated litter. Truckers told The N&O that a shortage of truck stops and legal parking areas along I-77 forced them to park illegally on the ramps. Federal regulations ban truckers from driving too many hours without stopping to rest.
The study identified a need for more truck parking along I-77 in Surry County and around Statesville, as well as on I-40 in the Mocksville area.
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“We’re going to not be OK in the next few years,” Charles Edwards of the N.C. Department of Transportation told board members. “Some truckers are reluctant to come into North Carolina because there’s no place for the truckers to get rest.”
The study found that of the 4,783 truck parking spaces in 167 locations, 85 percent are at private truck stops, while only 15 percent are at public highway rest areas.
Edwards said state officials are trying to add more spaces as they build and renovate rest areas and weigh stations.
“We’ve looked at how we can reconfigure existing facilities,” he said, adding that North Carolina is also working on providing better information to truckers and trucking companies about where spaces are available. Technology used to broadcast information from weigh stations could be used. Neighboring states already have such programs, Edwards said.
Of 36 truck parking facilities surveyed by NCDOT, 21 responded that they are “full most nights.”
Truckers surveyed said that North Carolina is a harder state than Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee or Virginia to find a parking space.
Edwards said he expects the shortage could get worse as North Carolina expects a significant increase in truck traffic due to expansion at the Wilmington port and the new CCX rail terminal planned for Edgecombe County. Both of those projects will mean hundreds of thousands of additional trucks on the road, according to the study. Also, new federal requirements for truckers to log their driving hours electronically could make it harder for truckers to drive extra miles while looking for a parking space.