We have reported many times on the difficulties trucking companies face in finding drivers. Trucking is a tough job that requires long, often-lonely hours away from home navigating vehicles over sleet-covered roads and blazing-hot deserts. It’s no wonder that annual turnover rates average around 90%, which helps to explain why the industry is currently short an estimated 78,000 drivers.
Trucks carry 70% of our nation’s freight, so anything done to improve drivers’ working conditions is certainly welcome. Two bills introduced in Congress last month may offer help. Both bills have bipartisan support, which is always a hopeful sign.
The first bill, the Truck Parking Safety Improvement Act, was introduced in the Senate by Sens. Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.) and Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.) on Dec. 1. It is designed to dramatically increase designated parking areas for commercial trucks. A similar measure was unanimously approved by the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure in July.
According to the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA), there is only one parking spot for every 11 trucks. Truckers today are limited in their choices of safe parking, as hours-of-service rules may force them to find a place to pull over before the clock runs out on their shift. They often must park in unsafe places—along the sides of roads, near exit ramps, or in vacant lots—making them vulnerable to being struck by other vehicles or robbed.
The second piece of legislation, the Trucker Bathroom Access Act, was introduced in the House by Reps. Chrissy Houlahan (D-Pa.) and Troy Nehls (R-Texas) in mid-December. The pending legislation guarantees truckers access to restroom facilities at warehouses, freight yards, ports, and terminals. It would apply to drayage drivers as well.
Currently, terminal operators make their own rules, often denying drivers the use of facilities by claiming security concerns or other reasons. Access to a restroom should be an essential right of any worker, regardless of where they do their work. Drivers should not be required to make other arrangements when nature calls. Ever try to park a semi at a fast-food restaurant for a quick pit stop?
Since the two bills were only recently introduced, no vote had been taken at press time. It’s unlikely they’ll make much progress in the current lame-duck session, but my hope is that Congress will reintroduce and approve similar measures later this year. It is simply the right thing to do for the drivers that Americans depend upon every day.