A commercial truck driver in an interview posted on trucknews.com wrote the following regarding laws that require him and other truckers to drive only so long, and then stop to rest:
“The government is telling me I have to stop. It is the law. Whose responsibility is it to make sure I have somewhere to stop? Give me the ability to obey the law because I want to obey the law….”
He continues that when there is no one to call when a truck parking spot has been taken by a non-commercial vehicle, “We just swear at the windshield and move on.”
RVers and van lifers were frequent call-outs in the story, as both trucks and RVs struggle for parking in a shrinking environment. Cars, trucks, and RVs—is there some way we can all get along?
Hours of Service—a driving force
Trucks and RVs have common needs: Places suitable for fueling, and certainly places to park overnight. Truck drivers are at a disadvantage: They must contend with federally mandated “Hours of Service” regulations. The 14-hour driving limit rule says a commercial driver can be on duty for a maximum of 14 consecutive hours. After that, he/she must be off duty for 10 consecutive hours. If they get caught on the road outside of those hours, a driver and/or his company can be slapped with fines ranging from $1,000 to $16,000 per violation. It’s no wonder truckers can get antsy when nearing the end of their allowed driving time.
We asked Dave Owens, a commercial driver, how this all works. He explained that many drivers start their drive at around 6:30 a.m. They might make 500 miles or more by the time their 14 hours are up. That means they must be off the highway no later than 8:30 that evening.
If the driver decides to pull into an interstate rest stop, what will he find? Rest stops, observes Owens, are often the quick overnight choice for RVers. You know how we RVers feel—by 6 p.m. or so it’s time to get off the road.
For the commercial driver, the hours of service regulations are a driving force. Knowing that a rest area may be “packed out” with trucks and RVs by the time they arrive, the driver is in a bind. Do they run the risk of not finding a spot to land, or do they start “shopping” for a parking space a couple of hours before their semi turns into Cinderella’s pumpkin? Owen observes that in his route area, Tennessee, “the areas of free parking fill up by 5:30 or 6.” The same happens elsewhere.
“Just let them park at Love’s or Petro”
You might wonder, “What’s the big deal? Just let the truckers park at Love’s, or Petro, or any other truck stop.” Well, the big deal is the big numbers. For every one suitable parking spot for a semi, in the U.S. there are 11 trucks on the road. It’s no wonder that drivers must get creative to stay within their legal hours of service. Along Arizona’s Interstate 10, you’ll see long lines of semis stretched out alongside the on-ramps and off-ramps.
In the Las Vegas area, where there’s a huge concentration of warehouses regularly serviced by trucks, drivers were taking to parking on BLM (Bureau of Land Management) lands close to the highways. Certainly there’s competition there for trucks and RVs. But the locals didn’t like it.
Long-hauler Desiree Wood knows both sides of the issue. Wood was a full-time RVer for a number of years, and knows the highway from the commercial end as well. Desiree founded REAL Women In Trucking, an organization of, well, women in the trade. Desiree works as a commercial driver now.
Wood says that when truck drivers couldn’t find parking at truck stops in the Henderson, Nevada, area, they’d park on BLM lands adjacent to paved roadways. In many instances, huge piles of dirt would suddenly pop up, engineered to prevent RVs and trucks from accessing those lands. Who’s responsible for this? “The city,” Wood told us. While the municipal government doesn’t really have jurisdiction over federal lands, when locals complain about RVs and trucks parking in their “neighborhood” city officials trot out a “dust ordinance.” They then bring in dirt to block off access.
RVs and trucks—the laws of physics apply
The laws of physics still apply. You can’t park two, needless to say, 11 trucks in a single space at the same time. Add to the mix the RVer who’s looking for an overnight spot without having to shell out bucks at an RV park.
Driver Dave Owens suggested RVers could always avail themselves of overnighting at Walmart. Owens, who is the president of the National Association of Small Trucking Companies, seemed a bit surprised when we told him that even RVers are finding parking in short supply. With many Walmart parking lots yanking the RV overnight welcome mat, RVs and trucks will increasingly contend for parking space.
What’s the answer?
Dave Owens thinks that the states should rethink closed and poorly managed interstate rest stops. His vision is to enlarge some of them, and allow private businesses to build storage buildings for “rich people’s toys” like boats and, of course, RVs. He can envision separate areas for RVs and trucks to park, and for “four-wheelers,” including charge stations for electric vehicles. He doesn’t see big dollars here, “just enough profit to keep the lights on.” His ideas, he says, have fallen on government deaf ears.
Desiree Wood agrees something must be done. But, she observes, it would take an act of Congress to make rest areas transform into Owens’ vision. When a proposal was recently made by the Biden administration that would work toward the privatization of rest areas, the truck stop industry jumped on the defensive. It would siphon off dollars from existing businesses and municipalities.
What can RVers do?
While the government moves at glacial speed, there are some that could ease the pressure between RVs and trucks over parking. It may seem a “no brainer,” but for the truck driver “cussing at his windshield,” a little thinking on the part of RVers can help.
First, if there is separate parking for RVs, away from lanes for commercial truckers, use it. If you have a smaller Class A, and certainly a Class B rig, park with the “four-wheelers.” Don’t tie up a semi-length spot with a short rig. Next, if you do need to park with the big trucks, DON’T put out your slides or awning. There are plenty of stories about frustrated truck drivers who’ve sheared off parts of RVs as they drove away.
Desiree Wood related the story of the yo-yo in the Class A unit who parked at a rest area. Parked, not in a four-wheeler spot, and not even in a commercial truck length space, but rather, in the turning radius area of the exit. Truck drivers who were returning to the highway had to execute some clever maneuvers to avoid clobbering the inconsiderate RVer. It was nighttime, and one frustrated driver finally had enough. He pulled his rig close to the RV, likely filled with snoozing RVers. A five-minute blast from his air horn expressed his feelings rather succinctly.
Finally, for RVers, deal kindly with the truckers. We rely on them to deliver the “stuff” that makes life a lot easier. If you do something to irritate a trucker, apologize and make it right. Trucks and RVs are stuck sharing the same spaces. We have the luxury of not being under hours of service law. Give them space where you can.