MARION -- There needs to be more parking available for commercial truckers, U.S. Rep. Mike Bost believes, and he's pushing legislation to fund it.
"As many of you know, I grew up in a family trucking company and spent years driving over the road and locally as well," said Bost, who held a news conference Tuesday at Thomason Express LLC in Marion.
The Murphysboro Republican said his background makes him acutely aware of a nationwide lack of safe parking areas available for truckers who need to park and rest. The need for more safe parking spots has increased even in the few past months, he said.
"Even though the number of trucks and miles driven has increased especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of parking spaces in certain areas have not," Bost said.
Bost was highlighting the Truck Parking Safety Improvement Act, a bipartisan measure he introduced along with Angie Craig (D-Minnesota), in March.
"The lack of truck parking spaces is a well-known problem," Bost said. "Oftentimes, drivers are unable to find safe places to park their vehicles. Many have used the sides of roads or the offramps (of interstate highways) to park because there are too few spaces either at rest areas or truck stops."
Bost noted that truck drivers are required by law to rest after a certain number of hours of driving. More than 75 percent of professional truckers report having trouble finding safe parking, Bost said.
Truck drivers have been killed and injured while trying to rest when forced to park at unsafe areas, he said. Parking on the shoulders of roadways and interstate offramps also presents a crash risk, he said.
The Truck Parking Safety Improvement Act will help expand the number of truck parking options nationwide, Bost said.
Bost said legislation introduced by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi addresses the issue, but doesn't do enough to fund it. In Pelosi's bill, Bost said, funding to expand parking areas would only be available during one year of a five-year period.
Bost said his bill has the backing of multiple trucking organizations. Representatives of some of those organizations, including Matthew Hart, executive director of the Illinois Trucking Association, said every professional driver faces the issue.
Hart said studies have shown the average over-the-road trucker may spend more than an hour finding a safe spot to park. The time lost amounts to a minimum of $4,800 per year to the driver.
Lee Thomason, the trucking company owner, said his company is well aware of the problem.
"The last time we had a meeting with the Illinois DOT, they said there was over 400 trucks illegally parked from Cairo to Effingham every night," Thomason said. "That causes a real traffic problem. It's a nationwide problem."
Bost said his legislation would earmark funds to pay for the creation of additional parking, and states would have the freedom to decide how best to use the money. The money couldn't be shifted to other spending priorities, he said, and states could either create new parking areas or repurpose locations such as shuttered shopping centers.
"It's up to the individual states and these groups to apply for these grants, but it has to be parking," Bost said.
Bost said he remains determined to improve the livelihood of truckers, who are a major part of every nationwide supply chain.
"I'll continue to work to ensure that our truckers can continue doing their job safely," he said.