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Truckers Crowd Ohio Rest Stops, Compete For Limited Parking Spaces

Tom Borgerding
Trucks Park On Berm At Delaware County Rest Stop

On busy Ohio highways, passenger cars far outnumber semi-trucks. But, roadside rest areas are often overflowing, jammed, with tractor trailer rigs. Competition for trucker parking spots at Ohio rest stops is growing. 

Early morning at the northbound I-71 rest area in Delaware county. All the truck parking spaces are filled, more rigs are parked along the berm on entrance and exit ramps.  Driver Dennis Brinson says finding a place to park is a daily problem.  

"There's more trucks on the road, now than there has been and really, there are not enough rest areas," says Brinson.

Figures from the Ohio Department of Public Safety show 20,000 more semi trucks registered in the past two years. Nationwide, several million trucks carry freight ranging from steel and lumber to cars and produce. Brinson's been driving for 15 years and often criss-crosses Ohio. He says while the number of trucks has grown, more truck parking spots are needed at state-owned rest areas.

"And then mostly guys are not trying to park at truck stops, they're trying to get closer and closer to their place, to their destination before their time runs out," says Brinson. "They're actually parking at rest areas now"

Ohio has 1,350 truck parking stops at rest areas around the state. Ohio Department of Transportation spokesman, Matt Bruning, says there are no plans to add spaces.

"As we see truck traffic continue to increase that's something we can take a look at. But as of right now, there are just no plans to expand that capacity at this time," says Bruning.

An improving economy during the last several years is a contributing factor to demand for overnight truck parking. But, Bruning says so are recent federal rules limiting driving time.

"We know that truckers are under these mandates to only be on the road for a certain period of time, they do need a place to park and we recognize that," Bruning says. "So it looks like a lot of them are obviously utilizing those free rest areas that we have along the interstates and the other highways here in the state of Ohio."

Brinson explains that most trucks are now equipped with GPS and electronic logs. Drivers have to pull over for mandated breaks while driving. Otherwise, both drivers and the companies that employ them face stiff fines and penalties. The rules have changed driver behaviour.

"When I first started  everybody was going haywire, you know, you get to do what you want to do, you had guys that drank a lot of coffee. But now, it's more relaxing. You can actually do your job and be more relaxed and more energized," Brinson says.

Brinson  prefers the free rest areas operated by the state. When stopping overnight he looks for a quieter roadside rest area than commercial truck stops with constant noise and bright lights. As he pulls out of the Delaware County rest stop, he's headed for upstate New York.