Truck parking expansion money still elusive on Capitol Hill

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WASHINGTON — Despite receiving more attention than ever from the trucking industry and the Biden administration, getting Congress to pass legislation aimed at alleviating the truck parking shortage remains elusive, according to industry lobbying groups.
Speaking on Tuesday during a meeting of the National Coalition on Truck Parking, a group organized under the Federal Highway Administration, Bryce Mongeon, director of legislative affairs for the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, said he was encouraged with progress being made on Capitol Hill toward approving $755 million over four years for truck parking expansion.
However, “while we’ve put in a lot of work, there’s still a lot of hard work to do,” Mongeon said.
“It’s interesting because truck parking and this bill is not an issue where there’s any opposition on Capitol Hill, and that’s unique among trucking issues. The biggest challenge is getting this issue to the top of lawmakers’ priority list and getting them to dedicate the time and political capital to moving it forward.”
While the Biden administration has encouraged state and local agencies to apply for truck parking funds through various federal grant programs, truck parking projects have to compete for those grant dollars with other infrastructure projects.
But the Truck Parking Safety Improvement Act, which has been introduced in the House and Senate several times over the past four years, would set up a competitive grant program dedicated solely for truck parking. Any public entity with jurisdiction over truck parking would be eligible for the funds, as would public-private partnerships.
Tiffany Wlazlowksi Neuman, who represents truck stop and travel plazas as vice president of public affairs for the trade association NATSO, said during the meeting that the biggest challenge she sees is pushback on the local level.
“When a local community does not want truck parking, they will fight it tooth and nail,” Wlazlowski said, recounting how a small town in Montana saw truckers as “bullies” who could steal their children. “I use that to illustrate how strong citizen opposition can be.”
Despite the hurdles, however, Mongeon said there’s reason to be optimistic.
“We’ve seen a lot of activity and support on this bill in both the House and Senate,” he said, pointing to the House version of the legislation moving to the floor in May after passing the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee by an overwhelming vote of 60-4.
Mongeon also noted that the truck parking shortage and the truck parking legislation was the most discussed topic at a recent Senate subcommittee hearing on highway safety.
“We’re hopeful this hearing helps us keep attention on this issue in the Senate. As we continue to meet with [Senate] offices to get more co-sponsors, our ultimate goal is that the [Senate Environment and Public Works] committee will mark up this bill and follow the House’s lead.
“Overall we’re at a point with the legislation where we, along with our [truck parking] coalition members, have laid a lot of the groundwork that needs to be done to be successful and actually get this signed into law.”
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