Doug Ralph Smith pulled over his Kenworth flatbed on an Interstate 80 entrance ramp in Nevada on a recent evening and shut off the engine.
The truck was working properly. Smith had time left in his logbook before hitting his hours-of-service limit. But the owner-operator of West Bountiful, Utah-based Ralph Smith Co. needed sleep — and there was nowhere else nearby to park.
“I took 30-minute nap on an on-ramp, because there wasn't a choice,” Smith said in an interview.
More truck parking is needed to eliminate such scenarios, Smith said, which can be dangerous for truck drivers and others on the road. The business owner is a champion for legislation supported by the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association to add more.
Editor’s note: This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.
TRANSPORT DIVE: Could you please introduce yourself to our readers?
DOUG SMITH: I'm Doug Smith, and I'm in the trucking business, based in Bountiful, Utah. I specialize in over-dimension and heavy-haul. But we also deliver construction materials around the inter-Mountain West and things as simple as fill or structural steel, concrete, things of that nature.
How does the lack of truck parking affect truck drivers and your business?
SMITH: As far as truck parking goes, the hardest thing at the end of the day is to find a place to park. We waste a lot of time looking. We get on places that we shouldn't park, like off ramps. There's places like North Carolina, there was a driver from Idaho, not familiar with anything out there, and couldn't find a place to park. But he knew that North Carolina troopers would cite you for being on a ramp. So, he drove until he fell asleep and crashed, just looking for a place. And when you see all the transition we're doing to wind power and solar power, those windmills, when they are being moved, they are really, really long. They have to have a place to stage, because they can't get from where they're made or where they’re shipped from to where the windmill farm is going to be. They can't do that in a day. So they've got to be parked somewhere. That's not a big problem, but it is a big problem for those drivers.
What are your thoughts on the bipartisan truck parking bill in the Senate?
SMITH: I'm a delegate to our Republican Party out here in Utah. We're one of two states that still has a caucus system. And every time I would see our congressional delegation, I said, ‘I just want to talk to you about two things: truck parking, and more truck parking.’ For seven years, I have opened my conversations with my congressman in that manner. So, he knows when he sees me that I'm gonna ask about truck parking. Well, now he sees the bill has been introduced, and when it comes around to the House, he's going to remember me. ‘I remember that this is important to my constituents.’ And I think he'll be all on board for making it happen. We've finally got bipartisan, full support for it. It’s a red letter day in our lives to know that they're going to start adding some parking spots.