Friday, April 16, 2010

Virginia Governor Praised By Trucking Groups

Rest Areas Reopen As Promised - Ahead Of Schedule
Shipping News Feature

US – In January we told of the promise by Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell to reopen nineteen safety rest areas for commercial freight truckers which had been closed a year ago due to lack of funds. In an age when promises are cheap but actions often invisible the Governor received deserved praise on Wednesday when the last of the truck stops were opened for drivers shipping freight across the state.

“We sincerely appreciate Governor McDonnell’s commitment to highway safety on the important issue of safety rest areas,” said American Trucking Association (ATA) President and CEO Bill Graves. “Safety rest areas play a vital role in preventing fatigue in drivers of all vehicles and also provide the accommodations necessary for motorists while on the road.”

Last year ATA, together with the Virginia Trucking Association, objected to the previous administration’s plan to close 25 of 42 safety rest areas because there was already a severe shortage of truck parking. “It is simply beyond comprehension that Virginia would be willing to put lives at risk in order to balance the Commonwealth’s budget,” Graves said in a letter to former Gov. Timothy M. Kaine. Safety rest areas are important for the safety of average motorists and professional truck drivers alike. Both need a safe location to park, said Graves, who served for 8 years as governor of Kansas.

Responding to that concern, Virginia’s previous administration somewhat offset the effect by scaling back the closures from 25 to just 19, replacing its two-hour time limit at safety rest areas with a "no overnight parking" policy and adding 225 truck parking spaces at the 23 areas that were not closed. ATA and VTA strongly urged McDonnell during his campaign for governor to reconsider the closings. McDonnell responded by promising that he would, if elected, reopen the safety rest areas within three months of taking office. In January, the Commonwealth Transportation Board followed Gov. McDonnell’s call by reversing its June 2009 decision that reduced the number of VDOT safety rest areas and welcome centres from 42 to 23.

Eighteen facilities closed in July 2009 and the final facility – the Interstate 66 West Manassas Welcome Center – closed in September. Upon the current administration’s decision to restore the safety rest areas, four reopened in mid-February and eight more reopened in mid-March. The reopening of the final seven rest areas has restored all of Virginia’s rest areas to full operations.

The rest stops are essential, as any long distance lorry driver knows, they are often seen as an easy target for any administration looking to economise, often with tragic consequences. Last month we highlighted the terrible case of Jason Rivenburg, murdered in his truck whilst resting in an unlit area because no facilities were available, for a mere $7.