By Andrew Schmertz
For the growing number of tractor trailers and trucks driving along Route 287, there is simply no room at the inn when drivers are looking for a place to rest.
With legal parking spots in Mahwah and nearby filling up fast during the day, the drivers are often stuck parking on the shoulder of the busy interstate highway.
Arnold Romero, who says he parks legally, has been driving along this route for 15 years.
“All of New Jersey is hard to find a place,” he said.
And the side of the road can be a deadly place to catch a nap. Last winter, a man was killed when his Subaru hit the back of a truck. And there have been several other serious accidents.
“Obviously not a safe place. We’re very concerned about the trucks out there. There have been some fatalities and some serious accidents, motorists coming over the hill at 75 and sometimes almost 80 miles an hour, as we’ve all done on 287, are a bit surprised to see a run of probably 10 to 12 tractor trailers parked there,” said Mahwah Mayor Bill Laforet.
Laforet says this is not a Mahwah problem — it’s a national, interstate transportation problem. He says the roads were never built to accommodate this much traffic.
“You see more trucks on the roads these days because quite honestly it seems a booming economy will push more freight to the highways,” he said.
“We understand there is danger but sometimes we don’t have more hours to drive and we have to do it,” Romero said.
The drivers often don’t have many options. Federal law limits their driving to 11 hours a day so as they hit that time, they have to pull over and find a place to rest.
The federal regulations were put into place to cut down on sleepy drivers. According to the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety, more than 3,000 deaths in 2014 were related to trucking accidents.
Tony Matarrazo is the president of Global Transport Logistics. He supports rules on how long drivers should be on the road, but that means he says that we need solutions to where they can rest.
“If we’re imposing these rules, where do we put the drivers when they must stop and rest? It’s a logical place for most of them to have to take a break because after hours of driving on the highway when they wind up in a place they think they’ll be safe they stop and now the issue is, is it really safe or how do we make it safe?” he asked.
“I don’t think it’s a truck driver issue, I think it’s an overall issue of how the road was. There’s no signage to tell them that there is a truck stop within a mile,” said Capt. Stuart Blank of the Mahwah Police Department.
But real estate, especially in Bergen County, is at a premium. And building new rest stops — from gathering land to securing money for it — will be a challenge.
The trucking industry says there are 3 million heavy duty trucks on America’s roads, meaning more than 3 million drivers who move 70 percent of the nation’s freight, need new places to park and rest up.