By Mike Schneider
This is what happens when a car hits a truck on the side of a highway. In this case, I-287 near Mahwah. The latest death coming last week but crashes like this have happened before.
The fact is, this problem is not new. There are reports going back two decades, talking about how trucking was going to increase on America’s roads and the capacity to put truckers someplace safe was not going to increase at a similar pace.
All you have to do to find out how true that is is talking to truckers themselves.
“This is getting worse,” said Ed Figueroa.
Figueroa has been driving trucks for a decade and he says the law and the lack of highway rest areas is killing people.
“It’s bad. The northeast is really bad. Sometimes you gotta drive another two hours to try to find parking,” Figueroa said.
If you drive I-287, you see no parking, no standing signs all over the place. But truckers still pull over. And at night, this place is packed with parked trucks. There’s basically no highway rest stop between Morristown heading north until you get to the New York State Thruway. But that very first rest stop across the border in Sloatsburg, that’s jammed, even in the middle of the day.
“You find a place, it’s just not easy,” said Al Foster.
Some drivers will get off the highway and look locally for some private lots.
“There’s always a cost when you park on somebody’s property. You might damage it, the weight from the truck, it’s a lot involved,” said Ray Akin.
And it’s tough getting to those private lots.
“There’s the mandatory break time after eight hours and if you’re not taking that break after eight hours, you’re in violation. So it makes it real difficult,” Foster said.
So truckers often find themselves essentially trapped between obeying the federal rest requirements and finding a safe place to park their rigs.
“Yesterday I sat on the shoulder of the highway in the snow storm. Sometimes there’s nothing you can do,” said Jim Thorpe.
When asked how long he did that, ??? said, “A half hour. That’s the federal regulation.”
do you know people who have to pull over to the side of the road, Akin said, “I’ve done it, you know, depending on where I’m at. We do have a place to park down in Ridgefield. There’s somewhere to park but when you’re out on the road, it’s tough.”
Do these truckers think things are going to get better?
“No. But I mean how are you going to add more rest areas?” asked Foster.
“Well I’m hopeful. It’s my 25th year,” said Akin. When asked if he’s seen a change in that time, he said, “Not really.”
Which means the highways all across America will continue to be dangerous places for them and for the rest of us.