Over a seven-year period on one 290-mile stretch of highway alone, at-fault truck crashes resulted in approximately $75 million of “crash harm,” research conducted by the OSU College of Engineering for the Oregon Department of Transportation shows.
Researchers analyzed Oregon’s portion of U.S. Highway 97, which runs the entire north-south distance of the state along the eastern slope of the Cascade Range.
Highway 97 was chosen because the idea for the study originated from ODOT’s office in Bend, which is near the highway’s Oregon midpoint. An impetus for the research was the 2012 passage of “Jason’s Law,” which prioritized federal funding to address a national shortage of truck parking.
For “property-carrying drivers,” as opposed to bus operators, federal rules require drivers to get off the road after 11 hours and to park and rest for at least 10 hours before driving again.
Researchers found that around the country, commercial drivers are often unable to find safe and adequate parking to meet hours-of-service regulations. This holds true in Oregon, where rest areas and truck stops in high-use corridors have a demand for truck parking that exceeds capacity. That means an inherent safety concern for all highway users, primarily due to trucks parking in undesignated areas or drivers exceeding the rules to find a place to park. So they drive while extremely fatigued.
Crash trends by time of day, day of the week, and month of the year follow the time periods drivers stated having trouble finding places to park. In Oregon, the study showed, that if we do nothing to address the problem while freight-related traffic continues to grow, we’ll face greater truck parking shortages. A possible solution is finding ways to promote public-private partnerships – the state working together with industry, the study concluded. A solution is not, according to OSU Corvallis researchers, simply waiting for the day that self-driving vehicles take over the hauling of freight as some predict.