ORLANDO, Fla. - Nationwide tractor-trailer parking is at a premium. Here in Florida, it’s no different. The State's Department Of Transportation has been studying the need for more parking for years calling it a critical issue in the trucking industry.
"This isn’t just a trucking issue. It’s a safety issue," said Truck Driver and owner of Lombard Trucking Michael Lombard.
According to the American Trucking Association, 98% of truckers say they struggle to find safe parking. Truckers can’t legally drive more than 11 hours during a 14-hour window. Truckers say those nearing the end of their drive time who miss out on a safe spot find themselves forced to park in places that can be a danger to you just to avoid a fine.
"They park on the highway off-ramps," said Kathy Gallo.
Truckers say they don’t want to park on off-ramps or on the side of the highways. They feel those spots can cause a danger to themselves and to you.
"I think if they had their own places to park other than on the side of off-ramps and exits, that would be more beneficial," said Brian Thomason.
The US Department of Transportation estimates 18,000 trucks drive the I-4 corridor between Orlando and Tampa every day. Although, according to a 2020 FDOT study, the Orlando area has the worst parking situation in the state needing about 118 more spots to meet daily demands.
Statewide the FDOT estimates needing about 3500 more parking spots with a need for even more by 2030.
"If you’re going to force those regulations on us, regulations on truckers, then you also need to provide the amenities of safe parking to give these guys a place to go when it is time for them to legally get off the road," said Lombard.
Lombard says he had no choice but to network with other truckers to find a safe place to park in Orlando. He says the headache of finding parking and the cost of paying for it in extra drive times or fees is keeping some drivers away from the state altogether.
"Me as a small business owner, for the most part, I will generally try to avoid coming down to Florida because I know it could be rough getting in and out," said Lombard.
FDOT has made Orlando its number one priority to increase available parking by looking at rest-stop expansion. Last month, the US DOT awarded $15 million to Florida to build an I-4 truck stop between Orlando and Tampa. That would mean 120 spots and far fewer safety issues for drivers.
"When a truck is parked on an off-ramp, an exit ramp on the shoulder of a rest area, that’s dangerous for you driving your SUV or driving your car down the road too," said Lombard.