Just a few years ago, civic leaders reacted quite negatively to reports and rumors about possible development of a supersize truck stop along Interstate 4 in West Volusia.
The buzz about a truck stop is back, because of a worsening shortage of places for truck drivers to park.
“It’s a serious problem,” Volusia County Chair Jeff Brower said. “It’s a real safety problem, because drivers spend so much time driving around looking for a place to park, and they could fall asleep at the wheel.”
In the not-too-distant past, there was vocal opposition in Volusia County to proposals to close truck parking areas at rest stops along Interstate 4 in Longwood and provide a site, instead, for big rigs to pull off the road between the St. Johns River and Daytona Beach.
Now, the idea of having a super-stop along the super-slab is back, because the need is there, according to transportation planners working with the Florida Department of Transportation.
“They have identified a deficit of truck parking availability on I-4,” River to Sea Transportation Planning Organization Executive Director Lois Bollenback told The Beacon. “On I-4, the only truck parking from [U.S. Highway] 92 is the Longwood station.”
The Florida Department of Transportation is a member of the TPO, whose members heard the need for a truck stop in Volusia County surface anew last month.
FDOT District 5 Public Information Director Jessica Ottaviano confirmed the agency has commissioned a feasibility study on the need and prospective sites for a truck-parking facility, but she was unable to provide details at this time.
Yet, the need for places for large trucks to park is increasing, as Florida, now the third largest state in the union, continues to add to its population. That growing population demands more goods — food, clothing, building supplies, cars, household items, business inventories — that come closest to consumers by truck.
“If you bought it, a truck brought it,” goes a common saying.
The truck-parking facilities at the Longwood rest stops have only 37 tractor-trailer parking spaces, Bollenback noted.
“We have not adequately provided parking for trucks,” Bollenback said.
Orange City Council Member Jeff Allebach, who is also a member of the TPO board, said the FDOT proposes to address the shortage by adding 500 truck-parking spaces in the I-4-corridor counties of Volusia, Seminole, Orange and Osceola. Allebach said the proposal could mean having a 500-space facility in one location or as many as four lots, each with 125 spaces.
“Maybe at the interchange of I-4 and [State Road] 472,” he added.
That junction is poised to experience major development that has been years in the making, as a new Halifax Health hospital and its medical campus are keystones of the future of Deltona and neighboring cities.
Not far away is the new Amazon distribution center, where more than 300 big rigs arrive and depart daily.
“I can’t imagine 500 trucks out there,” Orange City Council Member Bill O’Connor said, regarding the S.R. 472 interchange.
The shortage of parking for large trucks is heightened by cities that usually, with zoning restrictions, prohibit truckers from parking their tractors at their homes.
“You don’t want rigs idling in a neighborhood,” Bollenback said.
Compounding the situation, federal law limits the number of hours truck drivers may work behind the wheel.
The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Motor Carrier Safety Administration now restricts truck drivers to 11 hours on the road, to be followed by 10 hours of rest. In addition, a driver must take a 30-minute break from driving every eight hours.