A trend for truck drivers to park in front of businesses has prompted the St. Louis Park City Council to vote in favor of more restrictions.

The council took a first vote in favor of a new ordinance restricting semitruck parking in nonresidential areas, with a final vote scheduled Monday, Aug. 2.

City code already bans the parking of commercial vehicles, recreational vehicles and trailers in residential districts, but the city has not had similar restrictions on large vehicles elsewhere.

The new ordinance would allow the city to restrict parking for trucks, trailers and other heavy vehicles, including those with a main function to tow other vehicles.

A traffic committee made up of city staff members would consider requests for truck parking restrictions before making recommendations to the City Council for consideration.

City code already bans any vehicle from parking in the same place for more than 48 hours.

Last year, the City Council began considering parking restrictions along the service road south of County Road 25 and west of France Avenue.

“Among other concerns, residents and business owners felt that the presence of trucks caused safety concerns and were a nuisance,” the city report says.

Individuals have also raised concerns about the north frontage road of County Road 25 east of Ottawa Avenue; Oxford Road west of Louisiana Avenue; and 35th Street and Raleigh Avenue.

The city report notes that the amount of tons carried by trucks increased 24% in a 10-year period cited in a 2019 Minnesota Department of Transportation study. Additionally, limitations on the number of consecutive hours a trucker can drive have increased, with federal law requiring electronic logging devices.

“Rising customer expectations for delivery times and an increasingly cost competitive marketplace have pressured truck drivers’ decisions,” the report says.

With an increase in federal rules to prevent driver fatigue, the report concludes that many drivers prefer to park their trucks near their homes and the places where they pick up or drop off loads.

“The farther drivers must go to find parking, the more likely they are to be near or past their hours-of-service limit which can affect a driver’s level of alertness,” the report says.

It also adds that many immigrants and people of color form their own trucking businesses, with the U.S. Department of Labor estimating that 40% of drivers are people of color.

Mayor Jake Spano relayed a statement by Councilmember Nadia Mohamed, who did not attend the July 6 meeting, saying that Mohamed had initially had concerns about “disturbing the livelihood of BIPOC communities and working families,” using an acronym that means Black, Indigenous, people of color. However, Mohamed added in the statement, “I didn’t want that to cloud my judgment that semitrucks simply shouldn’t be parking in areas that will harm their surrounding neighborhoods.”

For example, she indicated the service road by Ottawa Avenue is too congested and that trucks block views of the road.

Engineering Director Debra Heiser also relayed concerns about sight lines near driveways and at intersections. She said other efforts like the 48-hours parking limit “have not been necessarily successful.”

After Spano relayed a question from Mohamed about how the city would tow semitrucks, City Manager Tom Harmening said, “It takes a big vehicle.”

The city has a contract with Bobby and Steve’s Auto World that requires the business to provide equipment capable of towing big rigs, Harmening added.

“Hopefully that doesn’t come to be, but if need be we have provisions in place to take care of that,” Harmening said.

Councilmember Margaret Rog acknowledged that drivers need places to park to stay safe and to keep up with the public’s demand for goods.

“I understand, like many do, it’s a challenge that needs a solution, but it’s not a solution to allow truck parking in communities at the expense of residents and business owners,” Rog said.

Community members have been dealing with safety, aesthetic and economic impacts as well as health impacts relating to idling from the trucks, Rog added.

The Minneapolis City Council is also considering tougher restrictions. The Minnesota Trucking Association has opposed the tougher restrictions in the larger city, with association president John Hausladen saying, “They have to have somewhere to park.”

Of the broader conversation, Rog said, “It’s legitimate to be concerned, I think, about whack-a-mole, both within and between communities, and we may have to deal with that for now, but we’re getting some tools to deal with this.”

Spano said he initially thought the parking issue had been an isolated one, but he said, “Clearly over time it did not go away. It got worse, and I think it’s right for us to take steps to mitigate the health impacts and the lifestyle impacts for those neighbors.”

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