Ever since the district system of sugar milling was abolished, the sugar producing island of Negros has become overly dependent on trucks for transporting sugarcane to mills. Because sugar mills now compete with each other for cane, trucks have been traveling unnecessary distances to deliver cane to the best buyer. It is normal to see sugarcane harvested in southern Negros being trucked almost 100 kilometers, bypassing numerous sugar mills along the way, to a mill north of the island just because the price is right.
For as long as I can remember, these heavily laden trucks have been one of the primary causes for the wear and tear on our roads. Additionally, they have been involved in many fatal accidents and if you come to think of it, these fully loaded trucks are often more dangerous when stationary because large trucks can apparently park anywhere their drivers deem safe.
We cannot do anything about the wear and tear on the roads, and because our government is obsessed with building or repairing as many roads as it can, it should no longer be a problem. Build build build means government loves broken roads because it would rather spend money on easy, no brainer projects.
What we need at this point when roads are being built, expanded and repaired incessantly, are for them to be made safer. In an island where trucking has been a part of our life for decades, it is a mystery why we still do not have rest stops where trucks and their drivers can properly park and take a break.
A fully-loaded truck parked on the shoulder of a highway has always been a dangerous proposition and if you come to think of it, is probably illegal. But because our monoculture industry needs trucks and nobody has bothered to build any truck stops, we’ve been tolerating this practice despite the number of accidents and deaths it has caused.
In a properly designed and operated highway system, shoulders are only meant for emergencies and vehicle breakdowns. In the Philippines where there is a highway but no system, shoulders are multipurpose death traps because rest sites are non-existent.
The American highway system has a policy that for every half hour of driving, there should be a place to take a break. This was set by a 1958 policy by the American Association of State Highway Officials that laid out detailed standards for the design and placement of rest areas in the national interstate system.
A truck or rest stop, for those who are unfamiliar with the concept, is a designated area along the highway where trucks can park, drivers can rest, eat, drink, relieve themselves, or even sleep. At its most basic, it would be a paved vacant area, with access to drinking water and a toilet, preferably well-lit at night. This is all we would need to make our highways safer for both the truckers and the motorists but it is already 2020 and such highway facilities are still non-existent in this country.
If we take it a step further, a proper rest stop should probably include a gasoline station, a convenience store, and clean rest rooms. But for now, in a country where trucks routinely and dangerously take up shoulder space while drivers rest or wait for truck bans to be lifted, any basic rest stop could do wonders in making our roads safer and improving the quality of life of the drivers.
Aside from removing dangerous obstructions from roads, rest stops also allow drivers to rest properly, allowing them to recharge and do their jobs in a safer and more efficient manner. We may not have a long distance driving culture and the interstate system of the Americans but the way we use our roads here in Negros makes one wonder why such a simple solution with so many benefits has never been considered.
A truck stop is not for truckers. It is for everyone who uses the highway, not because cars can also stop there, but because of the increased safety and efficiency of a road where drivers can safely stop to get a proper rest.*