MCCOOK COUNTY, S.D. (KELO) — The trucking industry was in focus on Tuesday in eastern South Dakota, with U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg gathering with drivers and industry leaders at a rest area near Salem along Interstate 90.

“There is currently only one parking spot for every 11 drivers on the road today,” truck driver Dean Key of Iowa said. “This shortage is not confined to one region.”

“It’s tough,” truck driver Carmen Anderson of Sioux Falls said. “I mean, I’m looking for clean, well-lit areas. I travel with my two dogs, so I want someplace that they can walk and get in the grass and things like that.”

“Not even in just South Dakota, but all over the United States,” truck driver Flo Hare of Oklahoma said about parking for truck drivers. “It’s a high need.”

11 new truck parking spots are at the west-bound rest area near Salem thanks to federal funding awarded in 2021.

“This event is a really fine example of our industry coming together and government officials actually hearing the issues that our drivers face each and every day,” said Chris Spear, president and CEO of the American Trucking Associations. “Spending nearly an hour looking for parking. Losing nearly $5,000 a year in wages spent looking for a place to rest.”

“Truck drivers are absolutely essential, absolutely critical,” said Todd Spencer, president of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association. “I mean to our supply chain, that’s kind of a no-brainer, but to us personally.”

Buttigieg says truckers deserve action.

“We count on truck drivers,” he said. “We owe them not just our thanks but specific actions that are going to make that career safer and improve job quality for people that, whether you think about it or not, you depend on every single day.”

The secretary says he is looking at pay, too.

“In addition to more physical infrastructure, we’re also taking a hard look at compensation for truck drivers,” Buttigieg said. “They often get paid by the load or by the mile, not by the hour, which means if there’s a situation where their time is being wasted, they basically eat that cost. We’re taking a look at that.”