STRAFFORD, Mo. – In an effort to support truck drivers and give them a safe place to park overnight, Bob Mericle is offering free parking at his lot in Strafford, Missouri.
“There is no charge whatsoever,” he said. “I just wanted a spot for drivers to come in and get some rest. I wanted to find a way to help drivers.”
Mericle opened Bob’s Parking, which sits on a 15 acre lot, on Interstate 44 about three months ago. He said he had some extra spaces, so he decided to help and it has really blown up across social media.
“We appreciate the word getting out about the lot,” he said. “Our drivers are cleaning up after themselves, throwing trash away and leaving it clean. They have been very good about it.”
He said, under normal circumstances, he charges $10 a night for parking, which is a lot lower than the $18 that is charged at other locations.
“My dad was a driver for like 40 years, and I started thinking what I could do during this mess,” he said. “We had some empty spaces and I wanted to do my part for drivers and allow them to come in and park overnight.”
He said parking is a huge issue for drivers, saying that a lot of parking lots, reserved lots, and exit ramps are filled. He said drivers are parking on the outer roads and the police are hassling them about it.
“One guy told me his tires got stolen while he was sleeping,” Mercile said. “There are a lot of people out of work right now and they are desperate. It is an also an issue … because cars are hitting trucks if they aren’t pulled over enough.”
He said his lot has a high-tech security system and it is well lit and is not in a dangerous area. Mercile said during this time, he has met some really nice truck drivers.
“They are just normal guys trying to make a living,” he said. “It is really gratifying too to see how much the drivers are appreciating it.”
Mercile was in the restaurant business for more than 30 years, having owned eight Waffle House restaurants in southern Missouri. He was retired for about three weeks, before “I was about ready to go nuts.”
“I saw there was a need for parking lots for drivers, and I started investigating it and saw just how big of a need there really was,” he said. “Our gates are all automated and usually, drivers can go to our website and reserve a space monthly or nightly and it will give them a gate code.
“But right now, everybody is on the honor system.”
Mercile said he invested about half a million dollars in the parking lot, saying it is more expensive than one might think.
He said he does have some monthly spots that drivers are paying for, but it is not covering his expenses. He said offering the free spots is something he can handle financially for a while, because this is something he felt called to do.
“It is costing me money, but I think I’m okay with it at this point,” Mercile said. “I just wanted to help out a little bit. We would all be better off if we all helped out.”
[Photo courtesy of Bob’s Parking]
Sam Pierce has been a journalist for more than a decade and has written for several publications including The Trucker, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, and Living Our Faith magazine. He enjoys spending time with his family including his two daughters. They like to watch movies, read books and build LEGO sets.