By Mannix Porterfield
New-and-improved showers for truckers pulling in for a break at the Beckley Travel Plaza aren’t as popular as the West Virginia Turnpike envisioned.
And it’s not that truck traffic has diminished.
“We don’t need any more business,” maintenance director Jim Meadows told the West Virginia Parkways Authority in Thursday’s monthly meeting.
“No more trucks can fit in there. It’s just jammed. But not everybody is buying a shower.”
Wednesday is normally a day when truck drivers prefer to shower off, but only 18 of them used it then.
“We expected to eventually get up to 70 showers a day,” Turnpike Manager Greg Barr told a meeting of the authority’s committees before the board met.
“Our truck showers are not getting off the ground as great as we thought they would.”
Showers were suspended more than a year ago after some unsavory characters began to descend on them — hookers, drug traffickers and the like — but the board agreed to revive them with improvements.
There was some talk about renting billboard space to tout them, but a temporary message board began flashing news of the showers this week. Even so, the numbers were down.
“We would have to increase by five or six showers a day to pay for it,” Meadows said.
One such billboard offer called for a monthly outlay of $1,200, but some wondered if it’s really a matter of truckers being unfamiliar with the service.
But the board learned that some truckers are telling Turnpike officials they can get a free shower in Ohio, or, in Wytheville, Va., fuel is $1 a gallon cheaper with a shower thrown in.
Barr said the Turnpike wants to explore some incentives without incurring the added costs of billboard advertising.
“We want to try some other things that won’t require as big a cost and see if that makes a difference,” he said afterward.
In other business, the Turnpike’s governing board approved the purchase of 13 new vehicles.
Two Ford sedans to be used by the general manager and director of operations, from Stephens Auto Center, Danville, for $55,296;
Four Ford F350 long bed pickup trucks, also from Stephens Auto Center, for $86,604.
One Ford F550 four-wheel drive dump bed truck, likewise from Stephens, at a cost of $45,659.
One GMC Sierra one-ton crew cab truck with a utility bed, to be used for landscaping, from Matheny Motors, Parkersburg, for $42,062.76.
Five GMC Sierra one-town crew cab trucks, three to be used for standard maintenance, and one each for heavy equipment and the sign shop, also from Matheny Motors, for $154,788.80.