Distribution Centers, Truck Stops, Truck Terminals & Other Trucking Facilities

Getting the benefits of truck facilities without harming neighborhoods

If you’re concerned about the impact of a proposed distribution center, truck stop, truck terminals or some other trucking facility proposal, contact CEDS at 410-654-3021 or Help@ceds.org for a no-cost discussion of strategy options.

Trucking Facility Potential Adverse Effects

While trucking facilities provide vital services, poorly planned projects can cause harm to neighborhoods and the environment, such as:
  • Adverse health effects due to diesel exhaust,
  • Release of benzene and harmful compounds at the pump or from gasoline storage tank vents,
  • Excessive truck traffic on neighborhood streets,
  • Disturbing levels of noise.
  • Property value decline, and
  • Damage to streams, wetlands and other waters.

What Is It Like Living Near A Truck Stop?

There’s a large body of scientific evidence regarding the environmental effects of diesel truck emissions and truck facilities. In contrast, there’s little data on what it’s like to live near a truck stop. To address this knowledge gap, CEDS surveyed those living in the vicinity of existing truck stops.  Our midwest clients we’re concerned about one of the more common truck stop chains.  We identified 14 truck stops for this specific chain in the midwest.  We thought it unlikely a truck stop would affect those living a half-mile or more away.  Of the 14, only six of the truck stops were within a half-mile of a home. We sent a letter to those living in the vicinity of these six truck stops.  Included with each letter was a self-addressed, stamped postcard.  We asked recipients to note on the postcard any benefits or negative effects they experience due to the truck stop then drop it in the mail. We received responses from those living near three of the six truck stops. All of the responses noted that truck stop noise adversely affected their quality of life. Most of the neighbors also reported adverse effects due to light trespass, air pollution, and property value loss. With regard to air quality, one neighbor reported:

“Our carbon monoxide detector went off occasionally in the house; was determined to come from outside.”

The homes affected by these impacts were located 400- to 2,000-feet from a truck stop. In the survey we also asked neighbors about any beneficial effects of having a truck stop nearby. Only one neighbor reported a benefit, which was “fuel and gasoline always available.”

Distribution Centers & Neighborhood Impacts

It appears that the most rapidly growing high volume truck facilities are distribution centers.  These are last mile warehouses where goods are repackaged for final delivery. CEDS recently studied the neighborhood impact of 67 distribution centers located west of the Mississippi River.  Of the 67 facilities, four were proposed but did not appear to be in operation yet.  Most of the 63 existing facilities were less than five years old and averaged 150,000 square feet in floor area. We focused on facilities located within a thousand feet of homes since past research indicated that noise or other adverse effects were unlikely beyond a thousand feet. Of the 63 existing facilities, 78% were more than a thousand feet from homes.  And of the remaining 11 facilities, there was an intervening highway, railroad tracks, or industrial area that would have buffered homes from impacts due to all but two facilities. We contacted homeowners living near these two facilities.  Those living near both facilities reported excessive noise due to:
  • truck engine idling,
  • shouting,
  • loud music, and
  • backup beepers.
The homeowners did not report issues with excessive truck traffic on their neighborhood streets since both facilities were accessed via main roads. We concluded that due to noise and other nuisances alone, new distribution centers and most other truck facilities should be at least a thousand feet from the nearest home and on sites where access via neighborhood streets is unlikely.  Given that most facilities are not near homes, it appears that finding low-impact locations is not that difficult.  Therefore, local governments should consider amending zoning regulations to require that distribution centers and other high-volume truck facilities locate a minimum of 1,000 feet from residential areas and on main roads (major collectors-arterials) where trucks would not pass through a neighborhood. Following is further detail on specific potential impacts of a high-volume truck facility.

Diesel Exhaust & Health

There’s a large and growing body of research documenting the adverse effects of diesel engine exhaust on respiratory health.  In the 2005 California Air Resources Board (CARB) Air Quality and Landuse Handbook, it was recommended that homes, schools and other sensitive land use should be located at least 1,000 feet from any facility that would generate either:
  • 100 diesel truck trips per day,
  • more than 40 trucks per day with diesel refrigerations units, or
  • where diesel Truck Refrigeration Units (TRU) would operate for more than 300 hours per week.
These recommendation begin on page 11 of the CARB Handbook.

Gasoline Vapors & Health

Many truck stops serve not only diesel fuel but gasoline as well.  There’s substantial research documenting that sufficient benzene and other harmful compounds are released into the air from underground storage tank vents and at the pump to pose a threat to those living, working or learning 500- to 1,000-feet away.  Further detail can be found at that CEDS Gas Stations & Convenience Stores webpage at: https://ceds.org/convenience/#health

Truck Traffic & Neighborhood Streets

Locating a facility where diesel truck traffic is likely to travel neighborhood streets can expose residents to excessive noise, air pollution, property value loss, and safety issues.  Instead, these facilities should be guided to locations with direct access onto roads that do not pass through residential areas.


The CEDS distribution center study described above documented that those living near high-volume truck facilities reported excessive noise due to truck engine idling, shouting, loud music, backup beepers, etc.  While it is possible that noise barriers or other measures might resolve noise impacts, effectiveness may depend upon maintenance or other provisions that could be difficult to enforce.  Therefore, the best safeguard is to locate new distribution centers and most other truck facilities at least a thousand feet from the nearest home.

Property Value

Traffic noise can have a significant effect on property value. A home located adjacent to a major highway may sell for 8% to 10% less when compared to one located along a quiet neighborhood street. Heavy truck traffic lowers property value at a rate 150 times greater than cars. This is because at 50 feet heavy trucks emit noise at 90 dBA while a car traffic produces noise at a level of 50 dBA.  An increase in heavy truck traffic may also cause damage to nearby homes through vibrations transmitted through the earth.

Aquatic Resource Damage

Trucking facilities where fuel is stored-dispensed or where engine maintenance is performed can pose a significant threat to nearby wells and groundwaters, streams, wetlands, ponds and lakes. One study found that contaminant levels in gas station runoff were 5- to 30-times higher when compared to residential runoff. In another study researchers detected several compounds in vehicle repair facility runoff which were probable cancer-causing agents. These findings have prompted a number of states and local governments to list vehicle repair facilities as stormwater hotspots. USEPA guidance advises caution with regard to allowing hotspot runoff to infiltrate the soil, particularly in areas where drinking water is obtained through wells. The use of highly-effective stormwater Best Management Practices to treat repair facility runoff before it is infiltrated into the soil may resolve the threat, but only if a government agency regularly inspects these practices to ensure they are well maintained and independent reviews show a high degree of compliance. Fuel storage tanks and pipelines pose another source of contamination, though the design of both has improved dramatically over the past couple of decades. Spillage at the pump is a more likely source of fuel release into nearby waterways. In fact, Johns Hopkins University researchers found that an average of 40 gallons of gasoline is spilled at a typical gas station per year at the pumps. The JHU researchers also found that a significant portion of the spilled gasoline can migrate through the concrete pads at many fueling stations. So how far should fuel storage or refueling facilities be from a well or surface waters to reduce the likelihood of contamination to a reasonable level? Well, the key question is actually how far can one anticipate that a plume of spilled gasoline will travel underground. One review of scientific studies of plume travel indicated that the 90th percentile distance is 400 feet. Add another 100 feet for installing grout curtains or other containment measures and storage tanks-dispensers should be no closer than 500 feet to a well, wetland, spring, stream, river, pond, lake, reservoir or tidal waters.

Identifying & Resolving Trucking Facility Impacts

The first step in protecting a neighborhood is to determine if a proposed trucking facility is likely to cause the impacts listed above using the following checklist. If a facility site will be more than a thousand feet from the nearest home, then adverse effects to area residents are unlikely. Will the facility be located within a thousand feet of homes and will the facility generate:
  1. 100 or more diesel truck trips per day?
  2. more than 40 trucks per day with diesel refrigerations units?
  3. will diesel Truck Refrigeration Units (TRU) would operate for more than 300 hours per week?
If you answered yes to any of these three questions then diesel emissions may pose a threat to those living within a thousand feet. If gasoline will be sold then those living within 500 feet or more of the facility could be at risk for adverse health effects. If the facility is located on a road lined with homes then residents could be impacted by truck exhaust, noise, traffic safety issues, and property value loss. The CEDS Development Project Impact Assessment Checklist provides a number of potential concerns which should be considered. The next step is to explore options for designing each impact out of a trucking facility project. We call these options Equitable Solutions since they resolve our clients’ concerns while allowing property owners to achieve their goals. It is far easier to win adoption of Equitable Solutions when compared to killing a project. Examples of Equitable Solutions we’ve won on behalf of CEDS clients throughout the U.S. include:

Defeating A Fatally Flawed Trucking Facility Project

If a trucking facility project is so poorly conceived or sited that impacts cannot be resolved, then the only option may be to prevent approval. This goal will be far easier to achieve if you can show decision-makers that you made a genuine effort to find Equitable Solutions. This is but one of many components of the CEDS Smart Legal Strategies approach which can triple the likelihood of defeating a fatally, flawed trucking facility project for a small portion of the usual cost.

CEDS Initial Strategy Analysis Best Place To Start

CEDS offers many free resources that can guide you through strategies to preserve your neighborhood or the environment. These resources include the webpages listed to the right and our many free publications. A number of folks find they lack the time to read through then implement the guidance on their own. Instead, they opt to retain CEDS to perform an Initial Strategy Analysis. For a fee of $1,000 to $1,500 CEDS can analyze your case and identify the most effective strategy for preserving your quality of life. The analysis usually begins with the following steps:
  1. Verify your concerns regarding project impacts by reviewing actual project plans.
  2. Assess the proposal for additional impacts. The CEDS Project Impact Assessment Checklist simplifies this task.
  3. Search for Equitable Solutions that design away each impact while allowing the property owner to achieve their goals. Many of the webpages listed to the right will help you identify possible Equitable Solutions.
  4. Review the criteria for approving the project as set forth in local and state law.
  5. Compile the evidence needed to show that one or more of the criteria cannot be met based upon unresolved impacts.
  6. Research the decision-making history of the body required to approve the project. The goal is to identify factors that prompted past denials. These past examples will help you to increase the likelihood of a denial by structuring your case to show similar factors exist.
  7. Identify issues likely to generate the widespread public support frequently needed to prompt decision-makers to deny approval for fatally-flawed projects or condition an approval in ways that resolve your concerns via the Equitable Solutions identified in Step 3 above, and
  8. Identify at least one – hopefully several – attorneys with a good reputation for helping folks in your state who were concerned about similar issues.
The analysis can usually be completed within two weeks of receiving a retainer. About half the time the analysis is the only thing our clients need pay for to win. For examples of CEDS analyses and for further detail visit our Strategy Analysis webpage. For a no-cost discussion of how an analysis might benefit your effort contact CEDS at 410-654-3021 or Help@ceds.org.

CEDS Uniquely Qualified to Help You Preserve Your Neighborhood & Environment

For more than 30 years CEDS has been helping people across the nation protect their communities and the environment from threats posed by development and other project types. To see a map of the many communities we’ve helped preserve click on: CEDS Case Map. CEDS is one of very few organizations that solely helps people concerned about project impacts. This specialization and our nationwide scope has allowed CEDS to acquire a unique and extensive knowledge of technical solutions as well as strategies that have proven highly success in winning battles other thought impossible. The CEDS network consists of more than 200 attorneys nationwide along with a long list of other professionals such as traffic and stormwater engineers, land use planners, etc. Because people (not corporations) are our primary clients we’ve learned how to protect neighborhoods at a fraction of the cost you might pay if you hired an attorney or consultant outside our network. To learn how we can greatly increase your likelihood of success for minimal expense, contact CEDS at 410-654-3021 or Help@ceds.org.