“With parking being as big a factor as it is, a successful driver can no longer simply leave out on a trip and decide last-minute [that] they are going to just pull in and park at a given location,” said Cargo Transporters vice president of safety, Shawn Brown.
Right now, the issue of parking availability for truck drivers is a continuous battle, and there have been no widespread solutions–including those in regards to infrastructure updates–to combat this frequent issue.
Because of this, trucking companies are having to go above and beyond what they should have to do to ensure their drivers can find places to park when it’s time for a driver to rest during a long-haul shipment. These methods include securing paid reservations for parking spots or even booking hotel rooms for a driver to be able to take a break, as well as utilizing real-time parking availability information within various technologies and implementing in-depth strategic planning that is mapped out far in advance of a driver’s trip.
”Careful planning needs to occur along with taking into account factors such as time of day, weather, traffic days, et cetera…that all in some way affect how a trip will play out, and therefore how satisfied a driver is,” Brown added.
2020 saw parking challenges increase as stay-at-home orders caused many states to shut down their public rest areas. According to the American Transportation Research Institute, parking for truck drivers became either “somewhat harder” or “much harder” once the pandemic was in full swing for 44% of respondents.
Now, truck parking is the number one overall concern for truckers across the nation.
“I think this peak in ranking is reflective of the continued frustration on the part of drivers who struggle to find a safe place to rest each day,” said Rebecca Brewster, President of ATRI.
This is an especially prevalent issue in some areas that are heavily populated–particularly during rush hour.
“We also see the I-95 corridor from the Virginia-North Carolina line all the way south to nearly the South Carolina line before you come to adequate truck parking,” said Cargo transporters’ Brown. “Many times, drivers will have ample drive time left on their clock, but due to this issue will have to take the opportunity to get parked early in the driving shift so as not to get stuck without parking when the driving hours are almost expired.”
Because of this, Cargo Transporters has found that it needs to plan ahead of time to contact customers and find out if parking is open on their property around the time the driver will be loading or unloading, and will stay in contact with drivers to make the best real-time decisions for their trips.
Luckily, truckers have been outsmarting parking shortage issues with the help of live parking data within certain kinds of technology. The Park My Truck app, developed by the Truck Parking Leadership Initiative, allows rest areas, truck stops, and other establishments to report the number of parking spots open on their properties in real time. The initiative was a collaborative effort by NATSO–a group representing operators of truck stops–along with ATRI and American Trucking Associations.
“Drivers can update [apps like these] to say spots are limited or there are a few spots left,” said Tim Chelette, a truck driver for Big G Express. “It saves you time.”
This is especially true on certain apps that update the platform with real-time parking updates from the public, like Trucker Path. This app has a network of 600,000 truckers adding live, updated parking information throughout the day in regards to 8,000 different locations so that truckers can easily find available parking.
Still, though, some parking reservations are only able to be held for a fee, but trucking companies will typically reimburse drivers for these costs.
“If a driver has to pay for parking, that’s just the way it is,” said Garth Pitzel, director of safety and driver development for Bison Transport. “Ultimately, first and foremost is ensuring the safety of our employees and contractors.”
One parking information app, TruckPark Inc., allows fleets and drivers to pay either on-demand or in advance for up to a 12-hour hold on a parking spot, which the platform reserves in collaboration with certain private businesses. Drivers can also pay for on-demand delivery of fuel for any location other than a designated truck stop.
“You could park at a hotel, rest stop, or shipper and we’re going to dispatch a truck to you,” said TruckPark’s CEO, Anthony Petitte.
Additionally, eight midwestern state Departments of Transportation–Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, And Wisconsin–are working together with the Mid America Association of State Transportation Officials within the Truck Parking Information and Management System initiative. This effort is the country’s first regional truck parking information system that allows users to access and share data in regards to common freight corridors.
43 sites across these states will begin collecting and releasing camera, video, and wireless puck data to detect the number of open parking spots multiple times a day. With a $25 million dollar grant in hand, this initiative will require all states involved to utilize the system until 2022, which will likely be extended.
“Now, [truckers] can know what is ahead of them and make better decisions on how much further they can drive before getting to a suitable parking location.” explained transportation planner for the Iowa Department of Transportation, Phil Mescher.