Yesterday, we reported on the difficulties around truck parking availability that have been exacerbated by urban traffic challenges and the recent e-commerce boom. As frustrating as this issue has been for existing truck drivers, the lack of parking poses another problem for the industry: retaining and recruiting truckers during the ongoing truck driver shortage.
“There are people who want to be truck drivers, but sometimes they can’t become drivers because they don’t know where to park,” said Roehl Transportation’s vice president of driver employment, Tim Norlin. As residential truck parking has become more frequently banned in various cities, drivers may be deterred from joining the industry if they have nowhere to park while they’re at home.
This is a major challenge for drivers recruitment efforts, as many fleets have prioritized a focus on offering ample time at home for truckers. These conversations around truck parking availability typically begin early on in the recruitment process, Norlin added.
“More than half of our drivers are home every week,” he said. “If other carriers are doing the same thing, it is compounding that issue. We try to find out what [a driver’s] plan is, and if it is to park in the street in front of their house…it is getting more and more challenging, and it is not just [within] the major metro areas. A lot of smaller cities don’t want trucks in their parking lots.”
This is also doubly difficult on drivers who need especially safe areas to park in, such as female drivers; this problem is making recruiting women into the trucking industry as tricky as ever.
“Women are almost 50% of the workforce in general, but in trucking, they are 6.5-to-8% of drivers,” said Dan Murray, American Transportation Research Institute’s senior vice president. “They have told us time and time again–safety and security is their biggest issue. They need lighting, fences, and restrooms.”
Some mobile apps are coming into play to hopefully make finding available parking easier, such as Trucker Path; the app’s chief marketing officer, Chris Oliver, noted that parking on the East Coast has been more difficult than on the West Coast because of overall population density.
“There are certainly large metropolitan areas in both the East and the West, but the big difference is the space between those large metro areas,” he explained.
Through crowdsourcing information (like sending pop-up questions to ask about available spaces or if a lot is full), Trucker Path is able to offer real-time parking availability information directly to commercial drivers.
“This is made possible via geofences we’ve established around all of the known parking locations,” said Oliver.
In addition, American Trucking Associations, ATRI, and Natso, a truck stop-and travel plaza-representing trade association, have collaborated to create the Truck Parking Leadership Initiative, from which the app, Park My Truck, was born. In the app, rest areas, truck stops, and other locations are able to report the number of spaces available in their lots at any given time.
Everyone involved in the shipping process can help with parking challenges, from customers and receivers to distribution centers and shippers, noted Shawn Brown, Cargo Transporters’ vice president of safety.
“It is so huge that internally, we remind our customer service team of the importance of knowing ahead of time places [in which] we can and cannot park, so the drivers know,” he explained. “That is as important as the rate.”
Often, even if a trucker can park at the location of a shipper or receiver, there are not enough of the amenities a driver may need readily available. Because of this, industry members are urging that all parties honor delivery and pickup times as closely to the given schedule as possible.
“Just because you drive a truck with a sleeper berth, it doesn’t solve your problems for all of life’s basic necessities,” said president of the Minnesota Trucking Association, John Hausladen. “You need access to food, restrooms, and showers. If you’re not on duty, [you need to be] able to interact with others.”
Making known that safe, reliable parking is available will be a major key to boosting recruitment numbers, Brown added.
Drivers “can be more productive with their time away from home, make more money, and have less stress” when safe parking is available, he said. “A happy driver leads to reduced turnover, and [peace of mind] can bring more drivers into the industry.”
On the drivers’ part, trip planning should always include a plan for parking, as well, Roehl’s Norlin added.
“Don’t just drive to an area and hope to park,” he said. “Plan or know from experience where to park. It’s all about [security]. We need a gated, secured location for drivers to park, and it is getting harder and harder for drivers to find.”