Finding a way to improve the truck parking shortage starts with the facts. The American Transportation Research Institute is leading the facts pack for the trucking industry. Most recently, the ATRI published the “Managing Critical Truck Parking Case Study” in December 2016. In this report, the institute took a good hard look at exactly what was causing the trucker parking shortage. It also brings to light some realistic ways to improve the shortage while helping truckers along the way. Here’s a few of those ideas and explanations of how the ATRI expects these could be beneficial to truckers trying to find a place to park their big rig.
Facts About Trucker Parking Shortage
Considering the depth of this report, it would be remiss to ignore some of the data it reveals about the trucker parking shortage. The report surveyed 8,000 over-the-road truck drivers, and 75 percent of them said they couldn’t find a place to park their tractor-trailer during nights over the road. Even state Department of Transportation agents report that parking is a major problem. According to the report:
- Thirty-one percent of states are experiencing a truck parking shortage at private truck stops
- Fifty-nine percent of states report that public rest areas are full to capacity
In cities and along trucking routes where truck parking is most needed, there are the greatest number of parking spaces. However, there is also the biggest demand for parking in these areas, and this demand is going unmet. The ATRI has included several tech solutions that could potentially help improve the truck parking situation.
Geolocation and Apps
The most popular method of finding truck parking, used by 55 percent of those surveyed, is with smartphones and apps. These trucker apps include:
- Trucker Path
- Park My Truck
- Truck Parking USA
The way these apps work is using geolocation, similar to Google maps on your phone. This technology pinpoints locations that are tracked as offering truck driver parking. These include truck stops, rest areas, Walmart stores, and other public or private parking areas. When you download one of these apps, you can pull it up on your smartphone. Using GPS, it pins your location. Then using geolocation services, the app shows you the nearest truck parking locales. When you select one of these, you receive information about whether the parking lot is empty, somewhat full, or maxed out. The apps give you the best availability to help you plan your route. However, you still must determine if you think you can arrive at a particular parking area before the lot status changes. So, while apps are a smart approach, this type of technology still has its downsides.
Use of Roadside Signs
One suggestion from the study is to use the same geolocation technology that apps use but for roadside signage. Digital signs on highways would tell truckers how many parking spaces are available at the next truck stop, rest area, or other truck parking area. These roadside signs would alert drivers to real-time parking availability. The limit with this system is that it only provides parking information about the areas along the route.
Yet, it would avoid having to pull over only to find out the trucker parking lot is full. This technology would enable truckers to keep cruising down the highway in such situations, saving them valuable time. This also would reduce wear and tear on entrances to truck parking areas, as well as the truck driver congestion that occurs at peak parking times, such as 6 pm.
Reservation-for-Fee Trucker Parking
Some truck stops are testing out a service called reservation-for-fee trucker parking. These include:
- Travel Centers of America—Petro Reserve-It Parking
- Pilot Flying J Prime Parking
This would allow truckers to reserve truck parking space before arriving at the stop. You can do this via telephone or by app, if the truck stop offers that option. For example, for the Reserve-It Parking program, download the TruckSmart mobile app, or go to the truck stop’s website to reserve a space. For the Prime Parking service, go to the Pilot Flying J website and check out what spaces are currently for reservation.
The idea is that you will pay to reserve a spot, which will save you time, particularly with your hours of service, by not having to drive around hunting for trucker parking space. It will also save you on your fuel cost for the same reason. The cost to reserve a Prime Parking space at Pilot Flying J, for example, is $7 to $15, with the largest number of spaces costing $12—all for a full night of parking. According to the report, 46 percent of those surveyed have used trucker parking reservation services.
Future of Trucker Parking
The reality is we need to increase truck driver parking availability—period. Even with the best apps for trucker parking and roadside signs and reserved parking, there is still the issue of not having enough parking to go around. Truck drivers from Portland, Oregon to Portland, Maine need not to have to worry about finding a safe place to pull over when needed. In other words, even with the best technology out there, if current truck parking areas are filling up, how long will it be before they overflow in capacity? Before that fate occurs, we need to come up with viable solutions for increasing trucker parking. Given the US Bureau of Labor Statistics has already said that trucking jobs will increase by 100,000 by 2024, we need to refocus on finding new parking areas for truckers, rather than short-term fixes in the form of apps and roadside signs.