As a truck driver, you have to sleep in your truck when you take over the road trucking jobs. Everyone knows this, yet it doesn’t make finding a place to pull over any easier. The lack of trucker parking isn’t an issue that is going away anytime soon. But when you can’t find a place to park your rig and your hours of service are up for the day, what are you to do?
Places to Park for OTR Truckers
Truckers can park at rest areas where parking lots are set apart for tractor trailers. You have access to public restrooms and a safer place to park compared to on exit ramps. However, when it comes to sleeping overnight in a rest area, not all states are as friendly. Check out states where you should think twice about sleeping overnight at rest areas.
States Where Overnight Parking is Allowed
Let’s start with a list of the states where you are allowed to park overnight:
- Arkansas for safety reasons, which can apply to truckers based on hours of service rules
- California, but only for eight hours in 24 hour period
- Connecticut only allows overnight parking at rest areas along the Illinois Toll Road
- Idaho but only for 8 hours at rest areas on the interstate and 16 hours at rest areas on highways
- Indiana only permits you to park overnight on Indiana Toll Road
- Kansas limited to one night
- Minnesota, but only for 6 hours at a time
- Nebraska has 8-hour limit
- New Jersey offers limited overnight parking
- New Mexico
- New York, but only allowed to park overnight at rest areas in the case of an emergency
- Ohio, but you can only rest overnight at the Ohio Turnpike rest areas
- Washington state in parking areas including rest areas and public truck parking for up to 8 hours unless otherwise indicated
- Wyoming has individual limitations at certain rest areas
So what this means is that the majority of states do not allow you to park at rest areas overnight. Even more so the states that do have some restrictions. Check with the DOT in the state where you are resting to see what the restrictions are for parking just to be on the safe side.
Reality of Rule Breaking
There are so many states where you can’t park legally overnight at rest areas that you would wonder why truckers try at all. That’s because in reality, you are likely to be left alone if you are caught sleeping overnight at a rest area even if it’s against the rules. If there aren’t any security guards or monitors on hand at night at rest areas, you won’t be monitored. While this means you will be able to sleep at rest areas where overnight parking is illegal without fear of repercussion, it also means that rest areas aren’t the safest places to park for truckers.
Electronic Logs and Hours of Service Rules
One new factor truckers all across the US are dealing with is e-logs. Now truck drivers must abide by hours of service rules to the minute with off-duty hours. No more driving a little longer to find another parking area. You are under more pressure to get a spot as soon as possible. Hopefully, this information about which states have legal overnight rest area parking will be of service to you.
Safety First for Truck Drivers
In truth, if you have the option of staying in either a truck stop parking lot or a rest area parking lot overnight, you will want to go to the truck stop parking lot. After all, you can buy fuel, wash your truck, take a shower, eat a sit-down meal at a truck stop—you can’t do any of this at a rest area. However, as every OTR trucker will experience at some point in their career, truck stop parking is at a premium. You never know if you will be able to get a place to park especially for overnight parking. By 6 pm most truck stop parking lots around America are slammed full.
That leaves you with few options, rest areas being the most common one. Tractor trailers have parking to fit their rigs, and for the most part, the location of rest areas provides a quiet night. But this also creates a safety hazard for truck drivers. When you are in an area with low lighting, no security presence and fast access for a highway getaway, you feel like you need to sleep with one eye open. Thankfully if you are sleeping in a rest area you are likely not the only trucker. This sense of community can help you rest a little bit easier.
Safety Tips for Truckers at Rest Areas
Yet you still need to proceed with caution. Here are some safety tips to help you make the most of your rest area truck parking experience:
• Keep your rig locked up tight at all times, even if you are just walking around your trailer for a quick inspection.
• Carry your cell phone with you at all times in case of an emergency.
• Look around the area before you get out of your truck and if you see anything suspicious leave immediately. Use your trucker’s instinct.
• If you have bear spray or some other road regulated safety device, carry it with you whenever you exit your truck.
• Thieves and robbers aren’t looking to steal you; they want whatever you are hauling. So you have to protect your load at all times by making sure it’s secure and locked up, if applicable before you go to sleep.
You need to find a safe place to sleep as an OTR trucker, and rest areas can fill that need. Just keep on alert and be aware of your surroundings, and you should be A-ok to keep rolling the next day. At that point, you’ll need to start your daily search for trucker parking all over again.
*Updated as of January 30, 2018