Finding a safe place to park your truck is not a new problem. It has been ongoing for more than a decade. Despite the growing debate, a resolution to the issue has been slow in coming mainly because as freight movement has increased, infrastructure has been unable to keep up with it. Now that the ELD mandate has been fully implemented, the fleet industry is experiencing even more problems with parking shortages because drivers don’t have time to drive around to look for one.
Making Matters Worse
According to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), there are over 3 million fleet truckers in the U.S. while there exist only 300,000 legal parking spaces including private truck stops and public rest areas. As drivers continue with the struggle to find parking, many law enforcement officials are reporting an increase in unauthorized parking in metropolitan areas and along major transit corridors.
Another contributing factor is that many states throughout the country have closed down interstate rest areas permanently or seasonally in an effort to cut costs because they just don’t have the money to maintain them. South Dakota, Michigan, Ohio, and Florida are some of the states who have closed their rest stops over the past few years. In Canada, thousands of parking spaces have been lost in recent years, due to the closure of locations such as Fifth Wheel Truck Stops.
Possible Solutions to the Parking Shortage Problem
Fleet managers and drivers are increasingly turning to technology to deal with the parking problem. In-cab communications and smartphones provide a lifeline to truckers who are having difficulty finding a place to park and rest.
- Smart parking technology: Intelligent Imaging systems have also developed hardware and software solutions to help drivers. The company’s IIS Smart Parking technology uses embedded sensors and cameras to locate legal parking spots and to track parking capacity in real-time. The platform collects and analyzes data then transmits the information to drivers on the road.
- TruckSmart App: Travel Centers of America has developed the free TruckSmart Mobile app, which is available on Google Play and Apple. It provides drivers with real-time information about parking spaces at Petro and TA locations. The app also allows drivers to check pump prices and lane availability before they arrive.
- ReserveIt!: Travel Centers of America has also initiated the Reserve-It! Parking Program. It enables drivers to use the TruckSmart app to reserve parking spaces up to thirty days in advance and reserve a space for several days at the same location. The company also has a Preferred Parking program at several Petro and TA locations. This allows drivers to get 24 hours of free truck parking each time they purchase 60 gallons of fuel or when they spend $20 or more in the services area, restaurant, or store.
- Trucks Park Here: The FHWA granted the Mid-America Association of State Transportation Officials $25 million in funding to establish an interstate truck parking information system in Kansas, Iowa, Wisconsin, Ohio, Michigan, Minnesota, Kentucky, and Indiana. With the help of parking spot sensors and vehicle counting, the system tracks parking availability. Roadside message boards display the number of available parking spots in each location. The Trucks Park Here information can also be accessed by web feeds and smartphone apps.
- Love’s Connect: This app is available on Google Play and Apple. Love’s Connect offers drivers a travel map with they can use to plan their route based on Love’s locations. They can also use the app to activate commercial fuel pumps, reserve shower time, and request roadside assistance. There are also reward points for professional drivers.
- Flying J: Pilot’s app is available for both Android and Apple and is a trucker’s favorite. His trip planner lets drivers map their routes via PFJ locations. Locations can be filtered by parking availability (paid parking can be reserved) amenities, food options, and restaurants. The app can also be used to book shower time and for mobile fueling. Paid parking also can be reserved. Real-time parking data is also available along the I-5 corridor.
- Road Hunter: Road Hunter for Apple and Android, lets you search by a gas station or truck stop brand as well as rest areas, weigh stations, and Walmart locations. The app will also provide real-time weather updates and warnings and watches.
- Road Breakers: Drivers can key in their destination and Road Breakers will show parking spaces around that location. It also provides information on the parking lot’s size and available amenities. This app will also store the data on your phone so you can use it later when you’re in a cell phone dead zone.
Although they are far from a perfect solution to the truck parking shortage, these technology solutions and apps do provide practical and efficient options for truck drivers who want to save time while looking for somewhere to park and rest.