Fuel Economy and Parking

A funny thing happened to me the other day. I was in a meeting sitting next to a guy who is working on a project to help with the truck-parking problem. At that same meeting was a representative of a big fleet. The guy from the parking project was tossing out figures like 39% of drivers spend more than one hour looking for parking and another 44% spend close to an hour.

I wondered if those figures were accurate, so I asked the fleet representative. He said in his fleet drivers sometimes spend as much as 90 minutes searching for a place to safely and legally park their rigs. Think about that. It means — if they want to stay legal with their Hours of Service — that they stop driving 90 minutes before running out of HOS in order to find a place to park. It’s sort of like going on vacation without making hotel reservations and then hoping there is room available when you need to stop.

I naively asked him if drivers get an HOS exemption to find parking. You probably already know the answer to that is no they don’t. That explains why some of them stop driving so far in advance because they don’t want to end up parked on the side of the road, on an off ramp, behind some shopping mall or on the site of an abandoned building. None of those options are safe, yet every day that’s exactly what some drivers end up doing.

The guy I was talking to was part of a group that is seeking funding for a Regional Truck Parking Information and Management System. The group includes the States of Kansas, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin along with the Mid-America Association of State Transportation Officials.

They hope to develop a system that uses technology to identify available parking spaces and communicate parking availability to truck drivers in real time. The parking space availability information would be shared via dynamic truck parking signage and through smart phones, in-cab devices and on transportation information websites.

The goal of the program is to help drivers proactively plan their routes, which in turn should increase their productivity and efficiency.

The conversation made me think. If a typical day for a driver is 10 hours of driving but he or she uses one of those hours to find parking, he or she loses 10% of freight efficiency.

that’s a big number especially when you multiple that 10% efficiency loss by the number of drivers on your payroll.

I don’t know whether this proposal for a TPIMS is the answer or not. But maybe when looking at improving freight efficiency we need to not only look at things that help when the truck is rolling but also making sure they are able to stop efficiently too.

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