Finding available and safe parking has been a problem for more than a decade. However, in recent years this issue has gotten worse as many states have closed down rest areas as part of cost cutting strategies, changes to hours of service (HOS) rules and an increase in freight volume. More trucks on the road, more requirements to stop and rest, and fewer locations for trucks to stop has created a formula for increased driver frustration.
The American Transportation Research Institute recently reported that drivers are spending on average about one hour of drive time per day looking for a safe place to park. That time results in $4,600 in lost wages annually. The ATRI study also found that between the hours of 4 pm and 11:59 pm — when many drivers are ready to park for the evening —, 63% of drivers are taking 15 minutes or more to look for parking.
Federal Highway Administration figures say there are about 300,000 parking spaces, but there are more than 3 million truckers on the road. Of course, not every truck driver needs a parking space as many return to their terminals each day, but there are still a significant percentage of drivers that don’t return home every day.
As truckers struggle to find parking, many state and law enforcement officials have noticed an uptick in unauthorized truck parking along major transit corridors and in dense metropolitan areas, the ATRI study found.
So what can truckers do? Basically, use available resources and always plan for the unexpected.
If drivers are having no initial luck finding a spot, advise them to talk to the destination dispatcher. He or she may have some suggestions for safe, local places to park.
Your fleet may be a preferred customer at a truck stop chain, so be sure to inform your drivers of the details if they will be travelling routes that include any of those locations. Some major chains are now offering parking reservations for preferred customers in addition to savings on fuel and food. Travel Centers of America (TA) offers an online reservation service, and Pilot Flying J’s Prime Parking program allows drivers to reserve spots and pay at the location or through the myPilot app.
If you are not using one of these services, careful planning is the best option. Many drivers know their routes, how long it typically takes them to get from Point A to Point B, where the rest stops are and areas where they can park. Too often, however, they fail to think of alternative parking locations should their preferred parking area be full or if a crash, road closure or weather conditions delay them and they arrive late.
Before each trip, drivers should not only identify where they intend to park at the end of their shift, but also identify several alternatives 60 to 80 miles surrounding that preferred parking in case they are delayed.
While planning won’t guarantee a parking space, it will give the driver more options in the event things don't go according to plan.