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Truck Park

Tech firms aim to ease truck parking concerns with real-time information

Dec. 29, 2019
Finding a safe place to park is a top concern for truck drivers, and technology providers are working to connect them with accurate, timely information so they can make educated decisions where to stop.

Finding a safe place to park is a top concern for truck drivers, and technology providers are working to connect them with accurate, timely information so they can make educated decisions where to stop.

“If truck drivers know in advance the trends when truck stops and rest areas get full, and have live data to show them the number of available spaces, they will have the tools to make the best deci­sions on how long to travel and when and where to seek parking,” explained Phil Mescher, transportation planner at the Iowa Dept. of Transportation.

Concerns over parking have only grown with the use of electric logging devices to monitor hours of service. This is causing more drivers to look for park­ing at the same time, Rebecca Brewster, president of the American Transporta­tion Research Institute (ATRI), said. When parking isn’t available, drivers might park illegally, which creates safety concerns.

A recent ATRI survey listed the lack of available truck parking as one of the industry’s biggest concerns. Brewster said there is no one solution, but technology can minimize drivers’ frustrations.

“By having information on parking available to drivers while they are going down the road, it saves the driver time by not having to pull off to look for a spot,” she explained. “All of the systems are helpful, whether they’re sourced from the truck stops, crowdsourced or sourced from paid parking providers.”

ATRI, American Trucking Associations and NATSO formed the Truck Parking Leadership Initiative, which developed the Park My Truck app that allows truck stops, rest areas, and others to report the number of spaces available in their lots.

Likewise, American Truck Parking, a federally and state-funded project run through the University of Califor­nia-Berkeley, has collected data on all of the country’s rest areas and shares the number of parking spaces on its website.

“We literally manually counted the spaces at rest areas looking at the photos on maps,” said Elliot Martin, research and development engineer at the University of California-Berkeley. “The objective is to improve truck parking information in general.”

Those within the industry said parking is readily available at many locations but can get tight in major metropolitan areas.

“You may have enough spaces nation­wide, but they may not necessarily be in the areas or the corridors where drivers need them,” Brewster said.

The role of technology

Anthony Petitte, CEO of TruckPark Inc., a platform that connects drivers with parking in real time, said technology can help mitigate the variables drivers face when searching for parking and improve driver productivity. “Everybody is using data, network integration, and technol­ogy to enhance the driver’s experience,” Petitte said.

Brian Taylor, director of sales for Intel­ligent Imaging Systems (IIS), said most states are investigating their parking needs, what technology can solve, and what the private sector can solve.

“To add a significant number of stalls in a par­ticular state or urban area is very expensive,” he said. “The use of technology helps them make better use of what they have.”

IIS has provided state departments of transportation, including those taking part in the Mid America Association of State Transportation Officials (MAASTO) initiative, with IIS Smart Parking solu­tions to provide truckers with parking availability.

In the future, IIS is hoping to be able to communicate truck parking availability information through in-cab services such as Drivewyze.

MAASTO united eight Midwestern states in the nation’s first Regional Truck Parking Information Management Sys­tem. The TPIMS has been deployed along high-volume freight corridors through Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Michi­gan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin.

Seven of the states use digital message signs, but Iowa transmits information via apps, in-cab information systems, and state 511 websites. The 511 system is a national traveler’s resource set up and run by the U.S. Dept. of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration. The system allows drivers in participating states/cities to dial “511” on their phones and receive real-time traffic information, such as road closures and accidents.

“As a large group, we were able to have a similar overall design and brand­ing, but as individual states, we were able to deploy our own technology and work with different vendors,” Mescher said.

Iowa included several private truck stops, including Iowa 80 Truck Stop in Walcott, in its project. Iowa 80 has 650 spaces that are tracked through TPIMS and also offers reserved spaces driv­ers can book ahead of time through the TravelCenters of America app, said Delia Moon Meier, senior vice president for Iowa 80 Group.

American Truck Parking has partnered with several government parking proj­ects that track real-time parking info, including MAASTO, and shares it on its website. It is also in the process of col­lecting data on private truck stops. 

Continue to part 2: What are truck stops doing to address the parking crisis?

About the Author

Mindy Long

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