Parking at rest stops becoming easier in Midwest

Intelligent Imaging Systems (IIS) delivers parking availability in Ohio.

IIS Smart Parking solutions for trucks at rest stops are up and running. Installations were recently completed in Ohio, part of the Mid America Association of State Transportation Officials (MAASTO) initiative, which unites eight Midwestern states in the nation’s first Regional Truck Parking Information Management System (TPIMS).

Through IIS Smart Parking, 18 rest stops along Ohio’s Interstates 70, 75 and U.S. Route 33 were fitted with in-ground sensors, which provide information on how many parking spots are open and available for use. That information is then relayed and broadcast – in real-time – on highway signs, so truck drivers will know the availability of parking spaces at the upcoming rest stop.

“This service is badly needed in the trucking industry,” said Brian Heath, president and CEO of IIS. “Parking is a huge concern for drivers. Studies by the Federal Highway Administration show that 83 percent of drivers routinely take 30 minutes or longer to find parking and that 37 DOTs reported problems with commercial parking."

The TPIMS was launched along the region’s high-volume freight corridors through Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin. Its goal is to have all truck drivers, dispatchers, and others see and benefit from a cohesive parking availability system that crosses state borders. In addition to dynamic highway message signs, websites will provide information on parking space availability.

On a recent weekday afternoon, a Fleet Owner editor visited a rest stop on I-75 in Monroe MI, which is a Michigan Welcome Center 10.3 miles NE from the Ohio border. A few miles south of the stop, a highway message sign on the shoulder of an I-75 entrance ramp showed 46 available parking spots at that time. The rest stop had lots of empty truck parking nearby the Michigan Welcome Center building, which had public bathrooms, a museum and vending machines. 

According to Heath, the real-time display of parking spots at rest areas gives drivers time to plan.

“In Ohio, it’s set up where a highway reader board shows the number of spots available at the upcoming rest area,” he said. “And in many cases, it shows the spots available at the rest areas that are further down the road. This takes out a lot of the guesswork of ‘where do I park?’ Plus, if a rest area is full, the driver doesn’t have to pull in and search – wasting time trying to find a spot that doesn’t exist.”

Just north in Michigan, there was no corresponding southbound rest stop in Monroe. However, in and around Monroe, MI, there are some commercial rest stops available for use.  

Federal grant money is also available to help states offer rest stop parking notifications.

“The federal government has recognized the parking issue and has stepped up to offer states funds to implement a truck parking management system,” said Heath. “We expect states with parking issues to take advantage of the funding to make highways safer, and drivers more productive. If a driver can’t find a spot, and their hours of service are about to expire, they’ll often resort to using unauthorized parking spaces, or park on highway shoulders or ramps. By providing real-time information on parking spots, states have the ability to make an impact on the problem.”

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