Parking Shortage: How it’s Affecting Trucking
As the U.S. trucking industry picks up, reduced fuel prices and a recovering economy have left truck drivers with yet another challenge – a parking shortage.
Truck drivers who can’t find parking resort to resting on highway shoulders, in the parking lots of closed strip malls, industrial parks, and on the grassy circles within highway ramps. These can cause serious trucking safety issues.
It’s a dangerous, often illegal practice, but so is driving more than the Department of Transportation permitted hours of service (HOS) 11 hours in any 24 hour period without a 10-hour break.
Drivers Can’t Rest on Time, Per Regulations
Truck drivers may spend as much as an hour looking for a parking space; this is time that could be spent sleeping meaning that tired drivers are taking to the road far too often.Truck drivers may spend as much as an hour looking for a parking space; this is time that could be spent sleeping meaning that tired drivers are taking to the road far too often.
What’s worse, some drivers ignore federal laws to break after 11 hours of driving and continue driving until they find a spot. In other cases, drivers pull over wherever they are, whether that’s on a highway shoulder or an abandoned lot in bad neighborhood.
Even if they escape unscathed the truck drivers might be ticketed or, “treated like criminals,” as Desiree Wood of Real Women in Trucking states in this Overdrive article.
The Facts About the Parking Shortage
The parking shortage is not just a case of warped public perception. Hard data backs it up. A recent survey conducted by the Federal Highway Administration found that 75 percent of commercial truck drivers reported having trouble finding secure parking at night.
The problem is worse, the survey showed, in many East Coast and New England states, as well as transportation hubs like Illinois, Indiana, and California. All states did report at least some shortage of parking.
The nation’s busiest freight routes, including Interstates 90, 40, 80, 10, and 81, lack enough safe, well-lit rest areas for commercial vehicles.
DOT Steps to Mitigate Parking Shortage
Fortunately, both the Federal Highway Administration and Department of Transportation recognize there is a problem and have been taking steps to mitigate the effects of the parking shortage with The Safe, Accountable, Flexible and Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users law. The law provides $25 million in funding to:
- Build new safer rest areas for commercial vehicles
- Improve existing commercial vehicle rest areas
- Redesign highway interchanges to make it easier for truckers to access safe commercial rest areas
Technology to the Rescue?
Private party smartphone apps such as 123Loadboard are working on point-of-interest features to provide up-to-date information on parking areas. Truckers may want to think outside the traditional rest stop box and look for hotels with truck parking or safe, well-lit parking lots.
Local and national businesses such as Walmart report opening their parking lots to truck drivers for late night rests.
The Parking Shortage Affects Everyone
Clearly, the parking shortage is affecting the safety of the nation’s truck drivers, as well as the profitability of trucking companies themselves. This can have a trickle-down effect on retailers and ultimately consumers.
Since the parking shortage affects everyone, the responsibility lies with communities and their business owners, the federal and state governments, and the truck drivers themselves to address it.
The first step is to raise awareness of the problem. Then, it falls on businesses and the governments to create and promote safe parking areas. The burden, then, lies with the truck drivers to find and use these areas in accordance with DOT regulations.
The incentive is there. The trucking industry looks forward to a day when all truck drivers have access to safe, easy-to-access parking at any time of the day or night.