By Steve Binkley, InfoStream Safety Consultant
While travelling recently, I paid close attention to the parking – or lack of – at truck stops. Since it was dark outside, I knew that truck stop parking, as well as lots at rest areas and exit ramps, were full of commercial vehicles. I wasn’t alone in finding it difficult to locate safe parking. A 2019 survey by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) found 75% of drivers reported having problems finding safe parking one or more times a week.
A highway authorization law was passed in 2012 that allocated more funding for truck parking under a section titled “Jason’s Law.” The law also required the Department of Transportation to assess the volume of truck parking in each state and develop a system of metrics to measure the adequacy of truck parking on a periodic basis.
The law was named after Jason Rivenburg, a driver who was robbed of $7 and murdered while resting at an abandoned gas station 12 miles from his destination. No other safe rest stops were available in the area at the time.
It should be good news to hear the FHWA found a 6% increase in public parking spaces and an 11% increase in private parking from 2014 to 2019. However, there was also a 15% increase in truck vehicle miles traveled between 2012 and 2017. In addition to parking shortages noted in the 2014 survey, the 2019 edition discovered new shortages in certain areas of the United States, including the entire Interstate 95 corridor, Pacific-region corridors, the Chicago region and throughout the states surrounding it.
With the hours of service clock ticking, how do drivers find safe and available parking? While the personal convenience may help with the driver’s hours, it’s challenging for them to park, shower, eat, and rest.
In addition, the COVID-19 pandemic has increased the need for drivers and motor carriers as they are one of the key groups providing essential services to our country. Their important role makes the issue of safe parking more important than ever.
I know carriers have tried a variety of things to solve the parking issue. So, I thought it’d be beneficial to revisit some of those ideas, which may lead to new thoughts that others may want to explore. Here are nine suggestions for easing the burden of finding safe parking:
- Offer trip planning classes to drivers. Many drivers have never used a map to plan trips or identify potential places to stop and rest. Years ago, trip planning was critical. Today, it seems many new drivers stay on the road until time runs out and then start to look for a place to rest.
- Identify state weigh stations that allow commercial trucks to park in their lots – open or closed. You may be surprised at the number of weigh stations that offer their facilities as a safe rest area for drivers.
- Contact customers to see if the delivery time can flexible. Perhaps the delivery or pick up can be made during a window of hours rather than an exact time.
- Reach an agreement with truck stops to offer reserved driver parking. This idea has merit even it if you must pay for the spaces.
- Search for storage facilities or drop yards that permit truck parking, may not be the most desired location with services but if the driver has the essentials this may be a good temporary solution for this one time.
- Find out if your customers allow drivers to get their 10-hour rest period on company property. Some may also offer a driver lounge with access to restrooms and beverages.
- Avoid having your drivers travel during the busiest parts of the day. Many states conduct studies on the number of trucks traveling at certain times of the day. If you have this information, you can identify potential bottlenecks and delays.
- Consider more regionalized deliveries or transfer the load where overnight parking is not necessary.
- Allow occasional lodging. It’s not the answer every time, but it may work once in a while, and your drivers will appreciate the lodging break.
These ideas may not be a permanent solution, and they may not work with every trip. The key is to be proactive about what your drivers are facing on the road. As the number of trucks increase on our nation’s roads, it’s important all of us think creatively to find solutions that offer safe and secure locations for drivers.