The Truck Parking Problem: What It Means and How It’s Changing
Truck drivers often spend hours searching for parking spots, and it’s more than just an inconvenience — it’s a safety hazard. A recent survey conducted by the Federal Highway Administration, American Trucking Associations (ATA), and the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association shows that there is only one parking spot for every 11 drivers: a 40,000 parking space shortage nationwide.
Truck drivers are calling this out, stating it’s the number-one issue in the trucking industry. It’s time to address this issue for the safety and efficiency of the trucking industry — two things everyone has a stake in.
We have examined the problem of truck parking and why it’s an issue, the challenges facing truckers, and the ongoing changes the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is working to implement to alleviate the problem.
What Makes a Parking Shortage Such a Problem?
It’s important to acknowledge that a shortage of parking for truckers doesn’t just affect drivers of semi trucks: it impacts the economy, supply chain, and, therefore, everyone.
On average, drivers spend 56 minutes every day looking for a parking spot. The ATA estimates that this time searching for a safe place to park costs around $5,500 a year, or 12 percent of a driver’s annual income. This high expense often pushes for faster (and possibly reckless) driving and jeopardizes safety on our roads as they work to make up the cost.
Hours of Service (HOS) regulations require drivers to take period breaks throughout the day: thirty minutes for eight hours of driving and a 10-hour break after they’ve been on the clock for 14 hours. Finding a safe and legal place to park is an essential part of adhering to these regulations, and many drivers admit that they’ve pushed the limit when trying to find a sufficient parking space.
Insufficient parking leads to:
- More accidents, injuries, and even fatalities
- Challenges for fleet managers
- Loss of productivity as drivers spend hours looking for parking
- Unnecessary costs for drivers as well as their employers (especially if a driver is ticketed for parking in an illegal spot)
When looking at the overall impact on the economy and supply chain, the time spent looking for parking during mandatory rest breaks means less time on the road moving goods to their destination. The supply chain slows down, consumers are unhappy, and costs go up to make up for lost revenue.
Challenges in Finding a Parking Spot
When it comes to finding a parking spot, drivers face these challenges on a daily basis:
- Overcrowding at rest areas, truck stops, and other facilities. Places intended to support drivers have become so overcrowded that drivers are forced to bypass these stops when they need a rest break.
- Inadequate facilities, particularly for female truck drivers. Around 14% of truck drivers are female. Unfortunately, current rest stops and truck parking spots haven’t caught up with designated facilities for women that are safe and accessible. Also, some distribution centers and warehouses often don’t open their washrooms to drivers.
- High consequences for unauthorized or unsafe parking. Many drivers are forced to park in unauthorized or unsafe places as their clocks tick towards mandatory rest times, or simply because fatigue has taken over. This presents safety hazards for drivers and an increased risk of fraud or cargo theft.
What the FMCSA is Doing to Help
To improve parking solutions across the country, the FMCSA announced that more than $80 million will go toward truck parking projects in 2023 — an increase of nearly 65 percent over the previous year.
The funding will go toward grants that state governments, industry stakeholders, and other technology providers for the logistics industry can use to create safe and well-maintained parking facilities for drivers. Some of the $80 million will be used for:
- Expanding truck parking as well as signage to help drivers find safe spaces.
- Research to support automated, location-based driver alerts to help improve safety for drivers.
- Improved truck stops and parking facilities.
In 2009, Jason Rivenburg stopped for a delivery in Virginia and then began driving towards his next destination in South Carolina. With just twelve miles left on his drive, Jason was forced to pull over and rest through the night since his arrival location was not open yet. With no safe place to stop, Jason was forced to park at an abandoned gas station, where he was tragically murdered and robbed of the $7 he had in his wallet.
Jason’s widow and other affected family members of drivers impacted by insufficient parking have been working to raise awareness about the national truck parking scarcity and its broader implications for drivers since his death.
Jason’s Law became a part of that initiative. Established in 2012, the law requires a “national priority to address the shortage of long-term parking for commercial motor vehicles.” Part of Jason’s Law includes a survey that examines parking issues in every state and evaluates their ability to provide adequate parking, as well as what funding is needed for improvements.
Potential Ongoing Changes
The funding announced in September 2023 is one of the many steps the Department of Transportation is taking to help provide adequate parking for drivers on the national highway system. Many other grants and funding are in the works to help support drivers.
Additionally, there are new technological solutions to help drivers find adequate parking. One solution is in-ground sensors to detect open parking locations and monitors parking capacity at truck facilities in real-time. Alerts allow drivers to find adequate parking and help them plan in advance when mandatory breaks are coming up.
Technology company, Trucker Path, also offers a mobile app that was developed to help truck drivers find rest stops with necessary amenities. They recently partnered with Women in Motion to create a consorted effort around helping women drivers specifically locate facilities with bathroom access and on-site security.
As well as on-the-ground changes, there are potential updates to the HOS regulations that will help drivers as they look for parking in order to take mandatory breaks. This includes sleeper berth exceptions as well as short-haul exceptions.
There will also be new regulatory incentives to encourage local governments to develop safe and secure parking areas for truck drivers. With more options for parking available, drivers’ safety and the impact on the economy and supply chain can only improve.
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