Parking: Shortage or Problem

“Truck parking shortages are a national concern. An inadequate supply of truck parking spaces can result in two negative consequences. First, tired truck drivers may continue to drive because they have difficulty finding a place to park for rest. Second, truck drivers may choose to park at unsafe locations, such as on the shoulder of the road, exit ramps, or vacant lots, if they are unable to locate official available parking. Numerous public, private, academic, and non profit studies have been completed on the adequacy of truck parking, and these studies have some common findings including an expected growth in truck activity and severe shortages of parking for trucks, lack of information on truck parking opportunities, and challenges due to limited delivery windows and specific rest requirements.”

Those are not my words. They were quoted directly off of the Federal Highway Administration's website. Clarissa Hawes wrote in Trucks.com that 40 truck drivers were murdered from 2010-2014. The Wall Street Journal is among the resources that have written on the subject. OOIDA has weighed in. So has NATSO. Rest areas are closing. We have weigh stations that will ticket you, if you park there overnight. We have a problem with no single solution.

Information sharing helps. There are apps that can give you real time parking availability. Truck stops can be located using an app. Rest areas help. They don't help when they are closed. Illinois is lousy at communicating if a rest area is open. If you can't count on it, it may as well not be there.

The single biggest solution is cooperation. Trucking is evolving. The average lengths of runs has gotten shorter. HOS regulations are easier to enforce. ELDs have become more prevalent over the last few years. Gone are the days when you paid cash for fuel and the clerk would ask what date you would like on your receipt. In the past any place between the last weigh station and your customer was pretty much the same as parking at your customer. It isn't anymore. Cooperation between shipper, receiver, and trucker could open up a lot more spaces.

Cooperation, professionalism and experience go hand in hand. Let the customer know ahead of time, if the driver will be low on hours upon arrival. It is up to the driver to say no (or at least inform their company) if an appointment could result in an HOS violation. Is a shipper obligated to provide overnight parking? I think that they are, if they detain you for more than 2 hours. Don't put the customer in an awkward position by showing up an hour before violation. Inform the customer long before your arrival. Advance notice makes arrangements easeir.

Experience matters. This industry treats drivers like dirt, then complains of a shortage. Start rewarding companies who keep experienced drivers behind the wheel and include driver turnover in CSA scores. Experienced drivers learn where to park. Inexperienced drivers seem to know 5 truck stop chains. We have a problem. We can fix it, only if we cooperate.

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Jeff Clark

Jeff Clark of Kewaunee, WI has been driving a truck for 24 years. He has been an owner operator for 11 years.

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