How to Navigate the Truck Parking Shortage
We all know what happens when drivers can’t find a parking space close to their destination — they circle the block, the parking lot, or the parking garage until they get lucky and a space becomes available.
Looking at the findings of a study by transportation analytics company INRIX, drivers aren’t getting lucky. U.S. drivers spend 17 hours per year searching for parking — costing $345 per driver in wasted time, fuel, and emissions.
As frustrating — and dangerous — as searching for a parking space on a street, in a lot, or in a garage is for the typical driver, imagine being behind the wheel of an 18-wheeler searching for a safe parking space to take a rest break or sleep overnight.
It isn’t easy. Spaces fill up quickly.
Big Rig Parking Space Blues
The truck parking space problem has been a top concern for industry leaders, truckers, and owner-operators for decades and in recent years it has reached crisis proportions. There are 1.5 million truckers on the road at any given time and fewer than 400,000 available parking spaces, so it’s little wonder that truckers say they find “no parking available” as often as 23 percent of the time and 75 percent say regularly finding parking is a challenge.
This lack of safe parking space isn’t caused by a single factor, but rather a combination of factors, including:
- Greater demand for shipping, which increases the number of trucks on the road
- Lack of state funding to provide more public parking spaces
- An increase in end-of-transit and less-than-truckload routes that increase the pressure on parking in urban areas
- Hours of Service (HOS) driving restrictions that put limits on driving time
- Closure of rest areas
And the effect on truckers and owner-operators is:
- Difficulty finding parking space where needed as spaces in popular locations fill up quickly, often giving truckers no alternative but to park on shoulders, ramps, or other undesignated areas that put themselves and others at risk.
- Excessive driving that adds as much as 40 minutes of driving to a day’s journey, which can negatively impact productivity, completing deliveries on-time, keeping fuel costs under control, and lowering emissions and carbon footprint.
- Risk for non-compliance with HOS regulations that require drivers to take a 30-minute break after driving for eight hours and a 10-hour break after driving for 14 hours. Fatigue increases the chances of an accident and puts truckers, other drivers, and pedestrians, and cargo at risk. Additionally, non-compliance means hefty fines — with the average fine for operating past 14 hours of duty at $7,322.
But with all the negatives surrounding truck parking, there’s some good news — by taking action, truckers can improve their luck in finding a safe space to park. These actions include:
Finding parking near your destination depends on where you are in the country and the time of day. If the area is a popular spot, park early. Or consider hauling loads at night, since parking is easier to find in the morning.
Think Ahead and Reserve Space at a Truck Stop —
If you know there are no parking spaces at the shipper or receiver location, reserve space online at a truck stop. Having a reservation will give you peace of mind that you’ll have a safe space to park, even if you run into delays along your route.
Utilize Apps to Find Rest Areas —
Rest areas are perfect spots for big rig parking. They have wide on and off-ramps, free parking, and typically have food options and restrooms. But they fill up quickly. Using truck parking apps will help you zone in on rest area parking options nearby. Just get there early.
Download a Trucker Parking App —
There are truck parking apps that simplify the search process by helping truckers find parking where they need it. Look for an app that integrates features such as live updates, repair shops, restaurants, hotel information, and automatic route loading.
Talk With Other Drivers —
Many rest areas aren’t heavily advertised, so a good option is speaking with other truckers. Ask what they know about any safe parking areas along your route. If face-to-face interaction is not an option, utilize online platforms or social media.
Truck Parking: Looking Ahead
While supply chain disruptions may slow the delivery of goods, the amount of freight tonnage is projected to increase, and the competition for safe parking space will continue to be a daily struggle for truckers.
With truck parking critical to owner-operators’ relationship with their customers and with their drivers as well as critical to the safety of their drivers and the general public, policies, programs, and solutions from the government and the marketplace should continue to make headway in addressing the parking shortage.
Available smart parking technologies and apps that provide real-time parking information, route planning via parking locations, parking reservation programs, plus federal funding for crucial truck parking projects are just the beginning of more and better solutions to the truck parking shortage.