Finding safe, secure, legal parking locations has been an age-old problem for the trucking industry. Whether taking a quick break, or a full off-duty rest period, truck drivers are always on the lookout for a place to park. Manual paper log books can be ‘fudged’, allowing the driver to run a few more miles to get to a safe parking area. Not so with Electronic Logging Devices. Any overrun of the legal hours will show as a violation.
Many companies have already transitioned to ELD’s both for the benefits of controlling Hours-of-Service, and in preparation for the December mandate. In field studies conducted by the American Transportation Research Institute, drivers using ELD’s had a higher amount of lost remaining drive time per day than non-ELD drivers. This is caused by drivers’ concern for HOS violations – they will err on the side of taking a safe parking spot, rather than risk running out of hours further down the road and having to park unsafely or illegally. In one 14-day study, only 14% of drivers had less than 30 minutes per day of unused driving time. The rest of the drivers left up to 2 hours per day on the road. That’s a lot of lost driving time and productivity.
Drivers use a combination of the internet, smartphone applications, experience, travel books, etc. to plan their rest stops. Even if the driver knows there’s a spot within his driving range, there’s no guarantee that there will be room for him. Many locations are very busy, and often at capacity with commercial and non-commercial vehicles. Peak times are from 4 pm to midnight. Some truck stops have reserved parking for a fee. Drivers aren’t keen on the cost, and the possibility of being delayed and not being able to get to the reserved spot.
There are no easy solutions to the truck parking issue, but there are improvements that can be made:
Highway and City Authorities
- Increase studies to identify parking area usage and actual demand.
- Provide real-time updates on parking availability on major routes.
- Expand or create large, safe parking areas at critical route points. (eg. near the legal driving range from major cities)
- Evaluate, create and publicize new parking opportunities in industrial areas.
- Only a few truck stop chains have reserved parking.
- Many truck stops have poor parking enforcement. Bobtails and straight trucks are parking in spots that would fit a full b-train rig. Some drivers take up 2 spots, just because they can.
- Locations rarely have adequate, or any, rest parking for commercial vehicles.
- Parking availability will probably soon become a freight rate negotiation consideration.
It will be interesting to watch how ELD’s and the parking issue develop over the next two years.