Posted December 10, 2021

Finding Solutions to the Truck Parking Shortage

By Grace Tino

“Driver shortage,” “supply chain crisis,” and “increased consumer demand” are current buzzing phrases in the trucking industry, particularly over the last two years. Drivers, however, face more challenges than these when on the road. As a trucker, you work one of the toughest jobs in the country. Long hours of driving, extended periods away from home, and tight deadlines are factors that already make a trucker’s job suited for strong and dedicated workers only. Adding to these concerns is the growing lack of safe overnight parking for drivers on the road. After a long day navigating winding roads, traffic, and dangerous weather, worrying about finding a place to rest off-duty should not have to be another challenge to tack on to a long day. While the parking shortage has been an ongoing crisis, hope is arising from multiple government and research bodies aiming to help truckers reduce their stress and struggles.

Parking has been a major concern for truckers for over a decade, but the shortage has significantly worsened in the last several years. Studies addressing truck parking date back as far as 2009, when Jason’s Law was first introduced as a way to call attention to the dangers the parking shortage can bring to drivers and resulted in yearly surveys. Most recent findings from the Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA) survey revealed that 72% of states report having problems with truck parking availability. However, when industry workers such as drivers themselves, truck stop workers, and other logistics personnel were asked the same question, nearly 100% reported having struggles with truck parking in any area. A large contributor to the problem began with truck stop closures during the recession, as well as the increasing number of trucks on the road without infrastructure being increased alongside to compensate. The complications of the COVID-19 pandemic only further worsened the problem for truckers under a lot of duress to keep the country moving. A study from the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) found that truck parking was the number three concern for industry drivers; this was an increase of two spots on the list from their 2019 pre-pandemic findings. Additionally, the ATRI has found that there are only an estimated 313,000 designated parking spaces nationwide for over 3.5 million truckers.

Safe and reliable parking for truckers is absolutely crucial to their safety and career success. Part of the importance of readily available parking is for the health of the driver and his/her ability to get a proper amount of rest. House-of-service (HOS) regulations complicate parking for truckers operating under strict time constraints. Drivers can only legally operate their vehicles within set time limits, making after-hours driving technically illegal. Truckers must optimize their operating hours carefully to be efficient and prompt to their destinations; therefore, parking as close as possible to your delivery site is critical to your success. Additionally, the amount of time it takes to find a parking spot can be a detriment to pay and efficiency. Drivers spend up to an average of 56 minutes per day looking for parking spaces early so they do not need to search last-minute before operating hours end. This time can cost you about a 12% cut in your annual pay!

The lack of parking presents not only a logistical concern to the job, but a safety concern as well. If drivers are unable to find a safe parking space for the night, they are often forced to resort to parking on ramps and roadsides that are not designed for tractor-trailers. Parking along a ramp and roadsides present a danger not just for truckers but other vehicles on the road, and law enforcement will often force drivers to move partially through the night. In addition, unsafe parking lots present a threat to truckers from robberies and other crimes. Another concern is not only where to park and sleep, but if those locations offer proper facilities such as restrooms, showers, and dining.Truckers are now faced with an ongoing concern for their jobs and safety, and are often unsure of where they will be able to rest for a night.

In response to growing concerns around truck parking, industry experts and government officials have been taking action to study the situation and create lasting solutions.Thanks to the awareness of Jason’s Law and other active driver voices. Research bodies such as the FHWA, ATRI, and the ATA have stepped up to research the sources of the parking crisis, hear truckers’ opinions, and develop creative solutions. For example, the FHWA recently held nine workshops across the country to research and brainstorm around the crisis. In fact, the FHWA notes that the most valuable information surrounding the crisis, as well as sources for ideas to solve it, come from truckers themselves! While funding from the federal government to develop more parking infrastructure has been hitting standstills, local governments and research organizations are working on their own ideas for the problem. One proposed solution has been for warehouses and other load sites to provide parking for drivers who often have to wait while deliveries and shipments get delayed. Others suggest that big-box stores, unused industrial parks, and other sites with large parking lots are converted into emergency parking spaces. Pushes from organizations such as the Owner-Operator Independent Driver Association continue to bring funding needs to the forefront of infrastructure spending.

In the meantime, many apps developed specifically for truckers have been released to help you find parking and cut down on the time spent searching for spaces. Though these apps are newer, and often restricted more regionally, they can be very useful to a trucker unsure of where to look and wanting to plan ahead. One app determined to help truckers is Roadbreakers, which collects comments and tips from truckers on the road to help others in finding potential spaces. Drivers can also share feedback on facilities such as showers and dining to help others in need. Other apps seeking to help truckers with their parking concerns include Trucker Path, Park My Truck, DAT Trucker, and Truckkbubba.

As a trucker, you are one of the hardest-working people in the country. While you carry the concerns of the supply chain crisis every day on the road, finding safe and reliable parking is another concern of high importance. A key takeaway from recent progress is that finally, larger bodies in the government and logistics industry are hearing your concerns, and taking much-needed action.