ATRI suggests solutions for parking problems

Last week, we addressed the parking issues many commercial truck drivers face. In fact, it’s such a problem that the American Transportation Research Institute’s 2017 survey of the industry’s most pressing issues ranks the shortage of available truck parking fourth, right behind the driver shortage, the ELD mandate, and Hours of Service.

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With more and more drivers being forced to choose between driving beyond allowable hours of service rules or parking in undesignated, often dangerous areas, the trucking industry needs solutions to this very real problem.

In their recent survey, the ATRI outlined three strategies targeting the growing scarcity of truck parking.

Strategy #1: Support and encourage investment in new truck parking facilities

A majority of those who participated in the ATRI’s survey (69.4 percent) suggest that they would combat the parking problem by increasing the capacity of truck parking. While this sounds simple enough, funding for truck stops and rest areas is usually one of the first items cut during periods of state budget shortfalls, according to the ATRI.

On top of that, when it comes to funding, parking woes are in direct competition with a D+, crumbling federal infrastructure. With the Highway Trust Fund teetering on the brink of insolvency, it seems there simply isn’t enough to go around.

President Donald Trump appeared to be taking a vested interest in issues like this within the federal infrastructure earlier in the year with his $1.5 trillion infrastructure plan.

However, this plan has encountered a roadblock in Congress, and the very architect of Trump’s plan, supposedly the "biggest and boldest infrastructure plan in the last half-century," announced April 4 that he is leaving the White House and “moving on to new opportunities.”

Although Trump’s much-touted plan is experiencing setbacks, hope could lie in the American Trucking Association’s “Build America Fund,” which aims to help bolster revenue for the Highway Trust Fund. The ATA’s solution? Hike federal fuel taxes annually for four years, generating $340 billion in new revenue over the first 10 years, according to the ATA.

ATRI agrees that raising fuel taxes could be a part of the solution. Their “Highway Funding Analysis” report shows an adequate increase in the federal fuel tax would help solve both the parking and infrastructure issues.

Strategy #2: Educate the public sector on the safety consequences resulting from closing public parking facilities and failing to expand truck parking availability

Last week, we mentioned a tragic situation in 2009 where a truck driver, Jason Rivenburg, was shot fatally while sleeping in his trailer.  Ahead of schedule for a delivery and prohibited from parking at his drop off destination, Jason was forced to pull into an abandoned gas station– the only place with available parking in the area.

This is unacceptable. Things like this just shouldn’t happen. Truck drivers are fathers and mothers and sons and daughters. They have people who love them and depend on them. The public needs to be aware that men and women like Jason, who left behind a wife a three children, deserve a safe place to park their trucks.

It’s that simple. Truckers shouldn’t have to choose between driving drowsily beyond their hours of service, or parking in a potentially dangerous area like Jason was forced to do. The public needs to be aware that this is a choice many drivers must make every day.

The public also should realize that a lack of truck parking not only impacts drivers, it also affects their own safety on the road, specifically on highway shoulders or ramps.

The ATRI’s truck parking diary research revealed just how frequently drivers are forced to park in undesignated/unauthorized truck parking locations like highway shoulders or ramps, with 48.7 percent of drivers reporting that the parking shortage leads them to do so from three to seven times per week.

According to the ATRI, “this is the preferred strategy for 29 percent of respondents, indicating that many in the industry hope that educating state and local officials on the critical need for safe truck parking facilities could lead to new investments.”

Strategy #3: Research the role and value of real-time truck parking information availability and truck parking reservation systems.

A small percentage of survey respondents (7.2 percent) preferred “leveraging technological advancements to develop real-time truck parking solutions.”

This idea began when the ATRI designed the Truck Parking Information Management System (TPIMS) used by the MN Department of Transportation.

“Later, this expanded to the Mid America Association of State Transportation Officials (MAASTO) Truck Parking Information Management Systems (TPIMS), which was funded through a $25 million TIGER grant. When fully deployed, the MAASTO TPIMS will deliver real-time truck parking availability information to commercial drivers in eight Midwest states,” according to the ATRI.

The catch? This is a strategy where there is considerable public sector interest and investment, according to the ATRI.

Now that the ATRI has outlined their ideas about how to fix the transportation industry’s parking problems, it’s time to put these ideas into practice to create safe parking solutions for commercial drivers everywhere.