Everyone gets frustrated when searching for parking, but when you’re driving an 18-wheeler, finding a spot to take a break or park overnight can be daunting. That’s because there are about 1.5 million truck drivers on the road at any point in time yet fewer than 400,000 available parking spots. Some say the problem is less about enough parking and more about finding available parking spaces. Others say the ELD mandate is to blame. Addressing the issue will require taking both opinions into account (FreightWaves).

Source of the Truck Parking Problem  

Today’s shortage of available parking for truckers is likely due to a combination of four key factors:

  • Inadequate state funding making it difficult to provide more public parking spaces
  • Increased end-of-transit and less-than-truckload routes putting pressure on parking in urban areas
  • Greater demand for shipping putting increasingly more drivers and trucks on the roads
  • Hours-of-service driving restrictions limiting drive-time windows

ELD Mandate and the Truck Parking Problem

While experts debate the idea, anecdotal evidence suggests that parking has become more challenging since the ELD mandate took effect in December 2017. As many as 75 percent of truckers claim to struggle with finding parking on a regular basis. In particular, drivers cite trouble finding spots in locations where they need them. Because parking spaces in key locations fill up fast, many drivers need help locating alternative and hidden spots (FreightWaves).

While the mandate itself may not be causing the parking space problem, ELD data gathered from large over-the-road carriers does reveal a contributing issue: drivers consistently quit driving about 2 hours before their 14-hour clock runs out. Truck drivers are not immune to human nature, which means about 70 percent wake with the sun and start driving in the morning. Driven by their desire to find parking space for the night, many simply prioritize finding a safe place to stop, get a meal, and sleep before additional rolling time (FreightWaves). A recent poll supports this logic. About two-thirds of respondent drivers said they now find parking lots full or almost full earlier in the evening, and only about 6 percent claim to drive at night (Overdrive).

Emerging Solutions to the Truck Parking Problem

The truck parking problem is not lost on the transportation industry, and solutions are underway:

  1. Use Radar to Find Open Spots. As part of an 8-state partnership with the Mid America Association of State Transportation Officials (AASHTO), Iowa is using its share of a $25 million grant to install in-ground “puck” sensors and radar sensors that will help truckers locate open parking spaces in rest stops and private locations along I-80 (FreightWaves). Florida also installed a Truck Availability Parking System to monitor spaces at weigh stations and rest stop locations along heavily traveled interstates (FleetOwner).
  2. Reserve a Parking Space. Several websites and mobile apps allow drivers to reserve parking spots online, some free and some for a fee, with the idea to integrate data with ELDs in the future. The idea is to help drivers plan their routes around safe, available parking. Available apps include TruckPark, TruckerPath, TA, Prime Parking, Truck Parking USA, and others.
  3. Park with a Shipper of Choice. The terms “shipper of choice,” “receiver of choice,” and “preferred shipper” are often touted as best-case-scenarios for drivers and shippers alike. Such shippers are known to offer parking spaces to drivers for breaks, which earns them preferred status among weary drivers. Unfortunately, parking at shipper locations is not in abundance, but a new mobile app called Dock411 could change that. The app provides crowd-sourced driver reviews of loading dock locations and lets shippers outline services they offer to drivers, including parking. Shippers, take note:Rising freight demand, tougher regulations, and a current shortage of 60,000 drivers mean less available capacity for shippers. Because carriers will have the power to choose which customers they work with, it’s imperative to position your business as a preferred shipper. Offering amenities like safe overnight parking can go a long way in ensuring load coverage.

Improved Truck Parking Ahead

As truck drivers continue competing for safe places to park, the marketplace may very well address much of the parking shortage alongside the government. Innovative government programs, mobile parking apps and websites, and shipper alliances are just the start. In the meantime, all members of the supply chain need to consider ways to alleviate the problem. In the end, it affects your shipments, your customers, and your relationships with good drivers.