Parking pinch

Max Kvidera | April 01, 2012

SMART DRIVING

 

Federal, state governments seek ways to provide parking availability info

Truck parking remains a hot topic for drivers.

Since the 1990s, the federal government and some states have launched studies and financed projects to address truck-parking availability. While most federally funded programs aren’t adding parking spaces, they are focusing on using Internet and electronic media to provide parking availability information to truckers.

Parking in an industrial area is a “last resort” for owner-operator Bryan Piersol. Since he often pulls oversize loads, he’s required to get off the road before dusk. He usually starts looking for parking spaces by mid-afternoon.

A few states have restored rest area parking that had been closed, but little new capacity has been added. Truckstop chains, however, are opening new facilities. Among the major truckstop chains, Pilot Flying J’s network numbers more than 550 facilities with more than 50,000 parking spaces. The company plans to open an unspecified number of new locations or acquired facilities in the future, a company spokesperson says.

TA Petro has more than 44,000 spaces at 230 sites, after adding about 2,000 spaces through acquisition and new sites last year. To its network of more than 17,200 spaces, Love’s plans to add as many as 1,000 parking spaces this year.

Truckers’ personal safety as it relates to parking figured into the death of Jason Rivenburg. The New York trucker was murdered three years ago while he was parked in an abandoned gas station after he was turned away from a warehouse because he was early for a delivery. A Congressional bill known as Jason’s Law that ensued provides $20 million annually for developing truck parking.

Truck parking is a nationwide problem, but the severity may depend on where you are. A 2005 FMCSA study measured the daily parking demand at 287,000 spaces compared with the daily supply at 309,000 spaces. This suggests less a parking shortage than an allocation issue in some areas.

State initiatives

California | The Golden State is developing a system that would provide a space reservation system and real-time information about parking availability. The initial phase of the five-year pilot program covers two test sites on Interstate 5. A second phase will add two public and four private sites to the program.

Florida | The Federal Highway Administration recently awarded $1 million to Florida to add 90 parking spaces at the Florida 595 Truck Stop in Davie. The goal is to add the spaces to the facility’s existing 35 paved spots by early 2013.

Some truckstops, like this one in northern California, charge for secure parking or exchange parking for fuel and other purchases.

Michigan | The state plans to focus an effort to develop an intelligent transportation system to deliver parking availability information on Interstate 94 from the Indiana state line to the Interstate 69 interchange. Enabled in part by a $4.4 million grant from the U.S. DOT, initially the project will wire five state facilities — four rest areas and a welcome center. Later, 15 truckstops will be outfitted with instruments.

Minnesota | The state received its own U.S. DOT grant of $2 million to help it target 100 miles of I-94 west of the Twin Cities for its project, aimed at mitigating driver fatigue with parking info. The state is preparing to install equipment at three rest areas and a Pilot truckstop. The state DOT and University of Minnesota will set up highway electronic message signs and a website for the anticipated rollout this summer.

The following states are pursuing projects enabled by 2010 DOT grant money:

Parking is so scarce on busy lanes that some drivers resort to parking in vacant lots, such as this one near Highway 99 in Ripon, Calif.

Oregon | Working with the Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Tribe of Indians, the state is adding parking spaces on Interstate 5 in the southern part of the state. The tribe runs a truckstop and rest area and may expand truck parking there.

Pennsylvania | Their $2.1 million grant covered an information system to alert truckers to parking availability at rest areas along Interstate 81. The state DOT is planning testing that will unfold this year before a potential rollout in 2013.

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