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.

Tennessee | The state DOT is still evaluating where to locate intelligent transportation systems with instrumentation to monitor parking space availability. The state’s $800,000 grant originally targeted facilities on Interstate 40.

Utah | Considering as many as 20 different options for increasing parking along Interstate 15, Utah looks to work with big-box retailers for parking availability along the key commercial route from Southern California ports, among other options.

Several other projects are also in the works:

Kentucky’s Truck Rest Haven program has provided truck parking at weigh and inspection stations along several interstates during the past few years.

In the past decade, Iowa has opened truck parking at abandoned weigh and inspection stations and reconfigured rest areas to add more spaces.

From 2002 to 2010, Missouri added more than 400 spaces at rest areas and former weigh stations.

For the past 20 years, federal and state transportation officials have been addressing traffic congestion and parking availability on the Interstate 95 corridor from Florida to Maine. Early projects focused on creating 511 information systems and other technology deployment.

 

PAY TO PARK

An alternative to parking at truckstops and rest areas is parking in private lots that offer security for a price. Many carriers maintain their own yards and make parking available, while private owners run lots in major markets.

In Phoenix, Security Truck Park offers more than 250 spaces for tractors and trailers in a secure lot fitted with cameras and patrolled by a guard. Delta Truck Parking in Otay Mesa, Calif., near San Diego has 110 spaces for truck and trailer parking for $10 a day just a mile from the Mexican border. Customers are long-haul and local operators.

TXS Secure Trailer Parking provides a network of more than 170 truck and trailer parking facilities around the country. Plans are to have as many as 300 facilities by the end of this year. The facilities are private lots and fleet yards that offer space to outside operators. Rates vary from $85 to $350 a month.

 

Truckstop apps

| TruckSmart | The 2.0 version of TA Petro’s app for iPhone and Android devices provides information on parking availability that is updated every two hours, the company says.

| MyPilot | Pilot Flying J’s app for iPhone and Android enables a user to select a location from among the company’s more than 550 facilities and review amenities and fuel prices.

| Love’s Connect | Available for iPhone, Android and Blackberry devices, Love’s app lists the number of parking spaces for each store page.

Among other smartphone apps with parking information:

• The National Trucker’s Service Directory: http://www.dieselboss.com, free; click on “Truckstops, Weigh Stations, Rest Areas.”

• Truck Stops: http://www.truckstopguide.com, $2.99.

• Trucker Tools: http://truckstopcoupons.com, provides a directory of diesel-selling locations nationwide, free.

• Truckster: provides crowd-sourced information on alternative parking locations nationwide, plus a national directory, free.

• TransCore’s MyDAT Trucker Services: provides information on nearby truck stops and fuel prices, as well as available loads, free.

• AllStays: http://www.allstays.com, Truck & Travel, $3.99; and Overnight Parking Walmart, $1.99.

 

PARKING GUIDE

Former trucker Ben Heckman has created a parking guide that covers truck-parking locations on Interstates and secondary roads.

OTR Parking Guide includes maps and lists parking facilities at truckstops and rest areas with exit numbers and mile markers. The information includes the relative size of the parking lot, services such as truck washes and scales and location of nearby Walmart stores.

“Drivers can use the maps for orientation and then flip the page for details about each parking location,” Heckman says.

The spiral-bound booklet comes in two formats — standard size for $59.95 and large-print size for $74.95. The guide is available at http://www.otrparking.com.

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