There’s no question that truckers have an extraordinary important role in keeping America’s economy moving forward, a role that we’ve covered extensively in previous posts on this website. And to that extent, we’ve also covered some of the difficulties that truckers face – things like trying to stay healthy on the road, managing no-idling zones, mental health issues, government regulation and more. But one challenge that truckers often face that doesn’t seem to get enough coverage is the lack of adequate truck parking across the country.
For reference, of the estimated 3 million trucks on the road, only about 300,000 trucking parking spaces currently exist. That’s more than two-thirds of trucks that don’t have access to adequate parking at any given time in the United States. And while this may seem like no big deal, this lack of truck parking has proven to have some significant – and dire – consequences. This post will take a look at the consequences of inadequate truck parking and what can be done to resolve this important issue.
The Perils of Inadequate Truck Parking
As we mentioned in the previous section, a lack of truck parking comes with a bevy of consequences. These perils range from minor to serious.
On the serious side of things, simply put, an inadequate amount of truck parking threatens the safety of drivers. According to a report on Trucks.com, 40 semi-truck drivers were murdered during their trucking jobs in a span ranging from 2010 to 2014, something that industry groups blame on the current parking situation. Theft is also a big issue, as the report states that an overwhelming majority – 86 percent – of robberies to truckers occur in unsecured areas that drivers are forced to park in due to lack of availability.
What’s more is that the Trucks.com report stated that due to difficulty finding parking spots, some drivers just continue to drive, putting their safety at risk by going outside of their regulated daily operation hours. For evidence of this, just flashback to about a year ago, when a trucker fell asleep behind the wheel in North Carolina, overturning his truck and spilling tens of thousands of pounds worth of potatoes all across the interstate. The driver involved in the incident reported that he couldn’t find a place to park and didn’t want to be fined for parking illegally – so he just kept on going. As is the case for many drivers unable to find legal truck parking, one option they can choose is to park on a highway shoulder or ramp and hope not to be ticketed.
According to a report by the American Transportation Research Institute, or ATRI, which happens to be the research division of the American Trucking Associations group, a survey of 150 drivers found some disturbing commonalities. Notably, that truck parking is difficult to find in the four-hour span between midnight and 4 a.m. The survey found that about one-third of all truck-designated parking spots weren’t even being filled by trucks, but by non-commercial vehicles, further complicating the existing shortage of spots.
When asked by the ATRI to describe how often they had to park in unauthorized or non-trucking spaces, the results were alarming:
- Nearly 10 percent of all respondents said it happened every day.
- Over 12 percent of respondents said it occurred anywhere from five to seven times per week.
- The majority – 36.5 percent – said they parked elsewhere three to four times a week.
- Over 25 percent noted they do this one to two times a week.
- Over 5 percent said it happens to them twice a month.
- Only about 11 percent of all respondents say that it’s never happened to them (however, this may be misleading because these drivers may drive until they find a spot and not settle for parking in an unauthorized space).
Perhaps most alarming of all, the survey we’ve cited states that on average, drivers lose almost an hour of revenue drive time looking for parking spaces on a daily basis. This equals $4,600 yearly wage loss.
How Can the Truck Parking Issue Be Resolved?
So what’s the solution? Many argue that nothing should be done and truckers should merely adjust their schedules to drive during non-busy trucking periods (i.e. weekends) or adjust their shifts so that they’re resting outside of the peak parking hours of between midnight and 4 a.m.
But there has to be a better way.
One, obviously, is to increase the number of truck parking spots available across the country. According to Trucks.com, there have been over $231 million worth of requests submitted to the U.S. Department of Transportation (FHWA), yet only a fraction – about $20 million – has been approved. And these funds weren’t approved for increasing the amount of truck parking, but for the purchase of intelligent technology that can detect where truck parking spots are available along a driver’s route. The good news, however, is that the FHWA is researching and surveying the issue, and is more closely looking into truck parking availability on a state-by-state basis. It was prompted to do so in the winter of 2009 when a trucker was killed while cleaning out his truck in an abandoned gas station where he was forced to park when unable to find an adequate truck parking spot.
We suppose law enforcement could also ease or eliminate penalties for truckers that decide to park on highway shoulders and on ramps, but the safety issue remains pertinent in these situations.
While changes could be coming down the pike, the big key is for the industry to come together and explain the challenges that truckers face when they’re unable to find parking in order to accelerate the adoption of putting resources into creating more truck parking spaces. Perhaps even a lobbyist could aid the trucking industry in this operative. Whatever the solution, the good news is that there seems to be a increasing realization that there’s an issue with available truck parking. But it’s beyond time to find a solution.