Truck Parking Inc.
When it comes to truck parking, the private sector is providing the lion’s share.
Almost 90% of truck parking spaces derive from the private sector, i.e., truck stops. Meanwhile, the government continues to use its resources on studies and workshops. What exactly are both sectors doing to solve the truck parking crisis? Let’s take a look.
Of the more than 300,000 truck parking spaces identified in Jason’s Law survey results, 272,000 of those spaces are at private truck stops.
Although these private companies are providing the bulk of the nation’s truck parking spots, the high demand has given them the incentive to do even more.
Take Pilot Flying J. In addition to providing parking spaces, PFJ has revamped its mobile app to help drivers reduce time spent searching for parking through Prime Parking reservations. The app also allows all drivers, not just truckers, to plan their trip ahead of time by knowing which locations on their route have the amenities they need.
TravelCenters of America is taking a similar approach with technology. TA’s app is called TruckSmart. Much like PFJ’s app, TruckSmart allows truckers to map out their trip and use its Reserve-It! program. These reservations can be valuable at locations known to have severely limited parking.
Love’s Travel Stops also has an app, but unlike the other two companies, it does not have reserved, paid parking at any of its locations. Mapping abilities to plan a trip are available. Love’s also is expanding parking with new locations and additions to existing locations.
Something worth noting about all three apps: They do not provide real-time parking availability. In order to offer that information, every parking space would require a sensor, and those cost money. Some truck stops are testing the idea at certain locations, but to include sensors at every location is too costly. Besides, if there ever comes a day when parking is efficient, there will be no need for that technology. However, TravelCenters of America does a manual parking count approximately every two hours.
All of these offerings from the private sector do not come easy. A spokesperson for TravelCenters of America acknowledged some resistance that comes from the local communities.
Known as the Not In My Backyard – or NIMBY – crowd, some residents try to stop a new location from opening or prevent the expansion of a current location. TA said that one way to overcome this challenge is to build a good relationship with the community and to educate residents. This not only includes pointing out the importance of the trucking industry but also letting residents know about the number of people the truck stop employs and the taxes paid to the city.
Representing a little more than 10% of the nation’s truck parking spaces, the government has arguably not done enough to alleviate the problem. In recent years, efforts have focused on studies and technology.
Jason’s Law was a truck parking-related provision included in the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act of 2012. It called for a survey for the government to use to pinpoint exactly where the problem areas are. Results for the survey were released in
Nearly four years later, the federal government’s follow-up to Jason’s Law survey isn’t a plan to establish more parking in those areas. Rather, the response to Jason’s Law survey is a second bite of the apple, with Jason’s Law survey 2.0, currently underway.
Results for the second version of Jason’s Law survey, which will likely reveal mostly the same information as the first edition, won’t be available until 2020, nearly a decade after Jason’ Law was signed. So what does the federal government have to show for a decade’s worth of work?
Mobile apps and signs.
The Federal Highway Administration has been giving states millions of dollars to implement what is called the Truck Parking Information and Management System, or TPIMS. Eight states in the Midwest were awarded
$25 million to build an app and electronic signs along the highway to notify truckers how many parking spaces are – or are not – available.
One advantage the government’s app has over the apps in the private sector is real-time monitoring of spaces. Wherever the technology is used, sensors are located within every truck parking space. Then again, when there are very few spaces to pay for, the cost is relatively negligible. For example, Pilot Flying J provides twice as many truck parking spaces (73,000) as every public rest area combined (36,000).
Similar measures of studies and apps are being taken at the state level as well. Some states, like Missouri, are doing their part by turning old weigh stations into truck-only parking lots. However, those states are anomalies, not the norm.
At the local level, Jason’s Law survey explicitly acknowledges the NIMBY issues in a section titled “Changing Public Perception on Truck Parking.” The report states, “Public acceptance of the solutions is critical to eliminating opposition to expanding facilities and to raising awareness about the challenge of illegal or unofficial truck parking practices.”
Based on the battle private truck stops are having setting up new locations, public acceptance remains a hurdle in many communities. LL