Connecticut turns to technology to address truck parking

June 6, 2024

Tyson Fisher


Connecticut is working on a truck parking app for drivers traveling through the Constitution State, but the researchers developing the app hope the technology can go beyond state lines and perhaps spark investment in parking expansion.

Truck parking is very much a safety issue. Eric Jackson, associate research professor at the University of Connecticut’s College of Engineering, has dedicated his career to transportation safety. Jackson is also the executive director of the Connecticut Transportation Institute, which works with both the U.S. and Connecticut Department of Transportation.

In 2022, Jackson and his team received a $1.72 million grant to develop a truck parking app, including $1.46 million from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and nearly $260,000 from CTDOT. The three-year pilot project tasks the university with creating a Truck Parking Information Management System that lets truckers know where free parking is available.

Mohammad Razaur Rahman Shaon, associate research scientist at the Connecticut Transportation Institute and the project’s primary investigator, is using CTDOT’s truck parking inventory for the app. According to the state’s freight plan, the parking inventory includes 30 sites: 20 rest areas/service plazas and 10 private truck stops. In total, the inventory includes 1,224 parking spots, 70% of which are located at the 10 truck stops.

Watch the full interview with the UConn researchers developing a truck parking app:

The project is similar to one completed by eight member states of the Mid America Association of State Transportation Officials (MAASTO): Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin. That system uses digital signs along the highways indicating available truck parking at rest areas down the road. Data is also being fed to a variety of parking apps and 511 websites.

Jackson and Shaon are one year into the first phase of the truck parking app project, which includes data collection and reviewing other programs such as MAASTO’s. In the next phase, the researchers will identify key corridors and build the technological framework that will be the center of the program.

With the truck parking app still in the early stages, it is not clear what it will look like and exactly what information will be included. Actual development of the app itself is not expected until next year.

Truck parking expansion unlikely

What is clear is that Connecticut is not likely to expand public truck parking facilities anytime soon.

Connecticut is the fourth most densely populated state. Consequently, available land is scarce and expensive, especially in the southwest corner near New York City. Building new parking spaces is “extremely cost prohibitive” in the state, Jackson said.

However, insightful data could encourage truck parking development. The American Transportation Research Institute is sharing GPS tracking data with UConn researchers. That data is being used to find out where truckers are parking, designated or not, and seeing if there is any correlation with crashes and parking hotspots.

“These could be future locations where either the Connecticut DOT or private companies need to start providing parking for truckers to try and prevent these types of crash events from occurring in the future,” Jackson said.

In its June 2023 truck parking study report, CTDOT identified several land use strategies, including working with local municipalities to identify and designate truck parking. The report also encourages private investments in truck stops and possible public-private partnerships. For example, businesses could be incentivized to allow truck parking on their lots. Information gleaned from UConn’s data could identify and focus on areas most in need.

Potential for a nationwide truck parking app

Although the Connecticut Transportation Institute is tasked with developing a truck parking app specific to Connecticut, researchers are hopeful their framework can expand beyond state lines.

Initially, the app will monitor truck parking at select sites within CTDOT’s parking inventory. Eventually, the app will expand to include more locations, maybe even outside the state.

Jackson and Shaon are hoping their project will encourage other states in the Northeast to implement a similar intelligent transportation system network, perhaps using their system as a framework. That could potentially lead to neighboring states integrating their data with Connecticut’s, creating a regional truck parking app.

This is similar to what MAATSO has done with its system. Information from all eight states is compiled in one database, allowing third-party apps to access real-time truck parking details in that region.

Meanwhile, the Washington State Department of Transportation is working with the University of Washington in a truck parking app pilot project very similar to CTDOT’s. The I-10 Truck Parking Availability System monitors parking in California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. That system is identical to MAATSO’s integrated network.

Like Washington, MAATSO and the I-10 corridor states, Connecticut’s application will be available to third parties. However, that still creates a patchwork of multiple databases. Jackson would like to see a standardized database or information structure that could feed into a national app.

“I think a nationwide solution is really where we need to go and not have a piecemeal patchwork of apps across the country,” he said. LL

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