Welcome to the trucking life, RV drivers

August 6, 2020

Tyson Fisher

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Parking at Walmart lots is an increasingly problematic proposition for large motor vehicles. It’s not just truckers feeling the pinch though. Drivers of recreational vehicles say they’re also being squeezed out.

Recently, CNN published a story with the headline “Walmart used to be a haven for RV parking, but more stores won’t allow it.” Apparently, this is new information for the masses. For truckers, this has been a problem for years.

According to CNN, more than three-quarters of Walmart stores allowed overnight RV parking in 2010. Today, that number is just above half of stores. Then, there was this gem in the article: “This presents a problem for scores of self-proclaimed nomads just looking for a place to settle after dark.”

Welcome to the trucking life, RV drivers!

Including magazine editions, Walmart appears in The Parking Zone in 10 editions since February 2018. In fact, this year’s March/April magazine’s Parking Zone has the headline “Attention Walmart parkers …”

Let’s break down what some of those entries entail:

  • February 2018 – Walmart fined $18,000 for truck parking.
  • August 2018 – Law enforcement in Midland, Texas, can only fine truckers illegally parked in residential areas, allowing truckers parked at a nearby Walmart to kind of get away with it.
  • May 2019 – Springfield, Ill., Walmart was strong-armed into banning truck parking.
  • June 2019 – In a letter to the editor, one concerned citizen pointed out the increased truck traffic in the area as a result of a new Walmart distribution center. Those trucks have been forced to park in a different lot due to a lack of parking closer to Walmart.
  • July 2019 – Truckers booted at Kentucky Walmart.
  • August 2019 – According to WKYT-TV, the Walmart in Willamsburg, Ky., off of Interstate 75 at the state border has hired a company to essentially patrol its parking lot. If they find a trucker parked on the lot, the company will boot the window (also known as a barnacle) and hit the trucker with a $500 fine. If the driver does not pay up within an hour, the truck gets towed.
  • October 2019 – “(Councilmember Bruce) Wissel previously said that Walmart, Petro and Love’s truck stops would allow trucks to stay there overnight, but one opponent said he made a phone call to Walmart and was told their truck would be towed if left overnight.”

One thing you will not find in the CNN article is even one example of an RV driver getting fined, booted or towed.

RV drivers also have more options when it comes to parking. Sure, it will cost some money, but for many, RVs are a form of recreational travel. However, trucking is a way of life, both personally and professionally. Paying for parking a few weeks out of the year is one thing. Paying for parking nearly every single day for most of your life is quite another issue.

Not only did CNN not address truck parking, but neither does Walmart in the FAQ section of its website.

The third question is “Can I park my RV at a Walmart store?” The answer:

“While we do not offer electrical service or accommodations typically necessary for RV customers, Walmart values RV travelers and considers them among our best customers. Consequently, we do permit RV parking on our store parking lots as we are able. Permission to park is extended by individual store managers, based on availability of parking space and local laws. Please contact management in each store to ensure accommodations before parking your RV.”

When Land Line reached out to Walmart earlier this year, a spokesperson gave a similar answer: “We have processes in place to comply with laws on this issue. Additionally, based on certain internal criteria, our store managers are empowered to make decisions that best meet the needs of their customers, community and the store.”

That was it.

RV drivers have another thing in common with truckers: bad apples spoiling the bunch. When theorizing why Walmart is cracking down on parking, this was brought up: “Some of these restrictions are due to RV travelers leaving litter in parking lots and dumping out wastewater from their toilets on the pavement.”

The vast majority of truckers are courteous people. However, I have received several emails over the years from truckers complaining about other truckers leaving bottles of certain liquids behind in parking lots. This is all it takes to persuade a store manager to shut down parking.

However, some RV drivers are parking in lots for more than 24 hours.

This is a problem more likely seen with RV drivers. Time is money for truckers, so any stay longer than overnight is essentially lost revenue. Perhaps RVs staying at Walmart stores for several days are partially to blame for parking bans?

One RV driver did have alternative parking options: casino parking lots, Airbnbs and apps that offer driveway rentals. Thanks for the tip. To reciprocate, here are some tips for RVers that truckers have learned over the years:

  • Never assume parking is allowed … anywhere.
  • Look closely for “no parking” signs.
  • Absent of signs, still contact the store manager to be sure.
  • Leave your mess inside your vehicle.
  • Don’t idle for too long. People do not like that.
  • Do not be loud.
  • Go in incognito mode. If you go unnoticed, there is nothing to be upset about. Hanging outside your vehicle (e.g., lawn chairs) can be unsightly.
  • If you’re asked to leave, leave. The alternative is a fine, a tow or both.

Good luck on your parking adventures, RV drivers. If your situation ends up anything like truckers’, you’ll need it.

Drive-in movies

While I was doing some research for this opinion piece, Walmart issued a news release on Aug. 5 (talk about bad timing): “Walmart Brings the Big Screen to Its Parking Lots Starting Aug. 14.”

So a few trucks or RVs parking overnight is not OK, but allowing a bunch of people to watch a movie in their cars in the parking lot is A-OK? Have you seen a drive-in parking lot after a movie? It’s worse than anything a few truckers or RV travelers can do.

There are 160 locations participating in this event. Land Line had to call only three locations to find two that do not allow overnight truck parking. Even though the drive-in deal is only a few days, it still sends a mixed message at some locations.

Tyson Fisher

Tyson Fisher joined Land Line Magazine in March 2014. An award-winning journalist and tireless researcher, his news reports, features and blogs bring depth to our editorial content, backed with solid detail. Tyson is a lifelong Kansas Citian.