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Publication Number: FHWA-RD-01-160
Date: March 2002

Commercial Vehicle Driver Survey: Assessment of Parking Needs and Preferences

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2.0. METHODOLOGY

2.1. Survey Development

The "Truck Parking Needs and Preferences" survey (see appendix A) developed for this study was designed and organized with the help of many industry stakeholders.  As part of the survey development process, a working meeting was held with stakeholders from across the Country.  During the working meeting, participants reviewed a draft "Truck Parking Needs and Preferences" survey and provided feedback on survey format and on question content and format.  Communication with the stakeholders began before the draft survey was generated and continued after the stakeholder meeting for subsequent survey revisions.  Stakeholders represented varied, sometimes opposite, perspectives and included State enforcement and department of transportation officials, motor carriers, private truck stop operators, commercial drivers, and safety advocates.  The final survey reflected a comprehensive examination of truck drivers' parking needs and preferences. 

The survey functioned not only to provide an understanding of truck drivers' parking needs and preferences, but also to provide input into the parking demand model developed as part of this study.  During survey development, the survey designers consulted with the parking demand modelers to ensure that the survey included appropriate model-related questions.  As a result, the survey gathered driver feedback on the number of days per month that drivers sleep at home, the number of times per week that drivers sleep at shipper or receiver locations, and the drivers' preferences for public versus private parking facilities.  These data provided modelers critical insight into drivers' travel patterns and behaviors and supplied data for several of the models' parameters.(3)    

To ensure that the length, content, and format of the survey were acceptable to truck drivers, 40 truck drivers completed the survey and provided feedback during a pilot data collection period.  The survey team and stakeholders were concerned that the six-page survey would be too long for drivers to complete given their tight schedules.  Although some drivers suggested that the survey length should be shortened, many not only completed the survey, but also took extra time to write additional comments and provide unsolicited verbal feedback to the surveyors.  Drivers recommended that the survey be distributed at private truck stops rather than at public rest areas so that drivers could complete the survey while waiting for their laundry, eating dinner, or resting for the night.  The drivers' recommendation was well founded; when surveys were subsequently distributed at truck stops, nearly all drivers who were approached by surveyors did complete the survey.

2.2. Survey Distribution and Collection

Surveys were distributed to a national sample of truck drivers both directly, through site visits to truck stops, and indirectly, through mailings to truck stops.  A total of 2,046 completed surveys were collected.  During site visits, survey teams collected 1,042 completed surveys.  Surveyors experienced overwhelmingly high response rates after briefly explaining the purpose of the survey to drivers.  In fact, the survey team estimates achieving response rates above 80 percent during nearly every site visit.  An additional 4,400 surveys were mailed out to 22 truck stops across the Country.  Close to 1,100 surveys were returned, yielding a response rate of 24 percent for the mail-out distribution.

Locations for the site visits and mail-out distributions were chosen in order to reach a nationally representative sample of drivers.  Before embarking on the major data collection task, the survey team tested distribution methods by visiting both public and private truck parking facilities on the east coast.  During this pilot test, drivers made it clear that when at public rest areas they do not have time to participate in the study.  However, at private truck stops, drivers generally agreed to fill out the survey during their stay.  To determine whether omitting rest areas from the list of distribution locations would limit the sample of short-haul drivers, the survey team asked short-haul drivers if they use truck stops as often as they use rest areas.  Short-haul drivers consistently indicated that they use both types of facilities equally.  Therefore, to maximize response rate and minimize negative impact on drivers' time, truck stops were used exclusively for the survey distribution.

To ensure that the sample would be representative of a national sample of drivers, survey distribution sites were located in 27 States along major trucking corridors on the National Highway System (see figure 1).  All regions of the United States were included.

Figure 1. States included as distribution sites. Map of the 48 contiguous States highlighting those States in which driver surveys were distributed

Figure 1. States included as distribution sites.

2.2.1. Site Visit Procedure

During site visits, surveyors followed a standard protocol.  Teams of two survey members each visited truck stops during lunch and dinner hours (11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.) to encounter as many drivers as possible.  Drivers were observed getting out of their trucks and were approached when they reached the entrance of a truck stop building.  Whenever possible, the survey team members positioned themselves outside the entrance used principally by truck drivers.  The survey team used the following greeting to inform drivers about the survey.  The bold-faced words were considered key words and were the words that a surveyor focused on if he or she had to talk quickly to a busy driver.

Greeting: Hello, we are doing a nationwide study on truck parkingCongress has mandated that information be collected to show whether there is a shortage or surplus of truck parking in truck stops and rest areas, so we are going across the Country to talk to truck drivers like you about this issue.  We know that drivers know better than anyone whether there are problems with truck parking and we want to gather as much written evidence of drivers' opinions on this subject as possible. 

If drivers requested more information, the greeting continued as follows:

Greeting continued: We will be presenting the opinions of the thousands of drivers we talk to through a report to DOT and Congress in the summer of 2001.  We want to make sure that drivers have a say in determining what problems there are, if any, with parking and, if there are problems, what should be done to improve the truck parking situation.   

The surveyors informed drivers that the surveys could be completed anywhere (for example, in a truck or restaurant) as long as the completed surveys were returned to the surveyors by a specified time (i.e., the departure time of the survey team).

For each site visited, surveyors filled out a "Survey Batch Information" sheet.   This sheet included space to record the date, facility identification, road, direction, beginning survey ID, and ending survey ID.  This information was entered into the database to identify each survey.  One batch number was assigned for every site visited.

2.2.2. Site Visit Materials

The survey team brought the following materials to each site they visited:

  • Two hundred surveys.
  • Twenty-five sharpened pencils.
  • Twenty business cards for distribution at drivers' request.
  • One survey batch information sheet.
  • Pencil sharpener.
  • Stapler.

2.2.3. Mail-Out Procedure

Truck stops were chosen for inclusion in the mail-out phase of the survey distribution based on their locations.  The survey team coordinated with the National Association of Truck Stop Operators (NATSO) Foundation to contact the appropriate truck stop operators for permission to include the site in the study.   Nearly all truck stop operators agreed to participate in the study.  Mail-out packets were distributed to the appropriate truck stop managers.  The packets contained everything the manager would need for distributing, collecting, and returning the surveys.  One member of the survey team followed up with each manager by phone to ensure that proper distribution and collection procedures were followed.  Managers displayed the blank surveys in such heavily traveled areas of the truck stop as restaurant counters, truck drivers' entrances, and fuel counters.  Signs were prepared for managers to place near the distribution location to alert drivers about the survey.  Surveys were distributed in this manner for up to one week.  A clearly visible sign informed drivers to return their completed surveys to a "return box" by a designated time each night.  Managers emptied the return box each night and at the conclusion of the distribution period, they mailed the surveys, at no charge to the truck stop, to a survey team member using a team express mail account.  The returned surveys from each site were identified with a unique pre-printed code to identify the location where the surveys were collected.

2.2.4. Mail-Out Materials 

The mail-out packets sent to truck stops for distribution included the following materials:

  • Two hundred pre-coded surveys.
  • One distribution box for displaying blank surveys.
  • One return box for collecting completed surveys.
  • One 8-in x 10-in sign (in frame) and one poster-size sign for advertising the survey to truck stop patrons and for providing instructions to respondents.
  • One self-addressed, pre-paid express shipping label.
  • One step-by-step instruction sheet for truck stop managers.
  • Tape for securing signs and sending the return box to the survey team.

2.2.5. Data Coding and Entry

The completed surveys were scanned into an electronic database using survey development and data scanning software.  Prior to data scanning, the survey team developed coding specifications for each item in the survey and entered those specifications into a blank electronic data file.  The data were then scanned into that data file for analysis with a statistical software package.

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