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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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3.0. RESULTS

Survey data were analyzed to examine driver opinions within three topic areas:

  • Parking availability and usability.
  • Parking patterns and preferences.
  • Parking solutions.

This section of the report presents the results of those analyses. The section begins with a discussion of the respondents' demographic characteristics.

3.1. Demographics

Approximately 90 percent of the survey respondents reported that they are male and about 10 percent reported they are female. Despite efforts to enable and encourage short-haul drivers to complete the survey, only three percent (n = 57) of the respondents identified themselves as short-haul drivers. Ninety-seven percent reported that they are typically long-haul drivers.

Twenty-six percent of drivers identified themselves as independent owner/operators. Five percent are employed by independent owner/operators. Seven percent are employed by small carriers (2-10 power units). Seventeen percent drive for mid-sized carriers (11-100 power units), while 43 percent reported that they drive for large-sized carriers (carriers with over 100 power units).

When asked to report the frequency with which they participate in team driving, the majority of drivers (72 percent) indicated that they "rarely" or "almost never" participate in team driving. In fact, only 16 percent of drivers indicated that they "almost always" participate in team driving; four percent marked "frequently" and nine percent marked "sometimes." Participation in team driving did not generally vary by the type of driver (e.g., independent owner/operator, driver for large-sized carrier).

Throughout the United States, surveys were distributed along corridors with various truck volumes (see figure 2). The survey distribution points were categorized according to the truck volume on the roadway where the distribution point is found. Approximately 38 percent of the sampled distribution points have truck volumes of 15,001 to 20,000 trucks per day. Fifteen percent have truck volumes of 10,001 to 15,000 trucks per day; 24 percent have volumes of 5,001 to 10,000 trucks per day; and 23 percent have truck volumes of 5,000 trucks or less per day.

Figure 2. Percent of respondents by truck volume corridor categories. Pie chart depicting the following distribution of respondents: 23 percent from corridors with less than 5,000 trucks per day, 24 percent from corridors with 5,001 to 10,000 trucks per day, 15 percent from corridors with 10,001 to 15,000 trucks per day, and 38 percent from corridors with 15,001 to 20,000 trucks per day

Figure 2. Percent of respondents by tryck volume corridor categories.

Drivers reported the city and state of their home base (i.e., normal work reporting location). Forty-nine States and six Canadian provinces served as home bases for the responding drivers. Texas and Tennessee were the two most frequently reported home base States, with seven percent and six percent of the respondents, respectively, reporting these States. When drivers completed the survey, 30 percent of them were between 500 and 999 miles away from their home base. Twenty-eight percent were between 1,000 and 1,999 miles from their home base; and 20 percent were 200 to 499 miles from their home base. Fewer respondents were very close or very far from their home base. Twelve percent were fewer than 200 miles away, while 11 percent were more than 2,000 miles away.

3.2. Parking Availability and Usability

3.2.1. Are There Enough Parking Spaces?

Drivers were asked how frequently they encounter available parking at public and private truck parking facilities. Among the overall sample, only 11 percent of respondents indicated that they frequently or almost always find available parking at rest areas and only about one-third of respondents reported that they frequently or almost always find available parking at private truck stops (see figure 3). Nearly 90 percent of respondents indicated that they sometimes, rarely, or almost never find available parking at rest areas; while two-thirds reported that they sometimes, rarely, or almost never find available parking at truck stops.

Figure 3. Frequency with which drivers find available parking at truck stops and rest areas. Histogram depicting the following frequencies for truck stops (9 percent almost always, 25 percent frequently, 51 percent sometimes, 12 percent rarely, and 4 percent almost never) and rest areas (2 percent almost always, 9 percent frequently, 41 percent sometimes, 34 percent rarely, and 14 percent almost never

Figure 3. Frequency with which drivers find available parking at truck stops and rest areas.

Drivers were asked how frequently they encounter available truck stop and rest area parking within the context of their general experience and within the context of the trip they were making when filling out the survey.Respondents reported slightly more positive impressions of parking space availability in the context of their trip than in the context of their general experiences. Specific to the trip they were making, 15 percent of respondents reported that truck stops almost always have available parking, while only nine percent of respondents made the same statement in the context of their general experience.Six percent of respondents reported that rest areas almost always have available parking on the trip they were making at that time; only two percent reported that rest areas, in general, almost always have available parking.

Drivers also had the opportunity to rate how often their next stop (e.g., shipper or receiver) has available parking.The most frequently reported response (by 40 percent of sample) was that sometimes their next stop has available parking.Thirty-seven percent of drivers reported that their next stop has available parking rarely or almost never.Twenty-three percent indicated that their next stop has available parking frequently or almost always.

Several hundred drivers provided written and verbal comments, both solicited and unsolicited, regarding the availability of truck parking.Overwhelmingly, drivers remarked that there are not enough parking spaces at truck stops or rest areas.Drivers complained of a lack of parking availability particularly in the overnight hours.Drivers also reported that more parking is needed near metropolitan areas and in certain regions of the country (e.g., Northeast, Southern California, Northwest).

3.2.2. How Useable are the Parking Spaces?

Because the number of available parking spaces is only part of the parking picture, respondents were asked to report how frequently truck parking spaces have certain usability characteristics. Drivers rated how frequently available parking is convenient to the highway, has the features they need, has time limits that allow enough time for their needs, has enough room for them to maneuver their trucks in and out, and is used only by trucks. Respondents gave mixed ratings for all these usability characteristics (see table 1). For each of these usability characteristics, sometimes [I encounter this characteristic] was the most frequently reported driver response. The usability characteristic that was most often encountered by respondents (i.e., most often given ratings of frequently or almost always) was "available parking has the features I need" - marked by 51 percent of respondents. Thirty-nine percent of respondents indicated that available parking is frequently or almost always convenient to the highway.

Table 1. Frequency of encountering usability characteristics in truck parking.
Usability Characteristic
Almost Always
Frequently
Sometimes
Rarely
Almost Never
Parking is convenient to highway
9%
30%
41%
12%
7%
Facility has features needed
15%
36%
38%
7%
3%
Parking time limits allow enough time
15%
22%
30%
18%
15%
Parking allows enough room to drive in and out
8%
24%
48%
15%
6%
Truck spaces used only by trucks
9%
25%
34%
20%
12%

Note: Due to rounding, percentages may not sum to 100.

3.3. Parking Patterns and Preferences

3.3.1. How Often Do Drivers Sleep at Home?

Drivers reported sleeping at home anywhere from zero to 31 days per month. On average, drivers reported sleeping at home seven days each month. However, there was tremendous variation in drivers' responses to this question (standard deviation = 5.65 days). Twenty-one percent of respondents sleep at home only four days per month, which was the most frequently reported response to this question. Two-thirds of respondents sleep at home seven days or less each month. Only about four percent of the sample sleeps at home more than 21 days per month. Because the sample comprises so few short-haul drivers, when long‑haul drivers were considered separately from short-haul drivers the distribution of responses remained very much the same. The 56 short-haul drivers who answered this question gave much different responses than the long-haul drivers. They most often reported sleeping at home 30 days per month, with a mean response of 23 days. Although short-haul drivers would be expected to sleep at home much more frequently than long‑haul drivers, nearly one-quarter of the short-haul drivers sampled in this study reported that they sleep at home less than half the days each month. This suggests that even short-haul drivers may use parking facilities for long-term rest.

3.3.2. Where Do Drivers Park?

Drivers reported the number of times per week that they park in various locations for long-term rest (see figure 4). More than 90 percent of respondents reported that they park in truck stops for long-term rest. On average, they park at truck stops for long-term rest four times per week, with about 15 percent parking there seven or more times per week. Two-thirds of respondents reported that they park an average of two times per week at rest areas for long-term rest. Sixty percent of respondents indicated that they park at loading or unloading docks for long-term rest. Loading and unloading docks are used an average of three times per week for long-term rest. Eighteen percent of respondents do not park to sleep because they sleep in sleeper berths while their driving partner drives.

Figure 4. Locations chosen for long-term rest. Histogram depicting the percentage of respondents who reported parking for long term rest in various locations: more than 90 percent in truck stops, two-thirds in rest areas, 21 percent in lots not for trucks, 11 percent on highway shoulders, one-third on entrance or exit ramps, 18 percent do not park to sleep because they sleep in sleeper berths while their driving partner drives, and 60 percent at loading docks

Figure 4. Locations chosen for long-term rest.

Some drivers indicated that for long-term rest they park in places not designated for truck parking. One-third reported that they park on entrance or exit ramps, 21 percent in parking lots not designated for truck parking, and 11 percent on highway shoulders. On average, drivers who park in these places for long-term rest do so two times per week. Almost 40 percent of drivers who park in these unconventional locations indicated that alternative parking, if made available, would improve the parking situation. Perhaps these respondents would make use of alternative parking areas and park less often in locations not designated for truck parking.

Drivers' reports of where they park to sleep for long-term rest were examined in light of driver type (i.e., independent owner/operator, driver for owner/operator, driver for small-, mid-, or large-sized carrier). Driver type generally made no difference in the places where drivers park for long-term rest.

In addition to reporting general parking patterns, drivers reported trip-specific parking behaviors. Drivers identified where they last parked their trucks to sleep and where they would next park their trucks to sleep. Fifty-six percent last parked at a truck stop, eight percent last parked at a rest area, four percent last parked on an entrance or exit ramp, and 10 percent last parked at a loading or unloading dock. Fifty-eight percent reported that they would next park at a truck stop, seven percent at a rest area, two percent on an entrance or exit ramp, and 14 percent at a loading or unloading dock. Driver type showed a limited effect on where drivers last parked and would next park. Zero percent of independent owner/operators (with more than one power unit) reported last parking at rest areas to sleep, compared to eight percent of the overall sample. Fifteen percent of respondents who drive for small-sized carriers indicated that they last parked at a rest area to sleep (versus eight percent overall); however, only three percent of the same sample of respondents reported that they plan to park next at a rest area (versus seven percent overall).

3.3.3. Who Decides Where Drivers Park and When is the Decision Made?

Drivers were asked who decides where they will park and when the decision is made about where they will park. For both these questions, drivers were able to mark multiple response choices. All types of drivers (that is, independent owner/operators; drivers for independent owner/operators; and drivers for small-, mid-, or large-sized carriers) responded similarly to these parking decision questions. Overall, 98 percent of respondents indicated that they decide where they will park; while only one percent of respondents (n = 22) marked that someone from their companies decides where they will park. Eighty-three percent of drivers who decide on their own where they will park do so as they are driving; 21 percent decide before they start driving. These percentages indicate that some drivers marked more than one response choice about when they decide where to park. These drivers sometimes decide before driving and sometimes while driving.

Nearly 300 respondents provided additional written comments regarding when they decide where to park. In their remarks, drivers indicated that they often try to plan their parking stops, but circumstances arise that prevent them from parking when or where they had planned. Drivers noted circumstances such as getting tired before they thought they would, experiencing delays at shipper/receiver locations, and failing to find available parking spaces at their pre-planned destinations. Drivers also remarked that they decide where to park as their on-duty hours elapse, based on how far they think they can drive in their remaining hours of service. Other drivers indicated that they do not plan ahead, but simply park whenever or wherever they find an available space.

For those drivers who reported that they park in unconventional locations such as highway ramps and shoulders, and parking lots not designated for truck parking, responses were examined to discover who decides where drivers will park and when that decision is made. This sample of drivers reflected operations very similar to the overall sample, with 97 percent deciding on their own where they will park and one percent following company instructions about where to park. Of those who make their own parking decisions, 89 percent make them while driving and 16 percent decide before they start driving.

When the sample was split by the various driver types, responses to the question about who makes the parking decisions did not differ among the groups. However, over 90 percent of the respondents who drive for independent owner/operators reported that the decision about where to park is made while they are driving; while the rest of the driver types showed percentages in the seventies and eighties. Additionally, respondents who drive for large carriers more often reported that parking decisions are made before they start driving (27 percent compared to between 12 percent and 20 percent for the other driver types).

3.3.4. Why Do Drivers Park on Ramps and Shoulders?

The survey provided respondents with the opportunity to speculate why truck drivers sometimes park on entrance or exit ramps and highway shoulders. Drivers reported what they think are the four most common reasons. The two most commonly reported reasons were no nearby parking facility and no empty spaces in nearby truck stops or rest areas (reported by 83 percent and 94 percent, respectively). About half of the drivers indicated that trucks are sometimes parked on ramps or shoulders because nearby parking spaces have time limits that are too short or because empty nearby parking spaces are blocked by other trucks, cars, or RVs. Roughly one-third of respondents cited the reasons: the ramp/shoulder is convenient for getting back on the road and [drivers are] less likely to be bothered by strangers (e.g., drug dealers, prostitutes). Eighteen percent of respondents marked that drivers park on ramps and shoulders because it's hard to drive around parking lots. While only four percent reasoned that there is better lighting on ramp[s]/shoulder[s] than in lot[s].

Some believe that there is a connection between how often drivers park on ramps and shoulders and when drivers decide or plan where they will park. In this survey, drivers were asked to report why they believe other drivers park on ramps and shoulders; however, it is possible that their responses reflected their own reasons for parking on ramps and shoulders (if they park there). Respondents were grouped according to their "planning behavior" (i.e., those who decide before driving where to park versus those who decide while driving where to park). Responses to the question about why drivers park on ramps and shoulders were then examined for each group. Drivers' own planning behavior did not seem to affect their perceptions of why truck drivers park on ramps and shoulders. Drivers who decide while they are driving where they will next park responded about the same as drivers who make their parking decisions before they start driving. However, 137 written comments provided by respondents regarding why drivers park on ramps and shoulders stated that drivers park on ramps and shoulders when they are too tired to continue driving or when they run out of hours. These comments reflect at least some connection between poor planning and parking on shoulders and ramps.

Other written comments provided by respondents indicated that drivers park on ramps and shoulders because they have no other available option at the time. Some respondents wrote that drivers park on ramps and shoulders because they lack the experience, good judgment, or energy to find other suitable parking. A few drivers commented that parking on ramps and shoulders reduces the chances of being hit by another truck.

3.3.5. What are Drivers' Parking Preferences?

To help clarify drivers' parking preferences, the survey asked drivers to identify how important various parking facility features are to them when they park their trucks. Drivers rated various features on a scale from 1 to 5 (almost always important to almost never important). Table 2 shows the features evaluated, along with the mean and modal ratings they received. Features rated as most important were generally the ones that address basic needs. Food, fuel, restrooms, phones, showers, convenience to highway, and well lighted parking lots all received modal ratings of almost always important. In fact, between 70 percent and 85 percent of the sample rated these features as frequently or almost always important. Interestingly, drivers appear to value well lighted parking lots more than they value security presence. Seventy-five percent of respondents rated "well lighted parking lots" as frequently or almost always important, while only 60 percent gave the same ratings to "security presence." The majority of drivers rated features such as entertainment facilities, Internet connections, and availability of travel information as less important.

Almost 400 respondents provided written comments on the parking facility features they consider important. The single most frequently mentioned feature was big parking spaces that allow trucks to maneuver in and out (written by 45 drivers). Drivers indicated that they look for quiet parking facilities where they are not likely to be disturbed by police officers or solicitors. They value clean facilities where the personnel are friendly. Drivers also commented that they prefer parking facilities that allow access to shopping areas with grocery or department stores. Finally, drivers commented that laundry facilities add to the appeal of a parking facility.

Table 2. Importance of features when parking (as rated by drivers).

Important Features

Mean
Median
Mode
Restrooms
1.4
1.0
1
Convenient to highway
1.6
1.0
1
Showers
1.7
1.0
1
Well-lighted parking lot
1.9
1.0
1
Public phones
1.9
1.0
1
Restaurant
1.9
1.0
1
Fuel
2.0
1.0
1
Security presence
2.3
2.0
1
Repair facilities
2.6
3.0
1
Prepaid fuel cards accepted
2.9
3.0
1
Vending machines
3.4
3.0
5
Entertainment facilities
3.4
3.0
5
Travel information available
3.6
4.0
5
Internet connections
4.0
5.0
5

Note: Respondents rated the features on a scale from 1 to 5 (almost always important to almost never important).

Ratings given by short-haul drivers reflected the fact that they value parking facility features differently than long-haul drivers. Specifically, long-haul drivers most often rated features such as showers, fuel, and well-lighted parking lots as almost always important, while short-haul drivers most often rated these same features as only frequently important. Female respondents provided different ratings than their male counterparts on some features. Eighty percent of women rated security presence as frequently or almost always important, while just under 60 percent of men gave the same ratings to security presence. Additionally, 92 percent of women rated "well-lighted parking lot" as frequently or almost always important, while about 75 percent of men did the same.

In addition to inquiring about the features that are important to drivers, the survey also asked which type of parking facilities (public versus private) they prefer for parking. Because parking facility preference likely depends on the purpose of the stop, various common "reasons for parking" were identified to give context to their facility preferences. Generally, when drivers showed a preference, they indicated a preference for truck stops over rest areas (see table 3). Rest areas were preferred to truck stops only when drivers stop for a quick (less than two hours) nap. For extended rest (more than two hours), performing minor truck maintenance, and eating a meal, drivers overwhelmingly preferred truck stops to rest areas, with between 80 percent and 90 percent of drivers indicating a preference for truck stops and less than six percent indicating a preference for rest areas. Most respondents marked "no preference" for stops made to use vending machines, get travel information, use public phones, and use the restroom. However, among those drivers who did show a facility preference when making these types of stops, more drivers indicated a preference for truck stops. For all the parking reasons listed, short-haul driver preferences were the same as long-haul driver preferences. It is necessary to note that the data were collected at truck stops rather than rest areas, and could, therefore, reflect a sampling bias for a truck stop preference. However, pilot data suggests that a sample drawn at truck stops would be generally the same as one drawn at rest areas, and would consequently represent truck drivers at both commercial truck stops and public rest areas.

Table 3. Drivers' parking facility preferences by purpose of stop.
Reason for Parking
Rest Area
No Preference
Truck Stop
Take a quick nap (£ 2 hours)
45%
36%
19%
Take an extended rest (> 2 hours)
6%
16%
79%
Use vending machines
28%
58%
14%
Get travel information
9%
51%
40%
Use public phones
14%
49%
37%
Perform minor maintenance on truck
2%
19%
79%
Use the restroom
25%
45%
30%
Eat a meal
1%
8%
91%

Note: Due to rounding, percentages may not sum to 100.

3.4. Parking Solutions

3.4.1. What Improvements Do Drivers Recommend?

From a comprehensive list (see table 4), drivers identified the five truck-parking-related improvements that they think will help the most in improving truck parking. This list of possible solutions emerged from the discussions held at the Rest Area Forum. Drivers' responses to this list of solutions reflect support for many of the recommendations made at the Forum. The five improvements identified by the largest percentages of drivers were:

  1. Build more truck stops spaces (79 percent of respondents).
  2. Build more rest area spaces (66 percent of respondents).
  3. Stop enforcement officers from waking drivers (57 percent of respondents).
  4. Eliminate time limits on truck parking spaces (49 percent of respondents).
  5. Improve parking layouts/configurations (46 percent of respondents).

Coming in sixth and seventh places were "separate truck, car, and RV parking" and "provide alternative parking," marked by 42 percent and 36 percent of respondents, respectively. When responses were examined by type of driver, respondents' recommendations remained largely the same.

Recommendations also remained largely the same when isolated for those drivers who prefer to park at truck stops for extended rest. Drivers who prefer to park at rest areas for extended rest demonstrated slightly different priorities for improving truck parking (see table 4). For example, their top recommendation was to build more rest area parking spaces and they less often recommended eliminating time limits.

Table 4. Parking-related improvements identified by drivers as helping the most.

Parking-Related Improvement
% of All Drivers
% of Truck Stop Users
% of Rest Area Users
Build more truck stop parking spaces
79%
80%
67%
Build more rest area parking spaces
66%
62%
76%
Stop enforcement officers from waking driver
57%
56%
52%
Eliminate time limits
49%
50%
38%
Improve parking layout/configuration (e.g., more pull-through)
46%
46%
43%
Separate truck, car, and RV parking
42%
41%
43%
Provide alternative parking (e.g., at weigh stations, Park-N-Ride lots)
36%
34%
42%
Increase security presence
29%
31%
24%
Improve signs and roadway information for parking facilities
28%
28%
28%
Improve lighting
26%
26%
25%
Use car parking for truck parking during peak overnight hours
22%
21%
26%
Up-to-the-minute information on parking space availability
18%
18%
15%
Adopt standard spacing between rest areas
16%
15%
21%
Improve amenities at rest areas
14%
14%
16%
Landscape to minimize hiding places for criminals/criminal activity
13%
14%
10%
Educate drivers/dispatchers about planning parking stops before trip
7%
6%
10%
Enforce time limits
1%
1%
1%

Note: Rest area users and truck stop users are those respondents who specified a preference for public or private parking when they park for extended rest (i.e., more than two hours). One-hundred-eleven respondents specified a preference for rest areas; 1,563 specified a preference for truck stops.

Two recommendations discussed at the Rest Area Forum were endorsed by drivers more so than they were by Forum participants: "Improve parking layout/configuration" and "separate truck, car, and RV parking." Nearly half the respondents identified these two solutions as having the potential to improve truck parking. The driver support shown for these solutions suggests that even when the number of truck parking spaces is sufficient, some of the spaces may be inaccessible to trucks. Poor parking space layout and occupation of truck spaces by cars and recreational vehicles prohibit trucks from using the truck spaces. Forum participants may not have been aware of the extent of this problem.

3.4.2. How Might ITS Technology Help Drivers?

The Rest Area Forum participants recommended that parking availability information be made more accessible to drivers. Forum participants discussed the use of intelligent transportations systems (ITS) technology to deliver real-time parking information to drivers. Survey respondents provided feedback on whether they thought better information exchange would improve the parking situation. Additionally, drivers identified how they would like to receive real-time information and what type of information they would find helpful.

When asked how they would like to receive real-time information, 73 percent of drivers marked "radio in vehicle (e.g., CB, low-power FM, Dedicated Short Range Communication (DSRC))." Forty percent marked "electronic visual display in vehicle" and 12 percent marked "the Internet." Drivers indicated that they would like to receive the following types of real-time information:

  • Location of truck parking facilities along the road being traveled (84 percent of respondents).
  • Features that are available at upcoming parking facilities (77 percent of respondents).
  • Number of truck parking spaces available at upcoming parking facilities (68 percent of respondents).
  • Length of time limits on upcoming truck parking spaces (46 percent of respondents).

Some of the respondents who indicated that they would benefit from receiving real-time information on the location of truck parking facilities (number one above) or on the number of spaces available (number three above) emphasized their position when they marked their top five recommendations for improving truck parking. Specifically, 28 percent of these respondents included better signs and roadway information as one of their top-five recommendations and 18 percent included provide up-to-the-minute parking information in their top-five recommendations.

Over 200 respondents provided written comments about what other types of information they would like to receive. Generally, drivers reported that they would like information about the layout and size of parking spaces at upcoming facilities. They would find it useful to know whether a parking facility can accommodate trucks that are oversized, hauling hazardous material (HAZMAT), or multiple-trailer loads. Drivers also would find useful any information on parking fees associated with parking facilities.

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