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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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More than 2,000 truck drivers from all over the United States and Canada participated in the survey effort for this TEA-21 Section 4027 Study on Adequacy of Truck Parking. Responses were collected from long-haul and short-haul drivers at private truck stops through site visits and mail-out distributions. The respondent pool included all types of drivers from independent owner/operators who own just one truck to drivers employed by large trucking carriers. Drivers responded enthusiastically to the study, oftentimes thanking the survey team for making an effort to gather driver opinions. Response rates, particularly during site visits, were unusually high for survey research.
Drivers provided insight into how often they park their trucks, what characteristics they prefer in parking facilities, what they think of the current truck parking situation, and what improvements they think would most improve truck parking. The original survey task objectives sought to answer the following three questions:
Drivers generously provided answers to all these questions. Furthermore, drivers generally agreed with each other, whether they drive for small operations or large ones, and whether they are male or female.
Nearly all drivers reported that they, not their company colleagues, decide where they will park. Most drivers make the decision as they are driving. Drivers commented that they find it difficult to plan parking before they embark on their trips because their schedules often change. For example, shipper and receiver locations may be "backed up" and cause them delay in moving on to their next destination. If they are delayed, drivers cannot travel as far in their remaining legal duty hours as originally planned. They must choose a parking facility that comes sooner along the corridor they are traveling. Despite this impediment to parking planning, many drivers said that they can improvise because they know the location of most parking facilities.
Drivers' responses to the survey demonstrated definite preferences and priorities when it comes to choosing where they will park. When drivers park their trucks, most expect to satisfy only their basic needs. Drivers prefer parking facilities that provide food, fuel, restrooms, phones, and showers. They also consider safety and convenience important when they park their trucks. When it comes to safety, drivers appear to value well-lighted parking lots even more than they value security presence. Drivers do not consider entertainment and other "luxuries" to be necessary characteristics of a parking facility. As one driver urged, "I just want to find a place to park that is safe and available." Because truck stops typically provide showers, restaurants, and repair facilities, it is not surprising that drivers generally prefer private truck stops to public rest areas. When drivers park for quick naps, they prefer to park in rest areas. For more lengthy activities such as eating a meal, resting for the night, or repairing a truck, drivers would choose truck stops whenever possible.
When members of the survey team approached drivers to introduce the study, the single most common verbal response given by drivers was "build more spaces." A handful of drivers remarked that they don't see a problem with truck parking, with one driver going so far as to say, "drivers just need to learn how to park their trucks!" However, the majority of drivers seemed to consider the problem epidemic. A majority of survey respondents indicated that they rarely or almost never find available parking at public rest areas. Fewer respondents reported such consistent trouble finding available parking at private truck stops; however, the number one recommendation made by drivers for improving the parking situation was "build more truck stop spaces." The popularity of this recommendation may reflect the fact that over three-quarters of respondents prefer to use truck stops for long-term rest. In their written and verbal comments, drivers pointed out that parking shortages are often related to location. They remarked that more parking is needed near metropolitan areas and in certain regions of the Country (e.g., Northeast, Southern California, Northwest). Most survey respondents indicated that the parking facilities they encounter generally have characteristics that make those facilities usable. But, drivers did recommend that time limits be eliminated and that parking lot layouts be improved to facilitate the ingress and egress of tractor trailers that are commonly 53 feet in length.
Drivers indicated in both their written and verbal remarks that one sure way to improve the truck parking situation is to discourage law enforcement officers from waking sleeping drivers. Drivers reflected the same concern as stakeholders that safety is jeopardized when fatigued truck drivers are on the road. Drivers expressed a sense of responsibility for getting off the road whenever they feel tired.
The parking needs and preferences relayed by drivers in this study are neither surprising nor complicated. Drivers need more parking spaces and they would like to find those spaces in clean, safe parking facilities. When drivers park their trucks, they want access to basic amenities. They want to eat a meal, take a shower, and get a few hours of uninterrupted sleep. Drivers participating in this survey were grateful for the opportunity to share their perspectives. They expressed a willingness to work together with industry and safety stakeholders to improve truck parking across the Nation.