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Publication Number:  FHWA-HRT-17-004    Date:  May/June 2017
Publication Number: FHWA-HRT-17-004
Issue No: Vol. 80 No. 6
Date: May/June 2017

 

Focus on Freight: Article 2 - Where Can The Big Rigs Park?

by Tretha Chromey and Jeff Purdy

Through partnerships, continued education, and effective planning, FHWA and others are implementing strategies to help solve the national shortage of parking spaces for semitrailer trucks.

The semitrailer trucks shown here are stopped at a parking facility. Nationwide, there is a critical shortage of spaces for truckers to rest.
The semitrailer trucks shown here are stopped at a parking facility. Nationwide, there is a critical shortage of spaces for truckers to rest.

Why should a person care about another driver on the road? Specifically, would it matter if that other driver was carrying the new computer you want? Or the food you are going to eat in a couple of days? What if that driver’s vehicle is transporting up to 46,000 pounds (20,865kilograms) of the kinds of things you need every day? Wouldn’t you want to do everything you could to help that other driver?

That is what the U.S. Department of Transportation is doing—helping those drivers—and one of the ways is by addressing the issue of parking for big rigs, that is, semitrailer trucks.

The lack of safe, adequate parking for commercial motor vehicles continues to be a crucial concern for the industry. The problem is not insignificant. According to the Federal Highway Administration, there are more than 2.6 million registered tractor-trailer trucks traveling on U.S. roads every day. But when truckers are going from one town to the next and driving long hours, they often need to pull over to rest. But where? For those 2.6 million tractor-trailers, parking is available for only about 12 percent of them at any given time.

In addition, industry relies on just-in-time deliveries, which result in truckers needing parking for staging so that they can make their deliveries at the designated times.

As a result, truck drivers are sometimes forced to stop along highway onramps, or in dark, abandoned commercial lots for rest. Truckers sometimes drive an hour or more out of their way looking for a safe, legal place to park. This search can cause delays, which add to the cost of goods. The quest for parking also puts truckers at great personal risk if they are unable to find a safe place to stop because they might become overtired or out of their hours of service.

With truck traffic projected by USDOT to grow from 11.5 billion tons (10.4 billion metric tons) in 2015 to 16.5 billion tons (15 billion metric tons) in 2045, the demand for truck parking will continue to outpace the supply of public and private parking facilities and will only exacerbate the problems experienced in many regions.

What Is Being Done?

With the passage of the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21) Act in 2012, Congress established what is called “Jason’s Law,” which provides a “national priority to address ... the shortage of long-term parking for commercial motor vehicles on the National Highway System to improve the safety of motorized and nonmotorized users and for commercial motor vehicle operators.”

Specifically, Jason’s Law requires USDOT to conduct a survey and comparative assessment in consultation with relevant representatives of motor carriers to evaluate the capability of each State to provide adequate parking for commercial motor vehicles engaged in interstate transportation. The law also requires assessment of the volume of that traffic in each State and the development of a system of metrics to measure the adequacy of the parking facilities in each State.

This topic is not new to FHWA. Since 2015, in particular, FHWA has been working with its partners to raise awareness of the need for parking for semitrailer trucks and providing resources about the subject. To address the issue, FHWA has conducted a survey and developed written guidance for programs specifically related to funding for truck parking.

What Is the Jason’s Law Movement?

Jason’s Law was named in honor of Jason Rivenburg. On March 4, 2009, Rivenburg stopped for his first delivery in Virginia and then headed toward another delivery destination in South Carolina. When only 12 miles (19 kilometers) from the delivery location, Rivenburg needed to find parking to rest through the night because his arrival location was not yet open to receive deliveries. He decided to park at an abandoned gas station described as “safe” by other truckers. Tragically, while he slept in his cab, he was attacked and murdered.

Since his death, Rivenburg’s wife, Hope, has worked diligently to bring attention to the shortage of truck parking nationally. In 2013, as part of her effort to found the Jason’s Law movement, Hope Rivenburg released the results of her own Safe Truck Parking Survey. The survey found that 39 percent of the nearly 4,000 drivers who responded take 1 hour or longer to find parking when they are mandated to take a rest. Fifty-three percent of respondents regularly use a commercial truck stop for rest, and 20 percent habitually use a rest area. The truckers indicated that if parking was not found by midafternoon or early evening in either a rest area or private truck stop, the next suitable option is a well-lit shopping area, due to safety concerns. However, the respondents stated that they worried during their rest period that they would be asked to leave or given a citation by law enforcement.

Other parking options regularly include the shipper/receiver’s location (20 percent), an onramp or offramp (8 percent), an abandoned lot or other isolated area (10 percent), or behind a shopping center (11 percent).

During the 12 months prior to taking the survey, 88 percent of drivers felt unsafe while parked for mandatory rest or waiting for pickup or delivery of a load. Thirty-six percent of respondents reported that they felt safe parked at a shipper or receiver location.

The efforts of Hope Rivenburg, along with those of family members, friends, and representatives from the trucking industry, helped push forth the legislation that focused national attention on the issue.

Conclusions from The FHWA Survey

A survey conducted by FHWA in 2014 found similar results. According to FHWA’s Jason’s Law Truck Parking Survey, more than 75 percent of truck drivers said they “regularly” experienced “problems with finding safe parking locations when rest was needed.” And 90 percent reported struggling to find safe parking at night.

FHWA sought input from key partners in identifying metrics and completing the survey activities. The partners included the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, American Trucking Associations, Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, NATSO (formerly the National Association of Truck Stop Operators), and the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance.

The Jason’s Law Truck Parking Survey Results and Comparative Analysis report issued by FHWA documents more than 308,000 truck parking spaces, including 36,000 at public rest areas and nearly 273,000 at private truck stops. With 5.6 million commercial motor vehicle drivers in the United States, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, and the fact that trucks carry by far the largest share (70 percent) and value (64 percent) of the Nation’s freight, the 308,000 parking spaces are inadequate.

Projected Increases in U.S. Commercial Traffic
Infographic. At the top is the text, “Freight movement is multimodal. About 50 million tons of freight move across our Nation every day.” Below are icons representing the four modes of commercial traffic: truck, rail, water, and air (which includes truck-air) freight. Below the four icons is the word “Total.” Each icon and the word “Total” is followed by numbers for 2015 and 2045, with arrows between the dates indicating the projected percent of increase in tons. Truck freight accounted for 11.5 billion (10.4 billion metric) tons in 2015 and a projected 16.5 billion (15 billion metric) tons in 2045, an increase of 44 percent. Rail accounted for 1.7 billion (1.5 billion metric) tons in 2015 and a projected 2.1 billion (1.9 billion metric) tons in 2045, an increase of 24 percent. Water accounted for 835 million (757 million metric) tons in 2015 and a projected 1.2 billion (1 billion metric) tons in 2045, an increase of 38 percent. Air (including truck-air) accounted for 7 million (6.4 million metric) tons in 2015 and a projected 24 million (22 million metric) tons in 2045, an increase of 234 percent. The total was 18 billion (16 billion metric) tons in 2015 and a projected 25.3 billion (23 billion metric) tons in 2045, an increase of 40 percent.

 

Parking Spaces Relative to Truck Traffic Volumes

The documentation used to assess truck volumes in FHWA’s report, Jason’s Law Truck Parking Survey Results and Comparative Analysis, is based on an annual survey of State data provided to FHWA predominantly for the purpose of administering the Federal-Aid Highway Program. The data provide an understanding of the level of annual commercial truck activity, as measured by daily combination truck vehicle miles of travel (VMT) on the National Highway System.

To enhance this assessment of traffic volumes, FHWA mapped the assessment of volumes together with the parking supply in order to characterize the spatial distribution of parking patterns, both within States and across the Nation. The report also includes maps for each State that identify truck volumes and parking facilities.

The report’s researchers analyzed commercial motor vehicle truck parking spaces per 100,000 miles (161,000 kilometers) of daily combination truck VMT for each State. The highest number of parking spaces relative to combination truck VMT occur in Missouri, Montana, and Wyoming. The lowest number of parking spaces relative to combination truck VMT occur in California, Rhode Island, and Tennessee (excluding Hawaii, which does not have any public or private truck parking spaces).

Truck Traffic Volumes on the National Highway System
Map. Map of the United States, including Alaska and Hawaii, with red lines of varying thicknesses representing truck traffic volumes per day. The thickest lines represent 50,000 trucks per day down to 25,000 for the next thickest and 12,500 for the thinnest lines. The thickest lines are north-south in the eastern part of the country and California, with a few east-west through Texas.
Truck Traffic Volumes in Relation to Parking Spaces
Map. Map of the United States, including Alaska and Hawaii, with a legend showing the number of truck parking spaces per State in varying colors from the lightest color (0 to 1,999 spaces) to the next darkest (2,000 to 3,999) and continuing in increasingly darker colors from 4,000 to 5,999; 6,000 to 9,999; and 10,000 to 27,000. Also on the map are white lines of varying thicknesses representing average daily truck traffic from 0 to 1,500; 1,500 to 5,000; 5,000 to 8,000; 8,000 to 13,000; and 13,000 to 55,000. The line thickness is the same as the previous map. The parking spaces appear to be the most numerous in California, Missouri, Pennsylvania, and Texas.

The FHWA survey found that truck parking capacity is a problem in all States, with the greatest problems more evident on major freight corridors and in large metropolitan areas. Truck parking is an important component of the freight plans of State departments of transportation and metropolitan planning organizations, as well as regional and corridor-based freight planning groups.

Continued evaluation is important for understanding dynamic truck parking needs, as well as providing data. For example, analysis of the supply chains of key industries and commodities is needed in order to better anticipate and plan for parking needs. In addition, local regulations and zoning often create challenges for developing truck parking facilities due to resistance to the externalities of truck stops, such as truck traffic, noise, and emissions. It is for these reasons that coordination of the public and private sectors at every level is critical to addressing the long-term parking needs of commercial motor vehicles.

National Truck Parking Coalition

In response to the survey’s release, interested parties formed the National Truck Parking Coalition in November 2015. The coalition brings together stakeholders from transportation organizations, the freight industry, and other groups to advance safe truck parking. The goals are to collaborate regionally and nationally to identify solutions for truck parking needs, share data and new analyses developed by stakeholders to understand trends in truck parking, encourage partnerships to implement solutions, and identify opportunities to use existing and new programs to support the provision of additional truck parking.

The coalition’s first meeting took place in November 2015, and the most recent meeting was in December 2016.

During this same time period, USDOT conducted a series of four regional meetings (Dallas, TX; Grain Valley, MO; Hanover, MD; and Salt Lake City, UT) to further the dialogue on the shortage of truck parking. The meetings brought together stakeholders to share input on strategies and approaches.

Participants found that to address the national concern, there are four target areas for the partnership and the public to work on together: parking capacity; technology and data; funding, finance, and regulations; and coordination of State, regional, and local governments.

This dynamic highway signage in Michigan provides advance information for truckers on the location and real-time availability of parking spaces.
This dynamic highway signage in Michigan provides advance information for truckers on the location and real-time availability of parking spaces.

Opportunities to Become Involved

The Jason’s Law provision of MAP-21 mandates detailed analysis and measurement of the truck parking problem and offers increased opportunity and flexibility to fund truck parking projects. Through this process, public and private entities can identify innovative ways to provide additional parking capacity, the technology to provide real-time information on available parking and locations, innovative means of funding parking construction and maintenance, and truck parking planning by State, regional, and local governments.

Among the potential solutions is a greater emphasis on developing technology, such as a geographic information system (GIS)-based platform that identifies available truck parking nationally. Another solution would be to use existing intelligent transportation systems to help identify truck parking and variable messaging signs to communicate with truckers about areas that have available spaces.

Truck parking is a complex problem that has many elements and requires partnerships to work together to find solutions. Understanding the dynamics of truck parking and the movement of freight is needed in order to make strategic investments in the right applications and the right types of solutions in locations that provide the greatest benefit.

Why Learn More?

Trucking helps keep the U.S. economy moving forward, and truckers work tirelessly to see that the Nation’s businesses run smoothly. That is why this responsibility needs to be shouldered through a cooperative partnership between the public and private sectors from the national level down to the local level.

Truck drivers deserve a safe place to park when they need to pull over to rest. This is a problem that affects all Americans, and the solution will involve everyone—FHWA, State departments of transportation, elected officials, trade associations, and members of the public.

And it’s a problem that will not go away by itself. Seventy percent of all freight transported in the United States is delivered by trucks. By 2045, the volume of delivered goods by trucks is expected to grow by almost 45 percent.

Think about that the next time you see a trucker on the highway.

The semitrailer trucks shown here are stopped at a parking facility on the Ohio Turnpike.
The semitrailer trucks shown here are stopped at a parking facility on the Ohio Turnpike.

Tretha Chromey is now the senior advisor for strategic communications in FHWA’s Office of Policy and Governmental Affairs and formerly was a freight program specialist in the Office of Operations. Before joining FHWA, she held several senior-level positions in multiple agencies within USDOT, including the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, Maritime Administration, Federal Railroad Administration, and the Office of Policy within the Office of the Secretary. Prior to coming to USDOT in 2005, she worked for nearly 10 years at the Pennsylvania DOT in multiple roles. She is a graduate of Millersville University with a bachelor’s degree in biology and a graduate of American University’s Key Executive Leadership program.

Jeff Purdy is a transportation specialist in FHWA’s Office of Freight Management and Operations. He has worked on a variety of transportation planning projects at the local, State, and Federal levels. Prior to moving to FHWA headquarters, Purdy served as the transportation planner for FHWA’s Wyoming Division and at a community and transportation planning consulting firm in Michigan. He has a master’s degree in urban planning from Michigan State University.

The Jason’s Law Truck Parking Survey, along with other information on truck parking, is available at www.ops.fhwa.dot.gov/freight/infrastructure/truck_parking. For more information on freight economy issues, visit www.fhwa.dot.gov/freighteconomy. Or contact Jeff Purdy at 202–366–6993 or jeffrey.purdy@dot.gov, or Tom Kearney at 518–431–8890 or tom.kearney@dot.gov.

 

 

 

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