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Publication Number: FHWA-RD-01-158
Date: March 2002

Study of Adequacy of Commercial Truck Parking Facilities

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1.0 INTRODUCTION

1.1 Background

The role of the Federal government in addressing issues related to driver fatigue and the safety of the commercial vehicle industry began in 1937 with the promulgation of hours-of-service (HOS) rules by the Interstate Commerce Commission. These rules established limits on the number of hours that truck drivers may drive and be on duty before a mandatory rest break must be taken. Complying with these rules has created a demand for parking spaces so that commercial vehicle drivers can rest. Until recently, a rough balance seemed to exist between this demand for truck parking spaces and the spaces available at public rest areas, commercial truck stops and travel plazas, and other locations. However, changes in the trucking industry that began in the 1980s initiated disturbances to this balance.

The deregulation of the trucking industry in the early 1980s led to significant changes in the way goods and products are moved throughout the United States. Prior to deregulation, approximately 20,000 motor carriers operated in an environment in which operating authority was issued by the Interstate Commerce Commission and entry into the industry was difficult. As of 2000, approximately 500,000 interstate motor carriers operated in the United States, and projections for the next 20 years estimate continuing growth. As truck traffic on America’s highways has increased, the demand for services and facilities for the trucking industry, including the demand for truck parking spaces, has increased as well.

Another significant change in the movement of goods and services was the advent of just-in-time delivery. Manufacturers now operate in an environment in which large warehouse inventories of parts and supplies are no longer maintained but, instead, are delivered by trucks in tightly scheduled deliveries such that these inputs arrive just in time to be used in the manufacturing process. Just-in-time delivery places new demands on truck parking facilities as trucks use these facilities as staging areas to better meet their delivery requirements. The combination of increased truck traffic and tighter delivery schedules is one of the primary reasons for the increased demand for truck parking, and this increased demand has resulted in perceived shortages of truck parking spaces in some parts of America.

This report documents the findings of a study to investigate the adequacy of commercial truck parking facilities throughout the Nation. The information contained in this report describes the technical details of the analyses considered by FHWA in preparing a Report to Congress in response to Section 4027 of the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21). Section 4027 requires FHWA to prepare the following:

...a study to determine the location and quantity of parking facilities at commercial truck stops and travel plazas and public rest areas that could be used by motor carriers to comply with Federal hours-of-service rules. The study shall include an inventory of current facilities serving the National Highway System, analyze where shortages exist or are projected to exist, and propose a plan to reduce the shortages. The study may be carried out in cooperation with research entities representing motor carriers, the travel plaza industry, and commercial motor vehicle drivers.

To assist in the preparation of this report, FHWA encouraged the creation of partnerships of public- and private-sector stakeholders at the State level and provided a technical guidance document for their use in conducting an inventory of current facilities serving the National Highway System (NHS), analyzing current and projected shortages, and developing plans for action at the appropriate jurisdictional levels. FHWA provided technical assistance to the partnerships to guide them in completing these activities. FHWA division offices worked closely with the partners for approximately one year and provided guidance and advice on forming and structuring partnership membership, conducting partnership meetings to review inventory and analysis results, and preparing partnership status reports that describe actions to mitigate any parking shortfalls identified. This report describes the results of this effort.

1.2 Problem Statement

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has tentatively estimated that driver fatigue is a primary factor in 4.5 percent of truck-involved fatal crashes and is a secondary factor in an additional 10.5 percent of such crashes.(3) A 1995 study conducted by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) asserts that the most important factors in predicting a fatigue-related accident are the duration of the last sleep period, the time slept in the past 24 hours, and interruptions in sleep periods.(4) The availability of parking for commercial vehicles can affect all of these factors.

In 1996, the FHWA funded a study of parking along the Interstate Highway System in response to a Senate recommendation to evaluate the adequacy of places for truck drivers to stop and rest.(1) This study estimated a shortfall of 28,400 public truck-parking spaces nationwide. While a detailed survey of public rest areas was conducted, the survey of commercial truck stops and travel plazas was more cursory and relied on a statistical weighting of the 17 percent of commercial truck stops and travel plazas that completed and returned the survey.

This national study was followed by a number of State-specific studies documenting shortages of truck parking facilities. Minnesota completed a study of public rest area usage in 1998 that estimated potential capacity problems for more than 50 percent of the public rest areas surveyed.(5) In 1999, New York completed a study that summarized public rest area construction activities for Interstate highways in that state.(6) A Tennessee study completed in 1999 indicated that nearly 44 percent of truck parking on weekday evenings occurred on ramps and shoulders.(7) Iowa completed a study in 1999 that observed an excess demand for parking at public rest areas but sufficient supply at most commercial truck stops and travel plazas.(8)

In 1999, the NTSB began an initiative that held public hearings to obtain information about the relevant safety issues regarding trucks and buses and the ways to address these issues. The major issue addressed in the NTSB investigation was the lack of safe, available commercial vehicle parking on or near Interstates. The report also addressed the lack of information about parking available to truck drivers and the State-enforced parking time limits. In 2000, NTSB published a special investigation report that summarized the results of these hearings.(9)

Congress responded to this growing body of evidence that availability of truck parking was becoming a significant problem with potential safety implications and to the concerns raised about the previous studies of this issue by mandating, in Section 4027 of TEA-21, that a study be conducted to determine the adequacy of parking facilities. The mandated study of the NHS was intended as a follow-up study to the previously referenced 1996 study of the Interstate Highway System and was intended to address some of the criticisms of that study.

In response to this Congressional mandate, FHWA implemented a series of initiatives. The Rest Area Forum was hosted by FHWA in Atlanta, GA, on June 29 and 30, 1999.(2) Forum participants included 70 State Department of Transportation (DOT) and enforcement officials, representatives of the motor carrier industry, commercial truck stop and travel plaza operators, commercial drivers, safety advocates, and other interested parties. The forum identified 17 key issues affecting commercial vehicle parking, identified the 7 highest-priority issues, and developed recommendations to address these 7 issues.

In May 1999, FHWA issued a Request for Information (Reference Number RFI-ST-001) to obtain feedback on how best to design, focus, and conduct the Section 4027 study. Five individuals or organizations provided responses to the Request for Information. FHWA used these responses, along with the results of the 1996 report, the State studies, and the input from Rest Area Forum participants, to identify the following parameters to guide the Section 4027 study mandated under TEA-21:

  • Many Rest Area Forum participants and respondents to the Request for Information believed that the rest area problem was now understood and that future work should focus on solutions rather than on more studies. One significant exception was the recommendation that “the TEA-21 study should count all private and public sector spaces to accurately assess the truck parking situation.”
  • Parking shortages are concentrated and, therefore, analysis of shortages and development of solutions should be targeted at a corridor, State, or sub-State level rather than at the national level.
  • Satisfying drivers’ rest stop parking needs in corridors or regions with either real or perceived parking supply shortages is likely to require public, private, and public-private solutions. Identifying consensus solutions among parties with competing interests is likely to be easier and more successful at the corridor, State, or sub-State level than at the national level.
  • A major unknown and point of contention is the extent to which public rest area and commercial truck stop and travel plaza parking are interchangeable. To supply parking where drivers need it, their parking-related needs and decision-making processes must be better understood.

In consideration of this input, FHWA developed a two-pronged approach to completing the Section 4027 study. First, FHWA contracted for research to clarify drivers’ parking-related needs and decision-making processes. The results of this research were documented in a separate report.(10)

Second, FHWA encouraged the creation of partnerships of public- and private-sector stakeholders (“Partners for Adequate Parking Facilities”) to address the truck parking shortage issue at the corridor, sub-State, and State levels. To assist with this, FHWA provided a technical guidance document for conducting an inventory of current facilities serving the NHS, analyzing current and projected shortages, and developing plans for action at the appropriate jurisdictional levels.(11) FHWA also provided technical assistance to the partnerships to guide them in the completion of these activities. FHWA division offices worked closely with the partnerships over a period of approximately one year, providing guidance and advice on the following:

  • Formation and membership structure of the partnerships and the conducting of partnership meetings to review inventory and analysis results.
  • Preparation of partnership status reports that described actions to mitigate any parking shortfalls identified.

1.3 Research Approach

The research presented in this report is focused on 49 States and excludes Hawaii, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. Discussions among the State partnerships for each of these States, which typically included membership representing motor carriers, the travel plaza industry, and commercial vehicle drivers, formed the basis for understanding truck parking demand and supply and helped in the development of a plan of action to address any problems that were identified. FHWA provided a technical guidance document to each partnership and encouraged the partnership to consider using the methodology contained in that document for pinpointing parking needs and developing a plan of action to mitigate any problems identified.

A nationwide survey of parking spaces at public rest areas was conducted during the summer of 2000 to ascertain the number and characteristics of publicly owned and operated spaces for heavy trucks. An inventory of commercial truck stop and travel plaza spaces was created using a proprietary database developed and maintained by Interstate America. The information from the survey and the inventory comprised the basis to determine the location and quantity of both public and commercial parking facilities that could be used by motor carriers to comply with Federal HOS rules as required in the TEA-21 Section 4027 study.

Demand for parking on a highway segment was estimated through a modeling approach that considered the daily volume of trucks traveling across the segment, the duration of stops anticipated to comply with HOS rules, and other short-term stops (e.g., restroom breaks, phone calls). A national driver survey and field observations were also used to develop and calibrate the model. The parking demand and parking supply values over the full length of a highway segment were compared to determine whether a surplus or shortage existed. Partners examined these model estimates in light of actual observational studies or experience to provide a basis for determining the validity of the results. Where appropriate, model parameters were adjusted to better replicate observed parking demand values against modeling results.

The State partnerships discussed the supply and demand analysis results to identify roadway segments with a parking shortage. In cases in which either current or future shortfalls were identified, partners worked together to develop strategies to mitigate these shortages. Finally, the results of the study were organized and synthesized into a series of reports.

1.4 Organization of Report

This report is divided into six parts. Following this introductory section, section 2.0 contains an overview of factors affecting commercial vehicle parking demand and the modeling approach used in this study. Section 3.0 describes the commercial vehicle parking supply, and section 4.0 compares parking supply and demand. Section 5.0 outlines the recommended actions proposed by partners to reduce any shortages that were identified. Finally, section 6.0 contains a summary and the report’s conclusions.

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