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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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EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

This report documents the findings of a study undertaken to investigate the adequacy of commercial truck parking facilities serving the National Highway System (NHS) in response to Section 4027 of the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21). Section 4027 requires 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, the Federal Highway Administration (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 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 summarizes the results of this effort.

This study of the NHS is a follow-up to a previous study of the Interstate Highway System completed in 1996.(1) Subsequent to this 1996 report, a number of States also conducted studies of truck rest parking needs and availability within their jurisdictions.

FHWA solicited input on the truck rest parking issue through the Rest Area Forum, which FHWA hosted in Atlanta, GA, on June 29-30, 1999. Forum participants included more than 70 State Department of Transportation (DOT) and enforcement officials, representatives of the motor carrier industry, commercial truck-stop operators, commercial drivers, safety advocates, and other interested parties.(2) In addition, on May 21, 1999, FHWA issued a Request for Information (RFI-ST-001) to obtain feedback on how best to design, focus, and conduct the Section 4027 study. Five individuals or organizations responded. The results from the 1996 report and individual States' subsequent studies, input from the Rest Area Forum participants, and responses to the Request for Information can be summarized as follows:

  • Many Rest Area Forum participants and respondents to the Request for Information voiced the sentiment that we now know the problem and, therefore, should focus on solutions rather than on more studies. One significant exception is a response to the Request for Information that recommends: "The TEA-21 study should count all private- and public-sector spaces to accurately assess the truck parking situation."
  • Parking shortages are concentrated and solutions thereto should be targeted at a corridor or regional level; therefore, the analysis of shortages and development of solutions should be performed at the corridor, State, or sub-State rather than the national level.
  • Satisfying drivers' rest parking needs in corridors or regions with either real or perceived shortages in parking supply 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.
  • A major unknown and point of contention is whether, or to what extent, public rest area and commercial truck-stop parking are interchangeable. To supply parking where drivers need it, a better understanding of their parking-related needs and decision-making processes is required.

In consideration of this input, FHWA has undertaken a two-pronged approach to the Section 4027 study. First, FHWA contracted for research to clarify drivers' parking-related needs and decision-making processes. Second, FHWA encouraged the creation of partnerships of public- and private-sector stakeholders in 49 States (excluding Hawaii) and provided a guidance document for their use in inventorying current facilities serving the NHS, analyzing current and projected shortages, and developing plans for action at the appropriate jurisdictional levels. These partnerships provided a forum for interested parties, including State and local agencies as well as the private sector, to examine the problem and formulate strategies to mitigate any problems identified.

This report, which summarizes the work completed by these partnerships, involved the following process:

  • Estimate parking demand using a modeling approach.
  • Inventory public and commercial truck spaces.
  • Identify deficiencies by comparing supply and demand.
  • Develop recommendations for improvements to mitigate any existing or future problems identified.

Estimate Parking Demand Using a Modeling Approach

A nationwide estimate of the peak-hour demand for commercial truck parking facilities resulting from the need to comply with Federal hours-of-service (HOS) rules was conducted. The approach relied on the development of an engineering model to estimate the demand for commercial vehicle parking at public and commercial facilities. The model predicts commercial truck parking demand for a highway segment based on total truck-hours of travel and the time and duration of the stops. The model considers the effect of Federal HOS regulations on parking demand by using these regulations as part of the basis for estimating the average number of hours spent parking per hour spent driving.

A national survey of truck drivers' parking-related needs, preferences, and decision-making processes was conducted as part of the modeling effort. Surveys were distributed to a national sample of more than 2,000 truck drivers through site visits and mailings to truck stops. Survey results of drivers' preferences were used to estimate the fraction of total parking demand for public and private parking spaces.

Following are highlights from these efforts:

  • There is currently an estimated peak hour demand for approximately 287,000 truck parking spaces at commercial truck stops and travel plazas and public rest areas serving Interstate highways and other NHS routes carrying more than 1,000 trucks per day.
  • According to drivers' preferences, the percentages of total demand for parking at public rest areas and commercial truck stops are estimated as 23 and 77 percent, respectively.
  • The 20-year forecast for the annual increase in parking demand is estimated to be 2.7 percent.
  • Drivers' responses to the survey demonstrated definite preferences and priorities when it came to choosing where they would park. For long-term rest (more than 2 hours), drivers overwhelmingly prefer commercial truck stops and travel plazas to public rest areas (78 percent to 6 percent, respectively). For short-term rest (less than 2 hours), drivers generally prefer public rest areas to commercial truck stops and travel plazas (45 percent to 19 percent, respectively). Short-haul driver preferences are the same as long-haul driver preferences, although short-haul drivers value parking facility features differently than long-haul drivers.

Additional details surrounding the national demand for commercial vehicle parking and the national survey of driver needs and preferences can be found in section 2.0 of this report.

Inventory Public and Commercial Truck Spaces

An inventory of the number of public rest areas and commercial truck stops that could be used to comply with Federal HOS rules was conducted as part of this study. The inventory included a survey of State DOTs to quantify the location and number of public rest areas. A proprietary database developed by Interstate America served as the primary basis for determining the number of spaces available at commercial truck stops and travel plazas. The driver survey also addressed features that truck drivers value at parking facilities. Highlights from the commercial truck parking supply inventory and driver survey include the following:

  • An estimated 315,850 parking spaces at public rest areas and commercial truck stops and travel plazas serve Interstate highways and other NHS routes carrying more than 1,000 trucks per day.
  • Approximately 10 percent of truck parking spaces are in public rest areas and 90 percent were in commercial truck stops and travel plazas.
  • Expected growth of truck parking spaces at public rest areas is estimated to be smaller (5.1 percent over the next 5 years) than growth in the private sector (estimated at 6.5 percent annually).
  • Truck drivers value public rest areas primarily for ease of access and convenience and value commercial truck stops and travel plazas for their amenities.
  • A significant percentage (21 percent) of the parking supply used by drivers to comply with Federal HOS rules appears to occur at loading docks, company terminals, or other facilities (e.g., fast food restaurants, shopping plazas, and motels).
  • Results from the driver survey and observational field studies suggest some, but not complete, interchangeability between parking spaces at public rest areas and commercial truck stops and travel plazas.

Refer to section 3.0 of this report for additional information pertaining to the supply of commercial truck parking spaces, including drivers' assessments of parking facility quality and the interchangeability of public rest areas and commercial truck stops and travel plazas.

Identify Deficiencies by Comparing Supply and Demand

A four-step process was used to determine where shortages in truck parking exist or are expected to exist. First, estimates of parking demand over roadway segments were developed using a modeling approach (section 2.0). Second, estimates of parking supply were gathered for each segment using available data sources (section 3.0). Third, a summary of the supply and demand for each roadway segment was provided to partners for review, verification, and comment. In many cases, subsequent analyses were conducted to account for the local knowledge of partners to improve the estimates. Fourth, a final calibration of the model was completed, and the calibrated model was used to evaluate shortages (section 4.0 ). Highlights from these analyses follow.

  • A shortage of parking at public rest areas may exist in up to 35 States, and a shortage of total parking may exist in up to 12 States.
  • Shortages of parking at commercial truck stops and travel plazas are less common and, to the extent that these spaces are interchangeable, may offset shortages in parking at public rest areas.
  • Although the driver survey indicates that 23 percent of the demand for truck parking spaces is at public rest areas, only 10 percent of the supply is at that type of facility.
  • This imbalance in parking availability is underscored by the results of the driver survey in which 50 percent of the respondents indicated that parking is rarely or almost never available at public rest areas. Approximately 15 percent reported parking is rarely or almost never available at truck stops and travel plazas.
  • The estimated growth rate of parking spaces at commercial truck stops and travel plazas (6.5 percent) will accommodate the expected growth in demand for these spaces (2.7 percent).
  • The estimated growth rate of truck parking spaces at public rest areas (5.1 percent over the next five years or 1.0 percent annually) is below the estimated growth in demand for these spaces (2.7 percent annually). The increased demand for public parking will exacerbate the supply shortages already apparent for public parking unless either additional public spaces are made available or steps are taken to encourage drivers to better utilize the existing supply of private spaces.

Additional findings stemming from the analysis of commercial truck parking supply and demand, including a national summary and a State-by-State analysis of parking shortages, can be found in section 4.0 of this report.

Develop Recommendations for Improvements to Mitigate Any Existing or Future Problems Identified

The State partnerships provided a set of recommended actions to solve any parking shortages that have been identified either through this study or as a result of other similar studies conducted in recent years for their States. These actions fall into six broad categories, as listed below.

  • Expand or improve public rest areas.
    • A total of 15 States have firm plans to provide additional parking spaces.
    • Eleven of these States provided a specific number of spaces for a total increase in spaces of approximately 1,600 over the next five years.
    • Improve geometric design of public rest areas to increase convenience for drivers using these facilities.
  • Expand or improve commercial truck stops and travel plazas.
    • Increase yearly truck registration fees with the stipulation that these special funds can be used only by States on initiatives to address the truck parking issue.
    • Implement a program that allows States to close rest areas in locations that are well served by private-sector business and shift funds to areas where additional development is desirable.
    • Remove cost-prohibitive road improvement requirements imposed by State DOTs upon developers attempting to open new facilities.
  • Encourage the formation of public-private partnerships.
    • Provide low-interest loans or grants to commercial truck stops to increase capacity.
    • Construct State-owned lots adjacent to commercial truck stops and travel plazas and enter into agreements with these owners to lease or maintain the lots.
    • Work with owners of commercial truck stops to help them promote the availability of parking in large lots close to the Interstate highway (e.g., provide signage on the highway).
  • Educate or inform drivers about available spaces.
    • Develop Intelligent Transportation System deployments that provide drivers with real-time information on the location and availability of parking spaces. For example, investigate using cellular phones and radio frequencies to broadcast parking locations and availability to drivers.
    • Investigate using mailings related to credentials administration for the International Registration Plan and the International Fuel Tax Agreement as a means of distributing information on the location and type of parking spaces within the base State to participating motor carriers.
    • Publish and distribute a "trucker's map," in both paper and electronic format, that pinpoints parking facilities for drivers (both public and commercial), including lot capacity and space availability.
  • Change parking enforcement rules.
    • Implement more stringent enforcement of parking rules to remove vehicles from locations such as interchange ramps.
    • Change parking limits to permit trucks more time to park at public rest areas.
    • Encourage local government and business support for constructing and operating commercial truck stop and travel plaza facilities in or near their community industrial and business parks (i.e., zoning).
  • Conduct additional studies.
    • Refine the results from the present study and develop more detailed assessment strategies at specific highway locations (e.g., target heavily traveled truck corridors).
    • Establish a multi-State committee to evaluate alternatives and recommend solutions that would address the "staging" of trucks at certain locations in response to "just-in-time" delivery.
    • Conduct additional research to further refine the demand model (e.g., to accommodate local factors that can influence demand, such as a higher rate of parking near major distribution centers).

More detail on these and other suggested recommendations from the State partnerships for reducing truck parking shortages, including recommendations from the 1999 Rest Area Forum and from government and motor carrier industry stakeholders surveyed as part of this study, can be found in section of this report.

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