Limited Truck Parking Is Hurting Your Supply Chain
For a third consecutive year, truck drivers surveyed through the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) have ranked parking woes as the industry’s no. 1 issue. In fact, many trucking administrations and associations estimate just one parking spot is available for every 11 U.S. truckers at any given time.
Limited parking accommodations are taking a toll on an industry already experiencing considerable expansion, exaggerating supply chain delays, emissions concerns and risks to driver safety. The solution likely includes federal infrastructure measures designed to accommodate the desperate need for additional parking, as well as innovative smart tech built to make the most of what little parking already exists.
How a Lack of Parking Affects Driver Safety
Each year, roughly 328,000 crashes on American roadways are attributed to driver fatigue. Likewise, the National Transportation Safety Board lists between 30-40% of all heavy truck accidents as caused by fatigued drivers with nowhere to park for rest. Though the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has enacted strict hours of service regulations to combat this issue, it remains dangerous to pull off the side of the road just anywhere. Truck stops, travel centers or rest stops are safer for drivers, freight and other motorists.
Lacking safe places to park (and often burdened with pressures to deliver loads as quickly as possible), some drivers will instead opt to push their luck for longer hours and invite unnecessary risk into their routes. Here are some additional ways limited parking might impact trucker safety:
- Increased Risk of Accidents. Inadequate parking options can result in truckers resorting to parking in unsafe or unauthorized areas such as shoulders, ramps, or makeshift spots. This practice not only violates regulations but also poses a heightened risk of accidents. Parking in these precarious locations not designed for commercial vehicles can obstruct traffic flow, impede visibility and increase the likelihood of collisions.
- Personal Safety Concerns. Truckers are often left with no choice but to park in unfamiliar and potentially unsafe areas due to the lack of suitable parking facilities. This exposes them to increased risks of theft, vandalism, and personal safety threats. Remote or poorly lit areas may make truckers vulnerable to criminal activities, putting their well-being at stake.
- Mental Stress and Job Satisfaction. The constant challenge of finding suitable parking spaces can lead to heightened mental stress among truckers. This additional stress, combined with the pressures of meeting delivery deadlines, can impact job satisfaction and overall well-being. Stressed and dissatisfied truckers are more prone to making mistakes or taking unnecessary risks, further compromising safety on roadways.
How Limited Trucker Parking Limits Efficiency
Delivery schedules and efficiency in the logistics industry depend on minimal waiting and idling times for drivers. The ATRI estimates truck drivers spend an average of 56 minutes every day looking for a safe parking spot — a huge loss of productivity which in turn places increased stress on fleet managers as they attempt to navigate limited resources. If accommodations aren’t well-planned beforehand, a seemingly simple parking problem can quickly spiral into any of the following costly roadblocks:
- Delayed Deliveries. When drivers are unable to find suitable parking near their destination or at intermediate points, it can disrupt the entire supply chain. Delays often have a cascading effect, affecting subsequent pickups, deliveries and overall customer satisfaction. This inefficiency can result in missed deadlines, penalties, and even the loss of valuable business contracts.
- Increased Dwell Time at Distribution Centers. Limited parking options force truckers to wait at distribution centers, often idling their engines or waiting in line for available spaces. This increased dwell time not only adds to the drivers’ frustration but also affects operations at the distribution centers.
- Inefficient Asset Utilization. If drivers are unable to find parking near their intended destinations, they may opt to park farther away despite the increase in empty miles traveled and wasted fuel. Moreover, inefficient parking leads to underutilization of trucking assets, as trucks may remain parked for longer durations instead of being on the move to complete more deliveries.
- Disruptions in Just-in-Time Inventory. The trucking industry plays a crucial role in the just-in-time (JIT) inventory management strategy. However, limited parking availability can disrupt the JIT model by introducing delays in product delivery. JIT relies on precise coordination and timely transportation, and any interruptions caused by parking challenges can have a ripple effect on inventory levels, production schedules and general customer satisfaction.
How Tech is Evolving to Aid in the Parking Problem
The ongoing evolution of technology is empowering truck drivers and supply chain operators to overcome the limitations posed by limited parking. In March 2021, the Truck Parking Safety Improvement Act outlined a $775 million plan to expand parking for all large commercial vehicles. This includes technology solutions that support other infrastructure initiatives across the U.S. including the following:
- Real-time Parking Apps. Mobile applications provide truck drivers with real-time information about available parking spaces. These apps use GPS data and crowd-sourced information to identify nearby parking options, including truck stops, rest areas, and private parking facilities. They also provide details such as availability, amenities and reservation options, enabling drivers to plan their routes and secure parking spots in advance.
- Parking Reservation Systems. Some technology platforms allow truck drivers to reserve parking spaces in advance. These systems enable drivers to book a parking spot at a specific location, reducing the uncertainty and stress associated with finding parking on arrival.
- IoT-enabled Parking Solutions. Internet of Things (IoT) technology is being used to create smart sensors in parking areas to monitor occupancy in real time. This information is then relayed to drivers through mobile apps or electronic signs, allowing them to quickly identify available parking spaces.
- Predictive Analytics. Advanced data analytics techniques are being used to predict parking availability based on historical data, traffic patterns, and other relevant factors. Predictive analytics algorithms can estimate the likelihood of finding parking at specific locations and times, helping truck drivers plan their routes more effectively.
- Connected Fleet Management. Technology solutions for fleet management are integrating parking-related features. Fleet management systems can provide real-time updates on parking availability along a driver’s route, enabling dispatchers to make informed decisions and guide drivers to available parking spots.
Updates in Parking Legislation
In May 2023, the House Transportation Committee approved the $755 million proposal to expand truck parking nationwide. While there are still more approvals to obtain before the bill is officially enacted (it must pass through the full House and into the Senate), the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association has expressed confidence in this important step towards supporting drivers.
The federal government has also allocated funding for the expansion and improvement of truck parking infrastructure through programs like the Jason’s Law Truck Parking Survey, and some states have already implemented rest area expansions, improved signage and increased enforcement against unauthorized parking.
By driving these legislative changes, the industry aims to improve trucker access to every resource they need to perform their vital role in the supply chain safely.
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