The Truck Parking Shortage

Tight confines, row upon row of filled-up slots, not an open space in sight. If you’ve been out on the road (or, more fittingly, just getting off of it), you know: Truck parking is a serious problem. Safe and accessible big rig parking spots are a precious commodity these days. And with freight transportation forecast to rapidly expand in the coming decades, the situation is only expected to get worse. So—what’s to be done about the parking shortage?

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), nearly 6 million CMV’s whir down U.S. roadways every day. However, by contrast, there are only 308,920 parking spaces to accommodate them, between state rest areas and private truck stops.

As would be expected, the shortage is much more dire in certain areas. Metro locations and their immediate outskirts have long grappled with adequate trucking parking, and individual states vary widely in their availability. For instance, Rhode Island, the country’s smallest, not surprisingly has the least amount of spaces per 100,000 miles of annual truck vehicle miles traveled, but California, the second-largest in the contiguous U.S., comes in second-to-last, with just around 55 spots per 100,000 miles driven. Montana has the most, at 171 per 100,000 miles driven.

The Implications

You’re circling, you’re scanning, but you can’t find an official, designated, or suitable spot. So what do you do? You have a couple options: Park elsewhere (a vacant lot, along the roadside, on an exit ramp) or simply give up looking and move on. Obviously, neither option is optimal. According to the FMCSA, in 2012, trucks located on the roadside, shoulder, parking lane or otherwise off the roadway were involved in nearly 60% of single-vehicle crashes in where drivers or passengers were injured.

What’s Being Done?

Between budget constraints, state statutes and hurdles related to land use and real estate, it’s a bulky issue to tackle. But experts and officials are beginning to push for movement.

To start, in 2012, Jason’s Law was passed. Named for Jason Rivenburg, a NY based driver who was murdered while parked at a deserted gas station after failing to find a safer spot elsewhere, the statute has provided funding for much-needed expansions and improvements at various state rest stops and also required the completion of a parking survey.

The DOT has convened a dedicated committee to seek out solutions; the National Coalition on Truck Parking held its first meeting in November 2016 and expects to hold regular meetings.

Meanwhile, the Federal Highway Administration is planning workshops around the topic this summer. Notable chains including TA and Loves have committed to expansion efforts. Others, including Pilot Flying J, have experimented with paid reservation models.


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