Helping truck drivers meet the challenge of finding a safe place to park

The shortage of safe places for truck drivers to park overnight is making headlines again with stories of drivers resorting to abandoned gas stations, freeway ramps and industrial parking lots -- leading to wasted hours, tired drivers and, in some cases being attacked or worse in their truck cabs at night. In June of last year, truck driver Mike Boeglin was shot and his rig burned beyond recognition after parking overnight at an abandoned factory in Detroit, putting more pressure on legislators to address the growing parking shortage.

The FHWA (Federal Highway Administration) has recognized the need to address the issue and they have included it the MAP-21 highway bill, with the anticipation the new law will come into effect before the end of 2015. This legislation would allocate additional funding toward developing more rest areas for truckers, particularly along some busier interstate routes.

The legislative change has largely been the result of a tragic incident in 2009 where trucker Jason Rivenburg was murdered while resting for the night in his truck at an abandoned gas station. The bill (Subtitle D, Section 1401 also referred to as Jason’s Law) will invest more in both studying current shortages (many states are closing rest areas due to financial difficulties) and constructing safe and convenient overnight stopping areas for long-haul truckers.

The problem isn’t new. A DOT study in 2002 highlighted a critical shortage in parking however funding cuts and state budget allocations meant little positive action was taken. In fact, many states moved to close deteriorating rest stops, with Louisiana as a key offender, closing 23 of its 34 public rest areas in early 2008.

The spate of closing rest areas is set to collide with increasing freight volumes and the problem will become more urgent sooner rather than later.

[Tweet "70% of truckers on the I-5 admitted being forced to keep driving after finding a rest area full"]

Trucker parking shortage costing time, money and drivers’ sanity

While slain truckers have been the poster children for the parking shortage crisis, the whole trucking community is feeling the pinch. In 2012, 70 percent of truckers traveling the I-5 admitted being forced to keep driving after finding a rest area full. Over half said this happened every other day.

In the Northeast, "All the truck stops fill up early," says Debora da Rocha. "If you don’t find a place by 4 PM, you’re in bad shape."

[Tweet "With no place to stop many truckers push on or park illegally ... on freeway ramps or shoulders."]

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Rick Stagner, 52, a long-haul operator says that complying with the 10-hour rest period is difficult in some states, such as Virginia, where overnight rest area stops are prohibited. “You try to abide by the law and then they throw up these obstacles that don’t allow you do that,” he says, noting that he takes hours to plan his route and stops.

With no place to stop many truckers push on or park illegally in secluded areas behind grocery stores, the corners of shopping malls or freeway ramps and shoulders.

And the stress of finding a safe place to park overnight is taking its toll on drivers. Just ask Dave Della Maggiore:

His truck was rammed repeatedly when a tired, angry trucker couldn’t find space at a truck stop in Clines Corners, N.M. The trucker was trying to squeeze in beside him and did about $8,000 worth of damage to his vehicle.

For an industry dealing with driver retention issues, the inability to provide something as basic as an easy place to stop for the night has bad news written all over it. And waiting on government legislation may not address the problem soon enough.

Truck-specific navigation helping drivers rest easier

While it may still be some time before extra government funding or private ventures address the parking shortage there are some solutions that are much closer at hand.

Truck-specific navigation does more than just give turn-by-turn directions.

  • Share known safe parking areas with your entire network - The option of adding your own custom POIs (Points of Interest) to the map on a driver’s navigation device’s display allows them to easily navigate to safe parking spots and known truck-friendly rest areas.
  • Wisdom of the crowd - A networked community of more than 140,000 professional drivers is continually providing feedback on new and updated rest areas, or warnings of potential danger zones. Real-time feedback on parking space availability will also save drivers time.
  • Optimized routing - Custom routing that honors preferred rest areas and plans driver stops effectively.
  • Hours of Service (HOS) compliance - Route planning that complies with HOS driving restrictions to keep drivers legal and refreshed.

When drivers have the tools to navigate efficiently between stops with as little stress as possible, we’re not just improving productivity (how many hours are drivers currently taking to find a place to park?) but reducing stress levels, fatigue and the potential for accidents or harm to the driver. That’s good for driver retention, better for drivers, and better for their families waiting for them to get home safely.

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