Truck parking has consistently been ranked a top concern for decades in the U.S. trucking and transportation industry. Unfortunately, the issue has only become more pressing. According to reports, a lack of safe and accessible parking was listed as the top concern among drivers in the United States in 2022.
Another study from the United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) states there is currently only one parking spot for every 11 trucks on U.S. roads. While there have been efforts made to alleviate the growing problem, the last piece of federal legislation was made over a decade ago with the passing of Jason’s Law.
Below, we’ll talk about how we got to this point and how the shortage is affecting drivers, as well as what’s being done to solve the problem going forward.
How did we get here?
As with most long-standing, large-scale issues, there isn’t a singular reason why semi-truck parking has become such an issue, but rather a combination of different factors that have contributed over time.
- Too many trucks, not enough parking spaces.
There are currently about 3 million tractor trailers on the road but only 300,000 overnight parking spaces, 90 percent of which are privately owned. Even as the number of trucks on the road continually increases, goals of expanded truck parking have largely been passed over in favor of other infrastructure projects, such as bridges and roads.
- Demand takes them into urban areas, which lacks parking.
The demand for goods is highest within major metro areas. With the housing crisis still looming, many of these urban areas struggle to keep up with the demand for housing. This means increased competition for both land and resources within industrial areas that could otherwise be used to develop semi-truck parking. Put simply, it’s unfortunately not a priority, which means drivers will often have to take a detour from their route just to find parking.
- Regulations require more rest, but not enough places for resting.
Changes in federal regulations continue to contribute to the parking problem. Congress has changed regulations within the past decade to require more rest time for drivers with the hope of reducing the number of accidents and fatalities on the road due to driver fatigue. With the lack of available parking spaces, though, drivers spend an average of 56 minutes looking for parking, and often end up going over HOS.
- Changes in supply chain strategy require tighter transportation times.
Finally, the increase in just-in-time supply chains drive up demand and in turn, increase the annual mileage most drivers accumulate while also raising the expectation for tighter transportation timelines.
Potential impacts of limited parking
With a lack of parking spaces, the increase in HOS regulations and the time constraints on the profession, drivers are put in a tough spot and often resort to either going over HOS searching for parking or parking unsafe locations. Whenever drivers go over their HOS limit, they increase the risk of unsafe driving, accidents, fines and additional issues. Similarly, a lack of available parking may lead to drivers parking illegally, which can lead to costly parking citations.
In a time where trucking companies, particularly smaller operations, are dealing with increased operating costs and tightening cashflow, being placed out of service and/or having to pay additional fines adds unnecessary financial burden.
Additionally, there’s lost productivity that can stem from a lack of available parking. When drivers on tight timelines can’t find parking when they need it, it can mean delays in both deliveries and pick-ups. These delays can lead to additional fines for carriers, strain on their relationship with customers and temporary product shortage that impact the customers and consumers.
What’s being done about the lack of semi-truck parking?
With the lack of semi-truck parking being such a long-standing issue, many different stakeholders have taken interest. This includes both state and federal governments, as well as leaders within the trucking and transportation industry. For example, states like Tennessee, Florida, Ohio and West Virginia have used federal grants to introduce projects designed to increase the number of parking spots while modernizing rest stops. While encouraging, these efforts only make a small dent in the overall issue.
More likely, it will take efforts at the federal level to make significant progress. One such effort was the introduction of the Truck Parking Safety Improvement Actto the U.S. Senate in December of 2022. The project would authorize $755 million in grants designed to develop thousands of new parking areas and improve existing parking over the span of multiple years. The bill has received bipartisan support but has yet to be approved.
Significant investments in semi-truck parking infrastructure are necessary at the local, state and federal level. And even though there have been encouraging signs of progress in recent months, it remains to be seen whether the necessary investments will be made. In the meantime, companies like Pilot Flying J have introduced solutions like Prime Parking, which allows drivers to get real-time parking information and reserve their spots using their phones.