Trucker Path, which also provides information on the location of fuel stops and weigh stations, expanded its services last month by introducing a new version called the Trucker Path Bro, which utilizes Facebook Messenger.
Truck parking shortages have become a national safety concern, the Department of Transportation said this year.
The dearth of spaces prompts tired truck drivers to continue to drive because they have difficulty finding a place to park and rest, according to the agency. A lack of spaces also creates traffic hazards when drivers choose to park at unsafe locations, such as on the shoulder of the road, exit ramps or vacant lots, the government said.
Trucker Path apps attempt to alleviate the problem by helping drivers more easily find parking spaces.
With the new Trucker Path Bro app, drivers issue a Facebook message on the number of parking spots nearby, stating what city they are in or where they are planning on stopping for the night. The chatbot responds with the number of available spaces, as well as maps of the area.
“So, say you are in Austin, Texas, and the chatbot tells you four locations are full but there are other spots here to park,” said Olga Balusova, product manager of Trucker Path.
Trucker Path Bro utilizes the information gleaned from its original app called Trucker Path Pro, which has more than 430,000 users.
Both are free and use crowdsourcing technology to capture real-time information to map and relay truck parking availability. The Mountain View, Calif., company depends on truckers to update the parking situation in the areas where they have stopped.
“If a trucker arrives at a parking lot and it is full, they will let others know that there are no parking spots available and they need to look somewhere else,” Balusova told Trucks.com. “Then another trucker will post there is parking availability a few minutes down the road, so truckers don’t have to drive around looking for parking.”
The GPS-driven app provides other detailed information important to truck drivers, including navigation directions and the locations of nearby restaurants and trucking services. It even offers the addresses of Walmart stores that allow truckers to park their rigs and rest.
Founded by Ivan Tsybaev in 2013 with $1.5 million in seed money, Trucker Path has now raised $21.5 million to fund its growth, he said.
The popularity of the app has grown from about 100,000 users in 2015 to 430,000 now, Balusova said.
Trucking veteran DuWayne Marshall of Watertown, Wis., uses the app. Marshall said he uses Trucker Path Pro to find out which weigh stations are open on the regular route he takes from Wisconsin to California every other week.
“It’s a useful tool and I can see this being helpful to those who are new to the industry or don’t have dedicated runs and drive in areas they are not familiar with,” Marshall told Trucks.com.
Other drivers, however, are sticking to the old-school approach to finding parking.
“If I see I’m going to be a late arrival to the truck stop, I call and reserve a parking spot,” said Tim Philmon of Middleburg, Fla., a 33-year trucking veteran.
The company hopes to capture such holdouts by expanding its services.
Trucker Path Pro, which has apps for Android and iOS devices, recently added information about 1,000 parking locations and now has 27,000 nationwide. The app has expanded into Canada for truckers there or who are moving between the U.S. and its northern neighbor.
However, truckers said some of the recent improvements have made the app run more slowly. The company is aware of the issues and is working to fix the problems, Balusova said.
Tsybaev is a Russian emigre who previously worked in the oil industry in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk before coming to the U.S. in 2010. He turned to Silicon Valley to help formulate his first app, which he said is now being used by more than 30 percent of all Class 8 truckers.
For now, Trucker Path is living off of its funding and is just in the beginning stages testing various strategies for generating revenue.
It has a pilot program where truck stops can advertise on the parking app. But it doesn’t plan to start charging drivers for the app.
Additionally, the company released a beta version of Truckloads, a load board, in November 2015. The load board has been downloaded more than 100,000 times and has more than 20,000 active users, according to the company.
“We experiment with different revenue streams on both Trucker Path Pro and Truckloads at this point,” Tsybaev said. The company will “focus on what works the best,” he said, “and ramp it up significantly by the end of this year.”
Tsybaev said he wants the apps to become useful tools for truckers.
“We are focused on bringing more locations and more accurate data to our users in the most easy-to-use-way.” Tsybaev said. “Our commitment is to improve truckers’ life on the road.”