There are more than 3 million truckers hauling about $725-billion worth of freight in the U.S. annually, and amid myriad on-the-job challenges drivers face – including health problems and time spent away from loved ones – finding a place to park their rigs at night remains a giant hurdle.
The U.S. suffers from a critical truck parking shortage for long-haul rigs.
That’s why a raft of mobile apps for smartphones and tablets – designed to guide truckers to safe parking – are popping up.
There is only parking for about 300,000 trucks, according to the Federal Highway Administration, or FHWA. Sanctuary is especially sparse along major trucking routes such as the I-5 corridor through Washington, Oregon and California.
More than 75 percent of truck drivers responding to an FHWA survey said they regularly experienced problems finding parking when rest was needed. Finding safe, available parking at night was an issue for 90 percent of drivers.
“Finding a safe place to park is a consistent issue for drivers in our industry,” Chris Spear, chief executive of the American Trucking Associations, said last year when talking about how apps could help alleviate the problem. “While we would love to see the number of spaces increase, tightening state and federal highway budgets will limit the opportunity to expand parking capacity for the foreseeable future.”
The ATA and other trade groups representing different sides of the industry have banded together to leverage the technology and tackle the issue.
NATSO, a national organization that supports truck stops and travel plazas, together with the ATA and the American Transport Research Institute, developed a free app, Park My Truck, based on similarly despairing feedback from truckers.
Park My Truck allows any parking provider to report availability through the app.
“Federally mandated rest and sleep breaks can sometimes force truck drivers to park in places that may not be the safest to rest,” said Barbara LaBoe, spokeswoman for the Washington State Department of Transportation, or WSDOT. “And in some areas there have been cases of robbery and even deaths.”
Truck cargo thefts occur at the rate of at least twice daily, according to FreightWatch International, a logistics security services firm. Of those thefts, 86 percent happen in unsecured sites such as public parking and truck trailer drop lots.
Additionally, from 2010 through 2015, 47 truckers were victims of homicide, according to the Bureau of Labor statistics.
Parking apps also promote road safety by getting tired drivers off highways.
There are hours-of-service regulations in place to enforce driving limits to 11 consecutive hours behind the wheel during a 24-hour period.
However, a 2016 truck parking survey conducted by WSDOT found that almost half of the respondents frequently drive fatigued as a result of insufficient truck parking, LaBoe said.
“Any driver on the road while drowsy is a safety concern to themselves and others, and that includes truckers,” she said. “By ensuring they’re able to meet their sleep needs, which are federally required, truck drivers are more alert and better able to react to changes in traffic.”
Well-rested truckers can react more quickly and have better awareness of their surroundings, meaning a safer driving environment for everyone on the road, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Locating secure, abundant truck parking that allows drivers safe haven and adequate rest is also an issue overseas.
Dutch businessman Niels de Zwaan, managing director of the Truck Parking USA and Truck Parking Europe apps developed the platforms after he observed a dichotomy of vacant and overcrowded lots while driving through Germany on a ski trip and wondered if truckers were even aware of their options.
There’s an industrywide problem with truckers finding a safe place to park, so why not develop an app that informs truckers on parking availability in the U.S. and Europe, De Zwann said.
“These truckers are the backbone of the American economy and deserve a voice and advocate for their safety,” De Zwann said. “Informing truckers about where they can find the best parking spots [according to their preferences] helps make their jobs easier.”
Other parking apps include Truck Stop & GPS Trucker Path, created by Austin, Texas-based Trucker Path Inc. This app provides drivers quick access to truck stops, open weigh stations and parking – including Walmart locations.
“Being a truck driver is an essential but dangerous job that requires much sacrifice and skill, not to mention a 70-hour workweek,” said Ivan Tsybaev, chief executive of Trucker Path. “Trucker Path is designed to assist truck drivers with real-time information that can save them precious driving time and money.”
Many of these apps rely on crowdsourced feedback based on trucker input. Trucker Path also gathers insight from the companies that lend property for parking – like Walmart – to keep the information current and accurate.
The company has verified parking spots at more than 5,000 truck stops, allowing drivers to see exactly how many spaces are at each location, Tsybaev said.
Private ventures like this help address the parking problem, transportation officials told Trucks.com.
“Adequate truck parking is a national and state concern, and it’s one that can’t be resolved by any one entity,” LaBoe said. “It will take strong partnership with public and private entities to jointly address this issue and seek solutions. WSDOT is committed to further strengthening those partnerships.”