Finding The Right Truck Stop
For truck drivers finding a proper parking situation, the issue isn’t so much as finding the perfect spot as it seems to be finding a spot at all.
With increased loads, truckers required to make more stops to clients and breaks mandated by the Department of Transportation, truck drivers are having an incredibly difficult time parking when they need to rest and stopping when the law tells them to do so. There are over 300,000 parking spots for truck drivers in the United States – but too often, drivers are hung out to dry when the need for a spot comes along.
According to the American Transport Research Institute, finding a parking spot is a one of the top concern for truckers in the country, ranking above a driver’s health and the economy. However, it may come as no surprise that finding a spot for one’s rig is an enormous endeavor – both literally and figuratively.
Trucking associations and highway officials are attempting to find an answer to alleviate the problems of minimal parking – but it seems that the problem is one that is ever-growing.
Many truck drivers have faced the same conundrum – they need to pull over because their eyes are feeling heavy or because they are about to hit their maximum hours allotment.
What happens when the rest stop or terminal is filled with trucks and it looks like there’s no way a driver can find a space? A driver moves on, of course.
This works for a few miles, drivers are still sleepy, but they’re in control – and it looks like the next stop is full, too. How long can a driver keep this up?
Unfortunately, this happens all-too often for drivers. They are often then faced with the task of finding the most suitable alternative to an actual, prescribed spot and may end up parking somewhere altogether dangerous. The Wall Street Journal reports that drivers who must resort to an impromptu resting space end up utilizing freeway shoulders 27% of the time and parking lots 20% of the time. These spots are rarely safe alternatives, and may often lead to jeopardizing the well-being of a truck driver.
Such is the case with Jason Rivenburg, a driver who was killed in 2009 after parking near an abandoned gas station in South Carolina.
Unfortunately, Rivenburg is not alone – with no security footage, Highway Patrol or enforcement of any sort, these overlooked and abandoned spots are not safe for truckers, and because of this they are often not conducive to sleep or meaningful rest of any kind.
Furthermore, there is little enforcement of a driver’s freight when they sleep in a zone outside of an official stop. Drivers have been victim to stolen cargo when resting off the side of the road, sometimes losing an incalculable amount of goods to theft.
Another factor is the legality of sleeping outside of a zone commissioned for truckers. While some truck drivers get away with a quick rest at a gas station or a parking lot, police and property owners are not always forgiving. When a driver is forcibly awakened from their “legal” nap and are asked to leave the scene because they are illegally parked, this puts the driver at an even greater risk of fatigue, and makes them a greater threat on the road.
Is There A Solution?
The solution may seem obvious, yet unrealistic – find more regulated spots and areas for the growing number of truck drivers to park in. Yet, how exactly do developers go about tackling this?
The solution may lie within using areas suitable for the size of trucks that are already available to us. One idea is to use abandoned or converted industrial parks and industrial areas as a stop for trucks. These areas are generally off of the highway or very close to a highway, in which case drivers would likely not have a difficult time navigating to them.
The same method of co-opting could be instated at locations such as unused scales, or safe areas that are otherwise made for the size of the average truck.
Trucking officials also suggest that trucking companies work with Big Box stores and property owners to strike some sort of deal for overnight parking. Perhaps if drivers can pledge to be out of the lot during hours of operation as to not hinder customers and employees, an otherwise vacant lot can be a great area where truckers feel secure resting.
Finally, on an individual level, a driver themselves can plan their rest in advance, perhaps with multiple stops in the event the first few rest areas are already occupied with drivers. However, the onus of finding parking is arguably a two- way street.