ATRI: Truckers lose nearly $5k/year looking for parking, ELDs partly to blame

By Tyson Fisher, Land Line staff writer | 12/14/2016

Earlier this year, the American Transportation Research Institute asked truckers to keep a two-week diary of their parking experiences in order to collect valuable data. Nearly 150 diaries – representing 2,035 days and 4,763 unique stops – were submitted and the results are in.

Among the findings, ATRI discovered that truckers are losing thousands of dollars a year searching for parking, noncommercial vehicles are taking up much needed space, ELDs are exacerbating the problem, and truckers are perhaps spending less time searching than other studies suggest.

Time and money
Perhaps the most surprising finding of the study was the amount of driving time still available per hours-of-service regulation after parking. Nearly three-quarters of respondents lost an hour to two hours of driving time, with 40 percent reporting a loss of 31-60 minutes and 32 percent losing 61-120 minutes.

That’s an average loss of $4,600 a year, according to ATRI. The research institute calculated average truck speeds at nearly 40 mph, 250 days worked per year, and average loss time of 56 minutes a day to come up with an average loss of 9,300 revenue-producing miles. With average wages of $0.499 per mile an hour, ATRI concluded a nearly $5,000/year loss.

Another surprising result in ATRI’s study was time spent finding a parking spot. More than half claimed they found a spot within 5-10 minutes, 15.5 percent within 11-15 minutes and 18.3 percent within 16-30 minutes. Less than 10 percent of participants reported searching more than 30 minutes for parking.

These findings are in direct contrast to studies conducted by the Kansas Department of Transportation and the Mid America Association of State Transportation Officials. In June, KDOT released a study indicating that truckers were spending an average of 30 minutes searching for safe parking. A MAASTO study showed more than half of respondents spend more than 30 minutes looking for parking.

ATRI was more consistent with Jason’s Law Report regarding peak times that parking is unavailable, including weekdays. ATRI also found that more time was spent finding parking from 7 p.m. to midnight and 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.

However, ATRI’s study differed from Jason’s Law Report regarding problematic regions. ATRI found the South Atlantic, Southeast and Southwest to have the longest search times. Conversely, Jason’s Law Report indicated the Northeast, South Atlantic and Midwest East/North Central to be more challenging.

Apps and ELDs
Truckers turned to technology to find a parking spot. More than half indicated they used a website/application or GPS system to locate parking, followed by 37.7 percent using books. Nearly a quarter said they used “Other,” which included past experience on the road.

Reserving parking spaces was not uncommon as almost half (45.6 percent) have reserved a space. Most parking reservations were out of pocket since only 15 percent have the reservations paid for by their carrier.

Ironically, drivers who were willing to reserve a spot were more likely to spend more than 15 minutes looking for parking than those who refused to pay for parking. There was little change between those willing to pay and those who are not when finding a spot within 15 minutes.

Drivers using an ELD were almost twice as likely to spend more than 30 minutes searching for a spot. Conversely, those without an ELD were slightly more likely to find a spot within 15 minutes.

“The observed relationship between ELD use and search time suggests that the ELD mandate will negatively impact search time for drivers not already using ELDs,” the study says.

Noncommercial vehicles and public/private stops
No matter where truckers go, they can often find someone sleeping in their bed – i.e., a vehicle that is not a commercial vehicle (CMV) parked in a spot designated for trucks. ATRI’s study confirms this idea. Non-CMVs are defined as any vehicle not subjected to HOS regulations or space requirements, including RVs, bobtails and construction equipment.

In all regions, more than a third of truck parking spaces were occupied by a non-CMV. This problem was most prevalent on the weekends and was at its lowest in the middle of the week. However, non-CMVs were more likely to park in truck spots in public rest areas (48.8 percent) rather than private truck stops (43 percent).

Speaking of truck stops, more than 70 percent used private truck stops for the 10-hour required breaks. Nearly every respondent cited “proximity to route” as an important factor determining where they stop. More than three-quarters were also looking for restrooms/showers and expected parking availability.

Driver demographics
Nearly three-quarters of diaries submitted came from employee drivers, one-quarter from independent contractors leased to a carrier, and 2 percent from owner-operators. Exactly half drove for a fleet with more than 1,000 units, and the overwhelming majority (90 percent) were away from home for more than five days per week.

Regional (100-599 miles per trip), inter-regional (600-999 miles) and long haul (1,000 or more miles) truckers were represented fairly equally at 35.8 percent, 33.1 percent and 31.1 percent, respectively. The majority spent time in the Midwest and Southeast, with the least amount of time in the Northeast and Canada.

Nearly three-quarters of participants were paid by the mile, with 19.6 percent paid by the load. Most drivers (85 percent) operated an electronic logging device in their truck.

To view the full report, click here.

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