ATRI releases studies on truck parking and delivering real-time info to truckers

By Tyson Fisher, Land Line staff writer | Tuesday, March 07, 2017

The American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) has released two truck parking studies. Conducted for the Minnesota Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration, the new research analyzes “new approaches for identifying available truck parking capacity,” according to ATRI.

The results suggest that GPS data is a successful way to monitor truck parking spaces. Also, information systems make hours-of-service compliance easier, with onboard information devices proving to be popular among drivers.

Using Truck GPS Data to Assess Parking Supply and Demand
Completed for MNDOT, this study assessed truck parking supply and demand by analyzing GPS data (truck activity) at select rest stops in Minnesota.

The first phase of the study took place at the Goose Creek rest area on northbound Interstate 35 north of the Twin Cities. During October 2015, the rest area experienced 55 hours of overcapacity, roughly 7.4 percent of the month. Overcapacity was at its worst on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Consistent with typical hours-of-service breaks, crowding was exclusive to the hours between 5 a.m. and 6 p.m.

Phase two analyzed three rest areas in Minnesota: Des Moines River (I-90 WB, Milepost 72), Clear Lake (1-90 EB, Milepost 69) and Minnesota Valley (US 169, Milepost 80).

With 44 hours of the month at overcapacity (5.9 percent), Minnesota Valley had the second-highest overcapacity rate among those studied. Like Goose Creek, the latter half of the week saw the most overcapacity. However, Monday also experienced high overcapacity rates. Only four hours did not experience overcapacity, the peak being between midnight and 7 a.m. This could lead to issues with parking for overnight rest.

Clear Lake’s overcapacity occurred during 18 hours of October 2015, 2.4 percent of the month. Although a peak was noted between 5 a.m. and noon, overcapacity appeared to be all over the clock.

Des Moines River’s overcapacity occurred for only six hours of the month, about 1 percent. As with the other rest areas, overcapacity was concentrated in the second half of the week. Overcapacity was limited to hours between 5 a.m. and 6 a.m. as well as 9 a.m. and 11 a.m.

ATRI concluded that “real world truck GPS data” can be used to assess truck parking capacity and identified a consistent issue with overcapacity in the latter half of the week.

A Comprehensive System for Assessing Truck Parking Availability
In conjunction with the University of Minnesota, this study looked into three different ways to deliver real-time truck parking information to drivers: roadside changeable message signs, internet/website portal and in-cab communication systems.

With a focus on developing a Truck Parking Availability System (TPAS) along the Interstate-94 corridor in Minnesota, truck parking spaces were studied at Big Spunk Lake (mile 151.7), Enfield (mile 187), and Elm Creek (mile 215).

Surveying drivers before and after implementing the messaging systems, ATRI found more than half of drivers reported a positive or very positive impact of TPAS on productivity. Of drivers surveyed, 33 percent were owner-operators while the rest were employee/company drivers. Nearly three-quarters drove for operations of more than 50 trucks.

Nearly 70 percent of drivers reported they receive less than a 24-hour notice before a long-distance trip, making planning difficult. The parking issues that were experienced the most were “parking only available in unsafe locations” and “parking available on ramps or shoulders.” HOS regulations were the top reason for finding parking, followed by showering/restroom as a distant second.

The majority of drivers assess truck parking using a laptop (71 percent) or smartphone (63 percent). Only 17 percent used an onboard device. When asked what message service is most preferred, drivers ranked changeable message signs as the top method, followed by apps, website and onboard device. Regarding message signs, about half wanted a sign 20 miles from the rest area, with 37 percent preferring a 5-mile range and 30.5 percent calling for a 10-mile range.

Lastly, most drivers reported that they were not willing to pay for parking reservations (37 percent). About 32 percent said they would pay $1-$5, a quarter would fork over $6-$10, and only 6 percent would shell out $11-$20.

According to the report, the accuracy of the camera detection system used was 98 percent. Even during heavy snow and rain, the accuracy was still 95 percent.

With 15 drivers testing the SmartPark in-cab truck parking notification system, the average driver received approximately 40 alerts. However, two drivers received more than 100 alerts. An average of four hours was left of driving time when drivers were looking for parking.

After the testing period, drivers were asked follow-up questions. Pre-test responses indicated that changeable signs, apps, websites and onboard devices were the preferred info systems, in order of most to least. Post-test responses revealed a much different tone. The majority (60 percent) preferred onboard computers, followed by roadside signs, apps and websites.

Nearly 70 percent of participants reported that TPAS had a significant impact, with the remaining reporting a moderate impact. No participants reported a neutral, minor or no impact, suggesting TPAS to be a major success. Nearly the same amount reported a significant impact regarding complying with HOS regulations.

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