Truckers want parking spaces, not just lip service

By Clarissa Hawes, Land Line staff writer | 1/2/2014

Truckers who struggle to find safe truck parking daily say federal money would be better spent constructing more parking spaces than on technology that simply tells them how many spaces are available.

Meanwhile, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s Technology Division continues to move forward with its SmartPark initiative, an investment in technology to provide truckers with information about truck parking availability when out on the road.

Over the past several years, FMCSA has been funding the SmartPark initiative to “evaluate technologies that offer the potential to monitor truck parking availability and to convey parking status information to truck drivers.”

So far, the agency has spent more than $2.7 million to study SmartPark, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Research and Innovative Technology Administration website.

The agency states that a reservation-type system could “decrease driver fatigue” by alerting drivers to parking availability.

Since the SmartPark initiative was introduced, OOIDA has emphasized the need to ensure that federal funds are used to add more truck parking spaces, instead of using critical funding to study the viability of a truck parking reservation system.

“Adding new physical parking locations should be the first priority of state DOTs and local transportation planners,” said Ryan Bowley, director of government affairs at OOIDA. “If that is not a possibility in an area where there is high demand for parking and little land available, like near a city, then planners need to do significant outreach directly to truckers to figure out what other options work best for them.”

Bowley cited recent outreach from the Virginia Department of Transportation to truck drivers traveling through the state, surveying truck drivers to glean information about truck parking and safety concerns they face while out on the road.

In the FMCSA’s report about the SmartPark initiative, the agency says the second attempt to determine truck parking space occupancy was successful, achieving 99.9 percent accuracy in its parking counts.

The agency has already started Phase II of the project. According to the report on the FMCSA website, its two main tasks now are to “demonstrate how truck parking availability information can be disseminated” and “demonstrate how two adjacent truck parking areas can be networked to divert trucks from a filled parking area to an unfilled area.”

The second phase of the project is scheduled to be completed by November 2014.

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