Tennessee DOT testing program to make searching for parking easier

By Tyson Fisher, Land Line staff writer | Thursday, February 05, 2015

Truckers in certain parts of Tennessee may soon have an easier time finding parking spaces. The Tennessee Department of Transportation and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration are launching SmartPark there. SmartPark is a smartphone app that allows drivers to search for parking availability along the I-75 corridor in East Tennessee.

In addition to the smartphone phone app, FMCSA Technical Division Project Manager Quon Kwan said there will be three other methods to obtain information: dynamic message signs; online at smartparkingusa.com; and through an interactive voice recognition hotline for non-smartphone users at 1-844-SMARTPK (768-7275).

The rest area near mile marker 45 off of I-75 NB near Athens, Tenn., is currently online, Kwan told Land Line. Coming soon to the program is a parking site near mile marker 23 near Cleveland, Tenn., also off of I-75 NB.

The smartphone app can be downloaded by searching for “SmartParkingUSA” at the Apple Store and Google Play.

Kwan noted that SmartPark was launched after a 2000 National Transportation Safety Board recommendation. NTSB suggested creating a paper guide that would let truckers know about parking locations and availability. The Federal Highway Administration followed that up with a 2002 truck parking study. In that study, FHWA recommended using Intelligent Transportation Systems, which would allow drivers to seek out parking in real time.

According to FMCSA’s website, Phase I of the project discovered which technology could accurately pinpoint parking spots. From 2007 to 2009, two methods were tested: video imaging and magnetometry. Video imaging was found to not meet standards during nighttime hours. Magnetometry – a method that uses magnetic field sensors – also did not produce accurate results. Eventually, FMCSA found that Doppler radar and laser scanning yielded results that were 99.5 percent accurate.

Using the Doppler radar and laser scanning method, FMCSA is now in Phase II of the program, which consists of pilot programs at test sites. The final report of Phase II will determine whether or not the program can divert truckers from a filled parking lot to one with available spaces.

Once the pilot program has been completed, funds will be available to state DOTs through the help of FHWA grants and the FMCSA, Kwan told Land Line. Tennessee had volunteered for the test sites and will have the option to continue the program. SmartPark availability will be dependent on the will of each state’s DOT.

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