Kansas addresses state's truck parking issue in new study

By Tyson Fisher, Land Line staff writer | 6/7/2016

Kansas transportation officials are looking into the truck parking issue in the Sunflower State. The Kansas Department of Transportation and the Kansas Turnpike Authority have released the Kansas Statewide Freight Network Parking Plan, which includes strategies for Interstate 70, Interstate 35 and the Kansas Turnpike.

According to the study, truckers were spending up to 30 minutes – or nearly 5 percent of allowable driving time – looking for a parking spot within the constraints of hours-of-service regulations.

“This added expense is borne by the drivers, their companies and Kansas agricultural and manufacturing interests, making all less competitive in a global marketplace driven by cost,” the study notes. “And where appropriate parking cannot easily be found, drivers often are forced to park along the sides of highways, ramps or in the lots of closed or abandoned businesses, creating safety concerns for other motorists and themselves.”

Emphasizing how much worse the problem can potentially be in the future, the study mentions that freight volumes in the U.S. are expected to grow by nearly 29 percent over the next 11 years. Within that time frame, the number of trucks is expected to increase by nearly 12 percent to nearly 4 million units.

To further understand the current and future parking problem, KDOT and KTA took inventory of public and private truck parking locations, including capacity and use. The agencies also assessed such barriers as regulations, policies and information needs affecting a trucker’s parking choices.

Based on the information gleaned from those inventories and assessments, KDOT and KTA came to the following insights:

  • Peak parking times for trucks are between 12 a.m. and 4 a.m.
  • Trucks park anywhere that can accommodate them to stay within their hours of service requirements: parking lots, side roads, shoulders or ramps.
  • Parking decisions are made based on service time, lot amenities and target destination.
  • Most large legal parking facilities, especially near urban areas or the intersections of major highway-to-highway connections, are at or over capacity regularly.
  • Drivers are challenged to find legal truck parking locations in a timely manner, averaging 30 minutes of search time to locate available parking.
  • A significant number of drivers report parking in illegal locations that can be unsafe, particularly just outside urban areas.
  • Peer state and federal studies suggest that the lack of safe truck parking is a problem that will continue to increase due to the projected growth in truck freight movements.
  • Peer state and federal studies indicate that the need for expanded truck parking far exceeds available funding, which is unlikely to grow significantly in the future.
  • Drivers, peer states and the federal government identified affordable truck parking strategies: expand or improve parking at public rest areas, commercial truck stops and travel plazas; encourage creation of public-private partnership (P3) solutions to share costs and information for parking; inform drivers about available spaces through technology and other means; and change parking enforcement rules.
  • Kansas has the opportunity to gain a “first mover” advantage by undertaking its truck parking decision-making in a regional context wherever possible. Drivers are more likely to make routing decisions favorable to Kansas in terms of efficient use of its parking assets and economic impact if they can take better advantage of regional consistency in travel costs, business process, trip-time predictability and driver services availability.

Recommendations on finding solutions include locating new or improving existing public and private truck parking assets; overcoming barriers to using existing parking facilities; identifying information and technology services to help truckers make better parking decisions; and creating partnerships with public and private sector entities to improve parking facilities.

Implementation of the recommendations may be made possible by a $25 million federal Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery grant. Kansas and seven other Midwestern states were awarded the TIGER grant to address the truck parking issue.

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