Iowa closes in on implementing 'smart truck parking' technology

By Tyson Fisher, Land Line staff writer | Friday, August 18, 2017

Iowa is the latest state to look into a truck parking information management system as part of a Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant that was awarded to eight Midwestern states nearly two years ago.

The Iowa Department of Transportation is in the beginning stages of establishing technology that will monitor truck parking availability and alert truckers. Initially, the technology will be available along the Interstate 80 corridor.

According to Phil Mescher, Iowa DOT project manager and transportation planner, smart truck parking will be available at 16 private truck stops and 21 public rest areas on the I-80 corridor by January 2019. IDOT will monitor the program for three years and possibly expand the technology to other locations if proven successful.

Currently, the state is conducting in-person interviews with four consulting vendors. Candidates will assess which technologies will work best for Iowa’s needs. Popular methods include laser/radar technology that senses empty spots and relays that information to dynamic message signs, third-party apps, state 511 website and in-cab computer systems.

A contract is expected to be awarded by September. Mescher said a full year will be needed for implementation, including construction. Per TIGER grant terms, the program is required to go live by Jan. 4, 2019.

In October 2015, eight states in the Midwest were awarded a TIGER grant worth $25 million between all the states. The grant sought to implement a regional truck parking information management system where truckers will be provided with reliable, real-time information on parking availability.

Kansas, Kentucky, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin all received a portion of the TIGER grant. The states’ projects comprise Regional Truck Parking Information and Management System Project. The TIGER grant will use existing intelligent transportation systems on major truck routes in the eight states.

The project applies to state Department of Transportation-owned and private truck rest areas. When completed, the project will be one of the largest geographic areas of intelligent transportation systems deployment of truck parking technology in the country, according to a U.S. Department of Transportation news release.

Each state received about $2 million to more than $3 million. All eight states also will contribute a 10 percent match of the deployment costs. Iowa was awarded about $3.4 million and contributed nearly $500,000, bringing the total funding of the program to $3.8 million. Iowa received the second highest amount, followed by Indiana, which received $4.1 million.

According to Jason’s Law truck parking survey results, drivers rated the I-80 corridor as one of the top five corridors with parking shortages. However, both OOIDA and American Trucking Associations respondents ranked Iowa as one of the top states with a sufficient supply of parking. When accounting for all data points, the survey concluded that Iowa was one of several states “reporting the most severe challenges.”

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