Smart Parking Initiatives Promote Safety and Productivity

In August 2017, the Iowa Department of Transportation (IDOT) announced plans to implement a smart truck parking program at 21 public rest areas and 16 private truck stops by January 2019.

The goal is to improve truck parking along the busy I-80 corridor. According to the Jason’s Law Truck Parking Survey, this corridor is one of the country’s top five worst locations with regard to overall parking shortages. If Iowa’s program is considered successful after three years of testing, IDOT hopes to expand it to other locations around the state.

Smart Parking Technology

A shortage of parking spots in safe locations is a significant source of lost productivity for many truckers. It is a two-pronged problem. First, in some areas, there are simply not enough safe and legal parking spaces to go around. Second, many drivers frequently face a time-consuming ordeal looking for a rest area, either public or private, with available parking spots.

Although various methods have been proposed to identify available parking spots, the proposed Iowa system employs both lasers and radar to note open spots and transmit real-time data to:

  • Third-party apps
  • In-cab computers
  • Digital message signs
  • 511 websites

Substantial Economic Benefits

Iowa’s initiative is part of the Truck Parking Information and Management System (TPIMS), an effort to improve the safety and efficiency of America’s freight network, which employs approximately 3.5 million truckers and generates $726 billion in annual revenue.

IDOT’s initiative along I-80 was made possible by a $25 million grant made in October 2015 to eight states through the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) program administered by the U.S. Department of Transportation. Although the total program cost, including state contributions, is estimated at $28.6 million, the economic value of the program’s benefits is estimated to eventually total $403 million.

Iowa received $3.4 million in grant money from the federal TIGER program, and the state contributed approximately $500,000 more. Indiana received the most of any of the eight states — $4.1 million. The other states sharing the grant money are Kansas, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Ohio and Kentucky.

Proponents of the program say truckers will save time and money if they have real-time information about available parking spots. If successful, the program will also minimize parking in unsafe, out-of-the-way places. When it is fully deployed, the eight-state smart parking system will be one of the largest intelligent transportation systems developed thus far in the United States.

Study Documents Lost Time and Productivity

The nationwide shortage of truck parking was documented by research conducted by the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI). In late 2016, the organization published Truck Parking – Case Study Insights, which analyzed truck parking diaries from 148 drivers that detailed 4,763 stops from June to December in 2016. Not surprisingly, researchers found that demand for parking peaked twice a day — in the early morning and evening hours.

On average, the truckers spent one hour per day looking for places to park. The study also concluded that truckers who parked early in order to find a spot lost as many as 9,300 revenue-producing miles per year. The report also noted that 7 percent of the surveyed drivers had been ticketed for parking on shoulders and ramps, usually because they couldn’t find a parking spot.

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