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When electronic logging device usage became a mandate, it exacerbated existing problems of truck parking, creating more demand for parking but no additional supply. Between the driver shortage, ELDs and truck parking, it’s hard to decide what the real problem is in our industry. I would argue they’re all problems and are intimately intertwined in the vicious cycle of problems in trucking in 2020.
Since the original ELD mandate first published in December 2015, the industry has been sprinting toward a more digital driver log book. December of 2017 brought about the first major implementation deadline and December of 2019 was when ELDs became mandatory for everyone. The main change brought about in the industry by ELDs was the requirement for drivers to digitally maintain their records of daily service (RODS) and their hours of service (HOS). This means drivers can no longer be in ultimate control of their schedules because they are being tracked programmatically rather than the honor system method used in the industry since HOS were introduced by the DOT in 1937.
From 1937 to 2004, there was very little change in HOS requirements or tracking in the United States. 2004 was when the FMCSA introduced the 34-hour restart rule. The voluntary 34-hour restart rule is a way for truckers to formally terminate one workweek and begin the next. This process is used by drivers to stay in compliance with the federal HOS regulations. FMCSA rules say drivers can work no more than 60 cumulative hours in seven days or 70 cumulative hours in eight days. If a driver has several long workdays in a row, his or her work time may be limited later in the week. Taking a 34-hour break period restarts the driver’s workweek to day one. What does this mean for the truck driver?
Drivers are managing their hours of service and planning their rest stops now in a different light. It’s a riskier option to neglect to research where to park for the night. With a tug-of-war happening between maximizing hours of service and securing a safe — and available — parking location, the limits from ELDs dictate that either the driver is going to plan ahead but lose valuable driving time or the driver is going to take a chance on finding parking at just the right time. The latter often results in drivers forced to pull off on the side of the highway for the night. If drivers’ hours of service bring them to a big city in the evening, which would have more drivers competing for limited, safe parking, many drivers prefer to stop outside the city for the sake of safety, even if it means the shoulder of the highway.
The reality of more trucks stopped, and more stopped early, has put stress on the system of available parking, with increased demand but no significant increase in the supply of parking spaces. It’s not profitable for truck stops to build more parking unless they monetize these spaces. While it’s irksome to begin paying for something previously free of charge, the fact is these parking options are providing a service with value, in a system where desirable parking is less than readily available. Wayne Cragg, the TikTokin’ Trucker, went on an awesome rant on LinkedIn last month about why brokers and fleets should start ponying up and paying for parking for their drivers, especially in the age of COVID.
Two companies aiming to help solve the parking issue through tech-enabled solutions are SecurSpace and TruckPark. Each works to connect drivers looking for space with companies with space available for a fee. The SecurSpace platform gives partnering companies a 30-minute window to respond to a driver’s request for parking or the option for SecurSpace to handle this management themselves. SecurSpace was recently acquired by Envase Technologies after being in business for roughly two years. TruckPark’s app offers the ability for drivers to reserve a spot in real time or in advance up to 90 days.
Both companies are bringing in partners with yard space that might not already be available or marketed to truck drivers. They’re able to add a supply of spaces that was previously off the market. Although drivers may find it inconvenient to check and compare multiple platforms for availability, it does provide them with options and the needed marketplace for access to good parking.
“We were born out of necessity,” said Anthony Petite, CEO and co-founder of TruckPark. “My co-founder and I are from Chicago and my uncle is a trucker. We know how valuable these drivers’ time is and we knew right away when we thought about TruckPark that we needed to develop the idea. It just makes sense. Drivers need to park and no one is making more parking lots at the moment. It’s up to us to find the space and bring the parking spots online; that’s our mission.”
On a different front, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) is continuing to make parking a priority by pushing for public funding, with the support of several other trucking associations. In March of this year, a bill was introduced in Congress to direct DOT funds, in the form of grants, to projects for building parking. The bill is not expected to make further progress this year, but OOIDA plans that it will be reintroduced in 2021.
Naturally, the concern with this bill for NATSO, which represents truck stop operators and vendors, is that it would bring business away from truck stops to rest stops along highways. However, in the current parking shortage where drivers are often left to use the shoulder of the highway, this doesn’t seem an immediate cause for concern. If parking is filled at truck stops, the real matter is making better and safer parking conditions for the truck driver who didn’t get a space.