The truck parking issue has both social and economic consequences. Failure to find a spot within the hours of service puts many drivers at risk of parking in unauthorized areas. Trucker Path is just about to release its Annual Truck Parking Report, authored by Sam Bokher, director of business operations.
FreightWaves got a sneak peek, and a chance to speak with author himself. The Trucker Path paper ranks the trucking parking problem as the #2 industry concern by drivers. Up until the recent FMCSA conveyance guidelines potentially offering some crucial flexibility, failure to find a spot within the hours of service (HOS) limit has put many drivers at risk of parking in unauthorized areas, thus making the job more stressful. 85% of drivers have cited parking as the #1 cause of stress at work.
Also, the paper finds that 70% of truckers have had to violate HOS, and 96% have parked in areas not designated for trucks. In addition, 48% of drivers spend an hour or more to find safe truck parking, driving time that does not translate into fleet revenues. Bohker says that number is up from 2017, in which 40% of drivers reported spending an hour or more finding safe parking.
The annual loss per driver is at least $5,000. The vast majority of truckers say it is harder to find parking after the ELD mandate and, according to Trucker Path app data, they look up parking 10-15% more often during evening hours than before the mandate, signifying additional stress.
Yet in recent reports, it hasn’t been clear whether the issue is any different than it ever was pre-ELD Mandate, as opposed to post-ELD Mandate. In fact, last month, Bokher was quoted as saying that “there isn’t much difference between 2017 and 2018” in the driver-report data. Yet at the same time, Trucker Path’s data suggests there is a considerable difference between the past year and now in drivers searching for parking information within the app. Is it merely increased “driver awareness,” or has the problem gotten worse post-Mandate?
Bokher says it’s partly how you define the problem: is it the perception or the lack of actual capacity? “I would divide the two,” he says. “From our data, we see that the situation improved from 2016-2017, but we also see from our app view search, that planning has gotten worse. More truckers are stressed and looking for parking. We also take into consideration state by state. On average it’s improved.”
We also wondered if the issue is just the intensity of the “capacity crunch” of 2018.
“We’re still gathering the data. The summer months are the most intense, and we’re a little premature to know 2018,” says Bokher.
Besides ELDs helping with planning, how else does Trucker Path see technology as a solution for the parking problem?
“There’s some technology around information systems and apps that will help. Well, the truck parking feature of Trucker Path was probably one of the best features we originally came up with. Now we even have a truck parking predictive algorithm based on all the data we’ve gathered. It’s not perfect, but it helps with planning.”
“Other things happening in the space,” says Bokher. “States are working on sensors at truck stops. That’s happening in Florida and some Midwestern states right now with Tiger grants. Other truck stops like Flying J and Pilot are working on gathering data and focused on the issue.”
“Also parking reservations, they don’t solve the problem, but they solve the stress aspect. It’s lots of stress in the planning and the lack of visibility. The problem with reservations,” he adds, “is they require capital for the places that can track the reservations. Only Pilot and Petro have that. Independent places can’t afford that.”
“In terms of ELDs, I’ve thought about it, and an interesting thing ELDs can do is bring visibility to shipper operations and track detention time—this helps with detention time and negotiating with shippers. Now they can charge detention and have the proof of arrival and leaving,” says Bokher.
What about recent FMCSA guidelines on conveyance and agriculture? Will they give enough flexibility to move the needle on the strict HOS regulations?
“I think yes,” says Bokher. “I don’t have enough data yet to prove it, but my hypothesis is that I looked at (page 18 shows a curve of when truckers look for parking), but IMO is that if truck drivers spread out the curve—of more flexibility when they could park and when they drove, the curve would flatten out. Truck drivers will be able to drive for a few more hours to find.
If you had a magic wand and could wish for the best possible changes to improve retention and make drivers’ lives just a little bit better as it relates to parking, what would it be?
“Two things come to mind,” says Bokher. “Straighten out the parking during the day. Most park at night. If shipper operations could happen with even just a slight flexibility, this could flatten out the curve.”
“The second thing is utilizing unconventional parking places. What about weigh stations? Walmarts? Local governments or administrations would allow for commercial centers to open up places that are readily accessible to drivers."
When choosing the best approach, it is important to understand what drivers prefer and where they feel safe. Not surprisingly, the most preferred truck parking locations are truck stops, followed by public rest areas.
Finally, more capacity would move the needle the most. The white paper reports that the eastern United States is in dire need of increased truck parking. “When deciding where to build new capacity, it makes sense to look at the existing situation in the form of a heatmap. The information on the map is consistent with survey results. According to drivers, it is harder to find truck parking in the eastern part of the U.S. In addition, 51% of respondents said that urban and rural areas are equally bad for finding parking, and 45% said that urban areas are worse.”
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