How real is the parking problem?

Trucks are parked at a rest stop along I-5 in California. Many spots for truckers to park do not include facilities, fuel locations or other amenities that make a 10-hour stay comfortable. ( Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Downtown Gal )

Anecdotal evidence suggests it’s gotten worse since the ELD mandate, but experts insist the problem isn’t available spots, it’s the location and identification of those spots

Social media has been abuzz with pictures of tractor-trailers parked on the sides of the road ever since the electronic logging device (ELD) mandate when into effect. By some accounts, the mandate has exacerbated the problem of truck parking, but most experts don’t believe the problem has gotten any worse.

That’s not to say there isn’t a problem, because there is, but it may not be a shortage of spaces, but rather of the location of those spaces.

“On a nationwide basis, even on a statewide basis, there are more spaces available than demand,” explains Darrin Roth, vice president of highway policy at the American Trucking Associations (ATA). He tells FreightWaves, though, that while there are available spaces, some are located in remote areas. “Three-quarters of drivers report trouble finding spaces on a regular basis or at least once or twice a week.”

ATA is working with other organizations, including the Owner-Operators Independent Drivers Association, the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) and the U.S. Department of Transportation to find solutions.

“We are in the process of putting together recommendations, a lot of which are technology-oriented,” Roth says. “It revolves around how do you develop available space, such as using brownfields…or using weigh stations or commuter lots that are not being used at night.”

Much of the work has centered around where the demand is. “I think individual jurisdictions will have to play a role in that,” he adds. “Obviously, anywhere you have trucks parked on off-ramps is a problem.”

In last year’s survey of the industry’s most pressing issues, the shortage of available truck parking ranked fourth, according to ATRI.

In Iowa, the state is taking a technological approach to locating available parking. Under a $25 million federal TIGER grant that Iowa along with Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin secured under a division of AASHTO, the Mid America Association of State Transportation Officials, the state will use its portion to install both radar sensors and in-ground “puck” sensors to help identify available truck parking spots at 21 public IDOT rest areas and 21 private locations along heavily-traveled Interstate 80.

“Sometimes truck drivers are just unaware of where spots are and how far they have to drive to get to them,” Phil Mescher, project manager for the Truck Parking Information Management System for Iowa Department of Transportation tells FreightWaves. “We wanted to approach it from an intelligent transportation system approach. It’s about data and transmitting that data to truck drivers.”

The TIGER grant came about after the passage of Jason’s Law, which designated funding to help states develop and identify available truck parking. Named after Jason Rivenburg, a truck driver who was robbed and killed one night after arriving at a drop-off location too early and being forced to find a spot to park, the law has been widely praised and now states are beginning to see the benefits from it.

Mescher says Iowa’s contractor will began installing the sensors this month and should be finished by the fall. The system, along with the other state systems that will be tied together through a single interface, will go live on Jan. 4, 2019.

“It’s not unthinkable that if this is successful, it could be expanded to other interstates,” Mescher notes. Some states will add road signage to identify locations with available spots, although Iowa will not. Mescher says the data will be fed into Iowa’s 511 system in addition to being made available through the 8-state interface. It will also be provided to third-parties such as app developers and can be fed directly into some truck telematics systems.

Using the sensors, the system will identify how many spots are available at each location. Mescher stresses that Iowa is simply providing the data and a truck driver who sees a spot available at a location 10 miles away may find that spot unavailable upon arrival. There is no reservation system attached to the pilot project, Mescher says, although app developers or private travel stop locations may offer those.

One third party system, TruckPark, launched in Chicago last year with plans to allow drivers to reserve spots in private lots for a fee. Here’s how the system works: A driver in need in parking goes onto and enters their zip code. A map (and detailed list) shows up listing locations that have available parking. The driver enters their credit card information (or logs in if they are already on file) and reserves a space. Once the driver arrives at the lot, they confirm the space with the attendant and are allowed to park their truck.

“Reserving a spot for truck drivers is huge for them,” Anthony Petitte, founder and CEO, told FreightWaves. “An app will tell them a location is 40% filled, but by the time they get there, it’s completely filled. With the reservation, they are guaranteed to have a spot.”

TruckerPath takes another approach, one that involves the “crowd.” The app allows TruckerPath’s 600,000-plus driver community to enter in locations that have spaces available, similar to the way Waze allows drivers to report highway incidents. There is even an option at some locations to reserve a space.

In addition, the company utilizes its community and data points to offer a “parking prediction” feature that will identify times when there is typically spots available at over 8,000 locations.  

Pilot Flying J and Travel Centers of America (TA) both offer reservation systems through online reservation systems, although the number of spots available at limited, ensuring there remains plenty of on-demand parking spaces.

Tyler Tanaka, head of digital innovation at Pilot Flying J, says the company’s Prime Parking, which typically costs between $12 and $15 to reserve a spot, covers about 5% of its total available parking spaces, which number around 70,000 nationally. In some locations, that percentage is a little higher, based on demand. Prime spots can be reserved and paid for at the counter or through the myPilot App.

He does believe, though, that parking is a problem in the country for commercial drivers. The ELD mandate has changed the equation, he notes, with some drivers adjusting schedules just so they can find parking spaces. “The ELD mandate has put this tremendous pressure on drivers,” he says.

“We knew from past research and current parking situation audits that at any given time, there is 1.5 million professional truckers on the road and less than 400,000 parking spaces,” Tanaka notes. “All we’re trying to do is make drivers’ lives easier throughout the day by making” it easier to locate parking spaces.

Like many in the industry, Tanaka says that the real problem is that spaces are not available where drivers need them, noting in particular logistics hotspots such as the Chicagoland area, Atlanta, Dallas and the Northeast where available parking locations fill up fast.

“[That leaves] parking available in locations with no food, no showers, no amenities, the things that [meet a drivers’ need],” he says. 

To help alleviate some of these problems, Pilot Flying J has just rolled out a new real-time parking availability feature for the myPilot App for rewards members. The program, developed with Sensys Networks, monitors available spots in Pilot Flying J locations and transmits that data to the app. Eighteen months in testing, the program launched on Dec. 15, 2017, at 30 locations in California, Oregon and Washington State along the I-5 corridor.

“As parking continues to be a major industry issue, with 3 million truckers on U.S. roads and highways and only 300,000 public parking spots, we are investing more time and resources into technology to ensure we’re doing everything we can to provide drivers a safe, reliable place to park,” said Ken Parent, president of Pilot Flying J. “Through this partnership, our goal is to provide professional drivers access to real-time, accurate information on space availability through our myPilot app to not only help drivers plan more efficiently and cut down on wasted fuel costs, but also increase safety and e-log compliance.”

Tanaka says the solution will be rolled out to more locations in the network by this summer, but Pilot Flying J is also seeking driver feedback on locations they believe the system should be installed.

“Our request and ask is that the pro driver community help us identify locations,” he says, adding that initial reaction from drivers has been positive and that “most of the country doesn’t have [real-time parking] information and they are eager to get this information.”

One lingering issue for any system, though, is how to keep drivers informed when spots disappear as they travel toward a location. Tanaka says that is a high priority for Pilot Flying J, and the company is working to develop artificial intelligence around this topic as well as incorporating trend reporting and push notifications.

“We are committed as a company to develop, build and grow technology that helps drivers,” Tanaka says.

Stay up-to-date with the latest commentary and insights on FreightTech and the impact to the markets by subscribing.

Show More

Brian Straight

Brian Straight covers general transportation news and leads the editorial team as Managing Editor. A journalism graduate of the University of Rhode Island, he has covered everything from a presidential election, to professional sports and Little League baseball, and for more than 10 years has covered trucking and logistics. Before joining FreightWaves, he was previously responsible for the editorial quality and production of Fleet Owner magazine and Brian lives in Connecticut with his wife and two kids and spends his time coaching his son’s baseball team, golfing with his daughter, and pursuing his never-ending quest to become a professional bowler.


  1. What they need to do is put several government officials in semis with different truckers across the nation from 2 to 3 weeks n actually stay in the truck all this time 24/7 so he or she can really see the real deal what we actually go through in reality minute per minute out here !

  2. Distracted driving while im looking for a parking spot on my phone did they think of that yet


    1. I want see this guys waiting 10 hrs away from home because they can’t run 50 more miles to get home

  4. “On a nationwide basis, even on a statewide basis, there are more spaces available than demand,” explains Darrin Roth, vice president of highway policy at the American Trucking Associations (ATA)

    With "friends" like this, who needs enemies.

    Truckers should stop driving for a week and let this scum starve before they restore our rights, freedoms and pay we had 38 years ago.

  5. ELD devices haven’t done anything but cause EVERYONE trouble all the way around…so what do you do to solve the problem? …it’s simple. ..get rid of the ELD mandate. Problem solved .

  6. The experts are the dam problem… Stop telling me/us drivers there are spaces when we drive through truck stops every night and can hardly get around because drivers are forced to pull into spaces not for parking… Don’t forget how the truck stops are taking advantage of the situation by charging for parking spots..

  7. Experts ? OMG..LOL really? The ATA? Wow. As a driver I’ve known all along the ATA is just B.S.

  8. Most of the TA and Petro have doubled there reserve parking to add another cost to us truckers besides the additional eld xost

  9. Truck Drivers you deserve better service out on the road better parking areas or truck stops there is no one out there who is going to tell me they enjoy being out on the road working for the nation sitting long hours behind the wheel for 2 or 3 wks and 14 hrs per day driving sleeping 4 or 5 hrs per day husselin to get to your destination not to mention road conditions time schedules so come on people give these truckers their respect they deserve thank you truckers for moving our nation

  10. Should allow amy vacant unusable parcels, areas right off the hwy. Parking spots are hard to find at times. And also open more of the ramps, or expand trkstps.

  11. I drive night shift 7pm to 7am. Thru Colorado and Nebraska. I70 is a joke for drivers, even trying to get the required half hour break. As is I76. Nebraska doesn’t have even half enough parking for a layover.

  12. The so called "Experts" should learn how to drive a truck first, then drive it on the road, trying to get to a delivery destination on time, and then tell me if the can find parking at 10 pm or later.

  13. This article just barely touched on the real issue with truck parking. It has been so sanitized that it paints the picture to be understated, leaving the general public with a notion that that problem is easily remedied simply by informing drivers as to where we can find spots.

    Let’s look at the true contributors to the parking problems. We drive from all corners of this nation to bring the majority of goods to the mass populations, such as Chicago, the entire bay area, the LA basin, the entire NE, Atlanta, and so on. Everyone wants there goods on the shelves but no one defends the needs of the drivers or the reality that trucks MUST exist to deliver these goods.

    This directly infers that no one wants trucks on their roads, no one wants trucks parking in their neighborhoods, DC’s will not provide adequate, or more often ANY parking for trucks, even after these facilities hold trucks up at their docks (or even before they can dock), running the drivers 14 hours of service clocks out without concern for those very drivers that the receivers are awaiting the goods impatiently for.

    We don’t need parking facilities placed in the sticks. We need them VERY VERY near to where we are forced to run our clocks out. To all those that get upset when the goods aren’t available when you want them, that get upset that you have to share the road with those big, lumbering trucks, that don’t want those same trucks in your neighborhoods, guess what; you can’t have your cake and eat it too.

    The regulations continue to strangle the men and women that drive through all manners of weather, all night and day, to get the goods to you and your families. Someone has to do this. Because we choose to do this, and we choose to be away from our own loved ones so that you can have for yours, quit being so selfish.

    The more you regulate us, the more trucks you’ll see on the roads. This is fact. And these restrictions that have us being fined for driving beyond our available hours, taking money out of our pockets even more, all because you don’t want us in your neighborhoods, it’s going to eventually come back and bite you from behind.

    Force shippers and receivers to provide onsite parking for the drivers of the day; require them to expedite their actions that hold us over longer than reasonable, wasting our hours of service, reducing our earnings; sponsor or allow facilities/safe havens in the areas that we need them; and while your at it, support the belief that we as drivers need places to shop, eat, shower, etc., that don’t rake us over the coals. Truck drivers are not wealthy. It’s very costly to live on the road AND support our families at home.

  14. Parking or the lack thereof has been a problem even before the ELD mandate. Drivers that insist that they can’t make money using an ELD are doing something or somethings wrong. I make a comfortable living with an ELD and wouldn’t want to go back to paper logs.

  15. I believe we are all equaland should be treated as such.
    We all should be on Long logbook.
    I believe a company of 1,000 trucks should be treated as a company of 1.
    If you get a 2 speeding tickets in 1 year or have 3 fender benders in 1 month. You should have to speed limiters on your truck.
    If a company of one had 1 accident a day, they would shut down that company. So why not shut companies down when thay have over 10 accidents a day or more then 10 a month?
    If a comp company had ever had More than 3 death accidents in a year and one before or after that year, making it a total of 4 death accidents in 2 years, maybe they need a new CEO/ PRESIDENT or just be put out of service for good.
    Being to big to fail is BS. It’s just another way of saying I’m above the law.
    Do away with 2 of the big 10 companies and watch the others fly right and then Watch the little men grow.
    I have an "A" rating. So why am I being punish for the bigger companies mistakes.
    I take better care of my driver. I have been driving over 20 years. This is the 1st and only company I have not had to whine and cry to get home.
    Now with parking,
    When you have States even as small as Rhode Island with no truck parking and you have other states like Virginia, they’re not Truck friendly , and they’re closing down some of the rest areas. it’s no different today than it was 15 years ago the only difference is drivers have to shut down for that 30 minute break.
    I don’t know any driver that sits behind the wheel for straight 8 hours. we all stopped to eat and then use the restroom to fuel-up. yes it’s not 30 minutes straight but we all take little breaks here and there. Now when I feel up I feel up I run and get my receipt and I’ll leave I don’t walk around the truck stop.
    Parking is getting harder to find because everybody stops for the same amount of time. before people used to stop for 5 hours on 5 hours off. Then let’s write runs on the weekend so you have everyone trying to get a 34 over the weekend.

  16. There were parking spot shortages before the eld mandate. Yes they’ve gotten worse.
    Elds will destroy the trucking industry, and the economy if not repealed soon.
    They are unconstitutional and unnecessary.
    They have nothing to do with safety, they are all about control.

  17. We don’t need technology to tell us that there might be a parking space. We NEED MORE SPACES.

  18. Drivers should not have to pay to park we are already getting overcharged for everything most truck stops have turned into glorified 7/11’s no respect like we had before Deregulation trucking was better than as far as Courtesy and Professionalism most new drivers have no clue

  19. Some of the major truck stops have a much higher number of reserved spots. Sometimes it’s good, but at times there are none others available, forcing drivers to pay for parking.

  20. The reserved parking fees are why I don’t conduct business with TA, Petro, Flying J or Pilot.

    I used to average fuel purchases to the tune of 18,000 gallons per year at TA/Petro. I told them I would boycott them 5 years ago and I have…

    Truck drivers that willingly pay to park are the same idiotic pansies that have allowed the continuing abuse of truck drivers. Just for spite, I enjoy parking at the aforementioned perpetrators’ locations in the “free” parking spots to force the drivers who continue doing business with them to “take it in the wallet”. Which, is EXACTLY what I told the TA customer service representative would happen…

    I do enjoy chuckling while watching the pansies pay up, though!

  21. Ok so all these groups want to help us. That 25M grant will build and maintain a lot of spots. Most nights we don’t care about amenities, we can get food, fuel, grab a quick shower, then roll on to park. Many states have usable parking places barricaded for no reason. Open them.

  22. Put your ass in the truck for couple of months and deal with this stupid eld, parking , and 100 more problems like we are every day.

  23. California rest areas are posted with signs that say parking is limited to 8 hours. How can a 10 hour break be taken there?

  24. I pay to park using points off of my frequent customer card, turn receipt to company for cash refund and save a copy to claim on my taxes. Not such a bad deal.

  25. This is a great ideal until private business gets involved and start charging you to park such as TA and pilots it’s just another means of costing a driver more money as if companies and driver’s don’t spend enough already.

  26. I don’t know where to begin on this article. I drove around for over an hour in remote areas looking for a place to park. Parking is a problem and it has gotten worse since the ELD mandate. I can’t afford to “reserve” a parking spot every night. I go home every 4/6 weeks. That would roughly be $4/500 paid to park each time I’m gone from home. I’m a female driver and safety is a big issue for me. I feel safer parking on an off ramp or on ramp if possible then in some remote area. As far as amenities go I stop and use the bathroom or get whatever I may need and if parking isn’t available. I will head to the on ramp and take my 10 hour rest break. For anyone to say parking isn’t a problem they are not out here day in and day out to know the reality of it. Sitting in a parking lot observing isn’t going to prove anything.

  27. Sense Indiana took over half the rest stop out of the state I’m yelling bullshit you are just trying to dig more money out of a drivers pocket !!! You up the fuel tax on diesel three time gas and then call your self a business friendly state another bullshit remarks

  28. I think it is bullshit that we gotta pay to park when they already get enough money off of us

  29. Any who thinks on or off ramp parking is a safety issue is a moron who needs a beat down.ELDS are ruining trucking as a lifestyle and making it more unsafe.Get rid of the foreigners n the goverment rippoff policies . Truck parking is patheic it’s all about REVENUE !

  30. I’ll be darned if I would pay to reserve a parking spot in a truck stop, and then buy their fuel, pay for a shower, and eat in their restaurants. This is a big time rip off. It’s a shame that Wal Mart and a lot of other big parking lots will not allow truckers to park for a few hours when their time runs out. It’s a shame that DOT will not allow a driver to continue a few miles till he can find a parking spot with amenities that will be needed during their required rest time. Trucking was hard back in the 80’s and 90’s when I rode passenger for 13 1/2 years, but from what I read, it is much worse now. I feel sorry for you guys out there. Have always thought a nationwide strike for a few days would make a big difference in the way the public sees the trucking industry; I get ticked off every time I hear anyone griping, and complaining, about the big rigs on the road. Ride in one a few years, drive one for a few years and I guarantee you, you will change your mind. Truckers could shut this country down if a strike would occur for just one week and things might change. But the big trucking companies who pay their drivers nothing and require umpteen hours of driving every day, will not go along with this. It has to come from the drivers who refuse to drive, and the owner operators who claim they cannot afford to shut down. Yeah, it would hurt every driver’s pocketbook, but it also might bring about some changes that have been needed for years and years. I’ll bet freight rates are no higher than they were during my days as a owner operator’s wife, and I’ll also bet that wages have not increased; fuel has, everything else has increased in price. I’m going to shut up now. This makes me so angry when I read these kinds of articles because I’ve been there and done that and know how hard a job this is.

  31. 1 parking is a big problem and these big Corp truck stops charging and profiting off of a federal mandate ELD law should be punishable by laws and make them pay back, their monies, having reserve parking is fine but when as soon as the mandate hit all TA and Petro assigned most if not some have assigned all parking to pay parking it’s a shame that the truth comes out, it was the big corps that wanted the eld mandate because they can charge and make a profit off of a federal law, I think they should hang their head in shame, cause alot of drivers are boycotting TA,Petro let them go bankrupt deserves them right, and as you see as far as Google TA and Petro ratings have gone down and will continue to go down, we will park somewhere were it is free to park.

  32. ELD needs a revision, if you ran out of time passed the 11 hour, it should automatically inform you of the nearest legal truck stop parking and must be paid by all shippers. The thinktanks at the logistics highway command can have the pleasure of mapping all this out, it is their job.

  33. This can actually be a legal Nationwide Lawsuit of the safety of the employees/truck drivers and corporate companies can be held liable for it then. Any good law firm will take this case into a Class Action.

    1. When the ELD tells you your time is up, you as the trucker should just pull over immediately to any where (nearest shoulder etc) and then when cop pulls up you show them ELD forbids you from driving. If he writes you a ticket, have it billed to the company. The more cops start getting these "parked rigs" everywhere due to ELD forbidding them to drive, they will have consistency on all these incidents and things will have to change for DOT and government mandates.

  34. In the past few years I took time off from driving OTR and recently I got got back into it right about the time ELD became mandatory. I do most of my diving western regional and Canada If you don’t think parking has become a problem due to the mandate you haven’t drivin a truck, or you’re not paying attention. It’s not just a problem in the east it’s also a problem in the west, this mandate has turned everyone into day shift drivers getting on the road at 4 am and shutting down early after noon thus filling up the truck stops and rest areas. I pull double commodity trailers and it can be really frustrating to unload at antiquated fertilizer plants which can take hours to unload putting commodity haulers at a disadvantage to find adequate parking at later times of the day especially when truck stops are already full throw in pulling a set of doubles and you’re left with no where to park and no time on the book for a plan "B" Canada on the other hand have pull outs which makes it albeit no amenities but at least the driver has a place to get his 10 hrs sleeper break. Somethings got to give….I’m currently sitting at a truck stop right now in the fire lane and going to sleep right here till they ask me to move….smh

  35. there are more spaces available than demand? has this person ever driven a truck a day in their life? go to ANY truck stop or rest area in the country late in the evening and tell me how there are more spaces available than we need. it doesn’t matter where the location is. what a crock of $hit