For many years, the trucking community has lamented the unavailability of safe and cheap parking spots for truckers to rest after their Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration-allotted hours of service (HoS) are up. In fact, 19.9% of the truckers surveyed in an American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) study placed the issue among their top three concerns.
“The reason they are frustrated is because parking is not always available when they need it, so they need to make a decision in advance to start looking for a parking spot,” said Ellen Voie, president and CEO of Women in Trucking.
Drivers essentially have two equally unappealing options. First, they can try to find a parking spot quickly at the risk of cutting their workday short — sometimes by well over an hour, as ATRI results show 40% of drivers spend an hour or more searching for a parking spot.
“This means they cut their productive driving time short [to ensure] they are in compliance,” Voie said.
Alternatively, drivers may spend excessive time searching for a spot and end up extending their day beyond the legal hour limit. Despite their best efforts, they may still have to park on a ramp or at an unauthorized location — which may or may not be safe. And even permissible parking at a rest area is no guarantee of safety, given the transient nature of other motorists and drivers using the stop.
For female drivers especially, these and other safety concerns compound the many challenges related to trucking. Voie pointed to a survey conducted by Women in Trucking, in which female drivers ranked their safety on a scale of one to 10 at 4.4.
“Safety includes more than the maintenance of the equipment; it includes the company’s culture in how they compel drivers to operate in inclement weather conditions — but more importantly, in where they are expected to load and unload. For instance, is the customer in a part of town that has violent activity, or is the docking area well lit and secure?” Voie said. “If you consider female drivers, they have a heightened awareness of their own security, both inside and outside of the truck.”
That greater awareness extends to the significant issue of harassment. Voie mentioned that some female drivers fuel and eat at one location then drive to another to sleep — in order not to get out of the truck at the place they plan to sleep and reveal to anyone nearby that they are driving solo.
With digitalization and the development of a handful of truck parking applications like TruckPark, drivers can now reserve their parking spots well ahead of time.
“The driver can reserve a space up to a year in advance or as quickly as the need arises,” Voie said. “When surveyed, many drivers, both male and female, appreciate the opportunity to secure a parking spot, even if there is a cost associated with it. However, the sentiment is often related to whether or not their carrier reimburses them for the fees,” Voie added.
But on balance, that upfront cost pays off. Voie said that if drivers can proactively confirm their parking spaces for the night (or day), they can continue to work because they know they will have an open space to park when they are nearing the time to shut the truck down.
“This actually increases their productivity and income, so it’s more of an investment than a cost. Once drivers understand the savings they can experience in knowing there is a place available for downtime, they will better understand the impact it can have on the bottom line,” Voie said.
In the context of technology adoption, Voie contends that drivers typically embrace it very early, as they are eager to stay connected to their families, their companies and each other while on the road. For startups in the niche, the sticking point can be getting drivers to use a specific application.
“But once they start adopting the technology and spreading the word to their peers, the product will start its momentum. The initial reaction will be the cost associated with the reserved parking, but education in understanding the benefits will be the key,” Voie said.