Researchers delve deeper into trucking's parking problem

  (Photo: Shutterstock)

(Photo: Shutterstock)

New research is underway regarding one of the transportation industry’s most prevalent concerns: the lack of safe and available parking.

University of Arkansas Civil Engineering Assistant Professor Sarah Hernandez is involved in a study about the use of intelligent transportation systems, like sensing technologies, to detect and characterize truck traffic. As part of that study, Hernandez has been researching the parking problem for the past two years.

FreightWave’s recently reported on the American Transportation Research Institute’s Truck Parking Diary research. In the course of its research, ATRI found that 63 percent of drivers must look for parking for over 15 minutes between the hours of 4 p.m. and midnight.

ATRI’s research also found that drivers sacrifice an average of 56 minutes of potential driving time per day by parking earlier than they would otherwise need to in order to secure a spot. This means the parking shortage effectively reduces an individual driver’s productivity by 9,300 revenue-earning miles a year, which equates to lost wages of $4,600 annually.

Hernandez is using raw truck GPS data from ATRI, information from the Arkansas Department of Transportation and her own network of truck parking facilities to figure out the scope of the parking problem in Arkansas--the state that houses both Walmart and Tyson Foods.

Hernandez uses ATRI’s data to infer whether the truck was driving or resting when the data was collected based on the characteristics of the GPS pings, like travel time and the distance between consecutive pings. She then overlays that with a map of truck parking facilities she helped develop using geospatial technologies. The map includes public and private truck stops, as well larger parking lots along the interstate that may belong to a Walmart, Target or Lowe’s.

“If we overlay them together, we can look at things like how many trucks were parked at that facility by time of day and how long each one spent there,” Hernandez said. “We can determine when they get overcrowded.”

Ultimately, Hernandez’s research should allow her to tell where overcrowding occurs and predict when it will happen.

Even with GPS data from ATRI and her truck parking network, Hernandez knows she may not be getting the full picture. That is where information collected by ARDOT comes into play.

“There are some tricks in there because a GPS data sample is still a sample. It’s about 10 to 15 percent of all the trucks, so we have to do a little bit of finagling to figure out the true volume of trucks,” Hernandez said. “In Arkansas, our state DOT has been performing a manual overnight truck parking study. We have that data to compare to our other data, which gives us a unique thing to play with and learn more about truck parking.”

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For the past several years, ARDOT has spent one night near the end of summer going to private and public truck stops along the state’s four major interstates. State officials manually count trucks that are parked at each of those facilities, allowing them to track issues like overcrowding year-to-year.

While ARDOT’s manual study provides Hernandez with information she needs to color her research, GPS data can provide much-needed context to ARDOT’s study.

“It’s one night of the whole year, and since freight is so seasonal, what they see the week before Labor Day is going to be a lot different than what’s out there the week before Christmas or in the spring,” Hernandez said. “They also see it at one time of day, just at that night time period. With GPS data, we would have the whole year, we would have all times of day. It gives us much more robust information, but you need that critical link of those observations to match it to the GPS so you can figure up the GPS sample.”

Hernandez is in the process of wrapping up her current research. She is slated to start a new project in the fall aimed at bringing a sense of realism to the complex relationship between driver routing, hours of service requirements and parking constraints.

The University of Arkansas is not the only place delving into the parking problem though. The Federal Highway Administration is scheduled to launch a national commercial parking survey in August.

The study will assess port-generated parking needs, as well as those along the country’s interstates.

“We're going to look at the needs of drayage and short-haul local drivers as well as long-haul operators,” Director of the Federal Highway Administration's Office of Freight Management and Logistics Caitlin Hughes told the AASHTO Journal. “Truck parking is a safety issue.”

The FHWA study will rely on information from state DOTs, law enforcement personnel and the National Association of Truck Stop Owners, as well as truck drivers and leaders from industries that rely on freight movements, according to the AASHTO Journal.

It is expected to be similar to FHWA’s 2014 truck parking study, which found that more than 75 percent of truck drivers said they “regularly experienced problems finding safe parking locations when rest was needed.”  

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