A smart parking technology platform debuting in January 2019 will hopes to make it easier for truck drivers to find safe, available parking spaces.
Supported by a $25 million TIGER grant, the Truck Parking Information Management System identifies empty parking spaces along interstate highways, then funnels the information to truckers through mobile apps or highway signage.
The project got off the ground a few years ago, when the Mid America Association of State Transportation Officials (MAASTO) applied for the federal grant to create a system that would inform truck drivers in advance of the amount of parking at public rest areas as well as private businesses. TIGER grants stand for Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery.
Hours of service limitations for truck drivers mean drivers can only be on the road for so long before taking rests, said Phil Mescher, project manager for the Truck Parking Information Management system in Iowa, one of eight MAASTO member states. “If they are out of hours, they will pull off on exit ramps or park on highways. It’s a dangerous situation.”
An American Transportation Research Institute survey released earlier this week showed that parking ranks toward the top of the list of truck driver concerns.
Mescher, the Iowa DOT’s Travel Modeling, Forecasting & Telemetrics team leader, said the TPIM projects in each state share similar branding and design but differ in some of the technical details.
The Iowa initiative focuses on that state’s portion of coast-to-coast Interstate 80. The team installed “magnetometers” — a puck-like device that uses magnetic waves to detect vehicles — in all the public rest stop parking spaces.
To monitor private truck stops, the team will use cameras equipped with video analytics software that can count vehicles when they exit. The system gets recalibrated over time so the data stays relevant.
Drivers can access the data feeds via smart phone app, truck in-cab information systems and the DOT 511 platform, Mescher said. The app will have options for drivers to be notified by voice when truck stops or rest areas are coming up and if they have available parking.
Indiana is developing the truck parking project along I-65 and I-70, I-94 in Northwest Indiana and I-69 between Indianapolis and the Michigan border, said INDOT spokesman Scott Manning.
Its system also uses magnetometers for vehicle detection. The data is transmitted via INDOT’s existing intelligent transportation system (ITS) network to the dynamic message signs, the DOT webpage and mobile app.
The data will also be shared with the TrucksParkHere app, a third-party app that functions similar to Google Maps and Waze, Manning said.
Mescher said Iowa is the only state in the MAASTO consortium that won’t be making the data available on highway signs. The decision was driven by cost, as well as a desire to cut down on sign clutter, he said.
The eight states are on target to meet a soft launch deadline in December. January 4, 2019 is the “go live” date. The system will run for three years and then each state will decide how to proceed beyond that, Mescher said.
The ATRI study revealed a dichotomy of views between drivers and their companies on the issue of parking. Drivers rated it as their second-highest concern behind Hours of Service; management had it 9th.
This comment from the FreightWaves story on the ATRI study, if it doesn’t come from a driver, does at least appear to reflect the driver view.
“Well I can tell you part of the difference between the driver’s priority on parking and the companies perspective. The company sees all their customers that allow parking and the fact that out west there are a lot of places to park off the highway in the desert, they don't take into account that there is no facilities of any kind at most of these places and the fact that many are just plain unsafe when it comes to parking on the street or in a customer’s yard. Yes, some of them are fine, but most are not. The desert is generally safe and quiet, but again no facilities. Once you remove these variables you start to see why drivers are more concerned.”