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Trucks Park Here, a multi-state parking info initiative, hits the road

Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves

The Truck Parking Information and Management System (TPIMS) that is a project of several Midwest states kicked off at the start of 2019 with varying degrees of implementation, but its key official says she’s happy with what has been done so far.

Davonna Moore is the assistant bureau chief of Transportation Planning at the Kansas Department of Transportation and was described by several people FreightWaves spoke to as the key official in the TPIMS, which also goes by the marketing moniker of Trucks Park Here.

Moore said that as of now, Trucks Park Here has monitors at 127 sites among the eight Midwest states signed on to the project: Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin. Those 127 sites are overwhelmingly state-operated as there has as of yet been little headway in signing up private truck stops or other parking facilities to the project. Discussions with private operators “hasn’t always been an easy course of discussion, but now that we’re live, we’re getting more interest,” Moore said.

With 127 parking sites that are feeding data into the system, that accounts for about 4,500 monitored spaces. The number of sites targeted by the program is 137, so the initiative has almost hit its target.

The numbers and the definitions are not all in agreement, however. For example, Rob Morosi, a spokesman for the Michigan Department of Transportation, said that the state has two sites in southwestern Michigan with parking monitors, but will be up to 10 by the end of this month, with more than 300 spaces accounted for. He added that those two locations actually were up and running in 2014, but the growth is part of the TPIMS program.

Moore said the Michigan sites were “not part of the original scope” because of their history but are being upgraded, so they would not be counted in the targeted 137 sites.

Regardless of the specific count, the program is under way. There is not a single app showing the available sites, Moore said. Rather, the  TPIMS officials are working with third-party developers for them to take the data and build it into their own various trucker-focused apps.

What the various states are doing differs. For example, Moore said Ohio appears to be the most advanced, with parking information available on its 511 site that carries other road information. Other states that have touted their launch of TPIMS, like Indiana, do not appear to yet be showing that information on their respective 511 sites.

“Our next short-term step is that we want to get all of our collected information on the 511 sites, and also work on how we could integrate that information,” Moore said.

However, the 511 websites are not the only way that the information can get to truckers. For example, Michigan’s Morosi said signs on the road tell truckers how many spaces are available at upcoming rest stops. Michigan has about a dozen signs it is using now in the southwestern part of the state, and that will be expanding to the southeastern part of “the mitten” – as Michigan residents like to describe the shape of their state – later this month.

While states can undertake these projects on their own, it was Kansas’ lead that pulled together the other Midwest states to receive the initial $25 million TIGER grant that is funding the bulk of the TPIMS spending. (TIGER is an acronym for Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery.)  

Matt Bruning, a spokesman for the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) – the state that Moore said appears to be furthest along in implementing TPIMS – said all the sites except one that it targeted for its launch are up and running. The one laggard should be running by the end of the month, he said. “We targeted ODOT-run rest areas on the I-70, I-75, and U.S. 33 corridors,” Bruning said in an email to FreightWaves. “Right now, there are no plans to expand the system, but that’s not to say we’ll never add sites in the future.”

 What the 511 system for Ohio looks like in displaying available parking at a state-owned rest stop.
What the 511 system for Ohio looks like in displaying available parking at a state-owned rest stop.

Ohio hired contractors to install the actual hardware that counts the available sites. “They used a variety of detection methods,” Bruning said in his email. “Based on the rest area’s size, sensors were installed in the pavement either in each truck parking space or at the entrance and exits of the truck parking lots. Where sensors were used at the entrance and exits, pole- mounted vehicle detection counters were also utilized to assist with accuracy.”

John Kingston

John has an almost 40-year career covering commodities, most of the time at S&P Global Platts. He created the Dated Brent benchmark, now the world’s most important crude oil marker. He was Director of Oil, Director of News, the editor in chief of Platts Oilgram News and the “talking head” for Platts on numerous media outlets, including CNBC, Fox Business and Canada’s BNN. He covered metals before joining Platts and then spent a year running Platts’ metals business as well. He was awarded the International Association of Energy Economics Award for Excellence in Written Journalism in 2015. In 2010, he won two Corporate Achievement Awards from McGraw-Hill, an extremely rare accomplishment, one for steering coverage of the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster and the other for the launch of a public affairs television show, Platts Energy Week.