By Vishnu Rajamanickam, FreightWaves
Within the trucking community, it is common knowledge that finding a secure parking spot is often easier said than done. The truck parking shortage is a ubiquitous problem in many parts of the U.S., primarily due to the lopsided supply and demand equation.
For roughly 1.6 million drivers that need to park every day to refresh their hours of service, there are only 400,000 truck parking spaces – forcing many to park in unsecure and un-authorized places like highway shoulders, where they spend restless nights worrying about their personal safety and that of their haul.
“The parking shortage causes a lot of uncertainty about where drivers will park. This concern about failure to find a spot within the hours of service (HOS) amplifies the stress around parking their truck, since violation of HoS could lead to heavy fines or being pulled out of service,” said Cokey Ellerbe, the vice president of strategy and growth at TruckPark, a digital secure truck parking platform.
Fearing repercussions of being caught behind the wheel when HoS expire, many truckers are forced to park wherever they can, which in turn leads to several unintended problems. For one, truckers find themselves parking in unauthorized places that are often unsafe, and where they cannot relax or get quality rest with the risk of having their truck vandalized and/or cargo stolen hanging over their heads.
“Data tells us about 40% of drivers spend an hour or more searching for parking, which further stresses them out since these are non-revenue hours they could have used to make money,” said Ellerbe. “Persistent high stress is not good for anyone, including truckers who are already dealing with tougher living conditions that come with life on the road.”
Soon enough, the negative impact tied to insufficient parking space will take its toll on the driver’s wellbeing. The added stress over wasted drive time, safety and payload security, combined with already erratic sleep schedules, can easily lead to sleep deprivation and potentially compromised operational safety.
“If a driver has a guaranteed place to park their truck, they will not waste productive drive time looking for a spot, and importantly, parking related stress or anxiety will disappear since they drive straight to their parking lane when they arrive,” said Ellerbe. “TruckPark provides secure parking spots that drivers can reserve using our free app. The parking lots we work with meet strict security requirements, which ensures the driver’s personal safety and payload security.”
TruckPark is digitalizing the process of reserving secure parking spots via a dedicated mobile platform that enables drivers to find and book spots close by. Its business model is a two-sided marketplace, where apart from catering to truckers, it also acts as a parking spot aggregator by allowing parking space owners to register their spots on the platform.
“A key part of our mission is to help create new parking supply and make existing supply more visible to truck drivers. This increases our ability to connect drivers with guaranteed secure parking spaces that appear on the platform,” said Ellerbe. “Giving the driver the opportunity to lock-in and guarantee a place to park is a key differentiator of our platform compared to other apps in the market. A lot of them give drivers an indication of where parking spaces “might” be available, but can never guarantee their availability – which doesn’t really solve the driver’s uncertainty problem.”
According to recent data reported by the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI), the average marginal cost to operate a truck is $71.78 per hour. Accounting for the one hour or more spent by 40% of the drivers searching for parking spots every day, the trucking industry witnesses a massive amount of hours and resources wasted entirely due to the lack of secure parking spots. And for drivers, there are many costs, including wellbeing, that can’t be accounted for on a balance sheet.
That said, the truck parking problem is something that the industry acknowledges, but a problem that trucking fleet operators seem to view differently from their drivers. In the recent 2019 ATRI report on top industry issues, the parking problem did not make the motor carriers top ten list, whereas it has consistently ranked in the top five among drivers. Many fleets don’t reimburse their drivers for parking, compounding the issue. Drivers have everything stacked against them, as they waste the last hours of their HoS in a desperate search for secure parking spots, while also paying for it when they are lucky enough to land one.
“We’ve created TruckPark to empower truck drivers. Our partnership with Reliance Partners includes efforts to shine light on the parking shortage, but importantly, to raise awareness around the issues drivers face when they can’t find a safe place to park,” said Anthony Petitte, CEO at TruckPark. “My co-founder’s brother is a truck driver, and we want to make it possible for him to never need to park on the shoulder of a highway ramp or abandoned industrial site, ever. Our driver users can book a parking space a year in advance or on demand at the very moment they need it. Anytime a driver needs to park their truck, we make it easy.”