No Easy Fix: The Growing Shortage of Truck Parking

With more rigs on the road than ever before, the trucking industry seeks answers to a national parking shortage.

On the evening of March 5, 2009 in rural South Carolina, truck driver Jason Rivenburg was running ahead of schedule. The distribution center where he was to unload his freight was not ready to accept the delivery. There were no safe places for Jason to wait, so he parked his rig at an abandoned gas station.

The next day, Jason’s body was found in the cab of his truck. He had been shot and killed by a man seeking money for drugs. Jason had only $7 in his pocket at the time of his murder.

A Nationwide Challenge

The dilemma that led to Jason Rivenburg’s death is a problem truck drivers face every day. For years, there has been a nationwide shortage of parking at truck stops, travel centers and rest stops. Drivers often have no choice but to park and shut down their trucks on the shoulders of highways or in vacant lots. These areas are not meant for parking and can be dangerous for truck drivers and other motorists. Adding to the issue are the mandatory rest requirements under hours-of-service rules that sometimes force drivers to park illegally.

With close to 6 million commercial trucks on American roads every day, the parking shortage continues to worsen. In a 2015 survey by the U.S. Department of Transportation, 90% of truck drivers said they often have trouble finding safe, available parking at night, usually during the week. A total of 37 states reported having a shortage of commercial truck parking. Many states also reported a shortage of driver amenities like rest areas, truck stops and designated pullouts.

Looking for Answers

The trucking industry is seeking solutions to the parking problem. Jason’s Law, named for Jason Rivenburg, was passed by Congress in 2012 and creates funding for more rest stops nationwide. Last year, a public-private alliance of regulators and trucking associations called the National Coalition on Truck Parking was formed to address the lack of parking. The coalition is exploring answers that include more parking at distribution centers and weigh stations, and offering tax incentives for businesses to allow truck drivers to park in their lots overnight.

A big part of the challenge is a shortage of parking spaces in metro areas where trucks pick up and deliver goods. Rest areas and truck stops are more plentiful in rural parts of the country. To help solve parking problems in the cities, trucking groups and regulators agree that shippers, distributors, ports and other businesses need to open up their lots for more truck parking.

Mobile Apps Can Help

Experts say mobile technology can play an important role in helping drivers find parking. This year, Pilot Flying J launched its Prime Parking program, which lets truckers reserve a parking spot at any of the more than 650 Pilot Flying J travel centers in North America. Drivers can visit to reserve a spot for a specific date and location, or book a Pilot Flying J parking spot by calling (877) 866-7378.

Another valuable tool for RTS Carrier Services customers is the exclusive CarrierPro mobile app. In addition to helping drivers find low fuel prices, CarrierPro includes detailed information about parking and other amenities at more than 1,100 truck stops nationwide. CarrierPro can be accessed on a desktop computer, smartphone or tablet. You must be an RTS Carrier Services member to use the application.

Information technology is just one answer to the multi-pronged challenge of adequate parking for truckers. As the trucking industry continues to grow, cooperation among regulators, shippers, vendors and fleets will be necessary to solve the puzzle of where trucks should go when they are not running.

Sources: Landline Magazine, Overdrive, U.S. Department of Transportation