Places to pull off safely at truck stops are at a premium along major corridors for freight hauling in the U.S. The demand is high because the new regulations require regular downtime. And the surging economy has propelled more trucks on the road.
Safety is the big concern. When a drives are forced to park off the road in secluded areas, he is at greater risk for robbery and even murder.
Safety Risk to Drivers and Their Vehicles
The dangers are real, as shown by a trucker death reported in the Wall Street Journal. Mike Boeglin was killed outside factory gates in Detroit, the victim of a robbery. He had parked outside the gates in an insecure location. Like many firms, the company he was delivering to has a policy of not letting drivers park on the premises overnight.
Trucks are also at risk of being stolen or vandalized. The cargo can be hijacked if proper security is not available.
Truckers are forced to pay the steep fees required to park at truck stops, if there is room. Otherwise, they end up parking on highway shoulders or in out-of-the-way areas.
Even before new truck regulations became effective two years ago requiring more rest stops, the problem existed. As reported in the Fleet Owner newsletter, the Federal Highway Administration it has been a serious issue since the 1990s.
The American Transportation Research Institute, ATRI, says that finding parking is at number eight of its list of the top concerns for the trucking industry.
A poll of drivers done by the ATRI showed that drivers are most concerned about the effects of fatigue and staying compliant with the federal Hours of Service regulations. Finding parking that is safe, affordable and easy to find is not a matter of convenience, but instead seen as a critical issue by drivers.
Using Technology to Improve Safety
According to Fleet Owner, the University of Minnesota is testing cameras using wireless networks to improve safety at public parking spots set aside for truckers along the highway.
It remotely shows drivers where available slots are, using a smartphone app, highway signage, and on the web.
What Fleet Owners Can Do
Further testing and implementation depends on financing by fleet owners, who are still locked into the old idea that parking along the nation’s highways is safe, easy to find and free.
Supporting more parking in safe locations and underwriting the cost are essential if drivers are to both stay safe and comply with regulations.