W While many are dreading the new electronic logging device (ELD) regulations coming later this year, there is some good news regarding another major issue that has been concerning truck drivers for the past several years. Federal funding has created an eight-state initiative to begin tackling the nation’s truck parking problems – beginning with Iowa’s plans to make parking easier along Interstate 80.

Truck Driver walking to truck at highway rest-stop

Truck Driver walking to truck at highway rest-stop

Phil Mescher of the Iowa Department of Transportation (DOT) said it was the passage of Jason’s Law in 2012 that made research and federal funding a priority in addressing the truck parking shortage across the country.

The law is named after Jason Rivenburg, a truck driver who was robbed and murdered in 2009 after pulling off the road to rest at an abandoned South Carolina gas station.

“This really brought a lot of awareness to the trucking companies and to the government about this issue,’’ Mescher said. “And so the publicity got the interest of Congress a little bit, so when they passed the transportation bill they included some provisions in there to help states create either better parking, more parking or some technologies to help truck drivers.’’

The current initiative has $25 million of federal funding to be divided among the selected eight states, Mescher said. Each participating state is creating a plan of action that specifically addresses its own needs and also works with other states. Iowa is the first state to announce its plan to create an electronic system that will help make it easier to find available parking along I-80.

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With the number of trucks parking at rest stops and along the I-80 off ramps in Iowa, Mescher said there is an obvious need for the state to create a new system – especially since truck drivers are also restricted to how many hours they can be on the road.

“If they are getting down to where they only have an hour or two left, it becomes imperative that they try to find a parking space so that they don’t spend an inordinate amount of time driving around pushing up against that threshold trying to find a parking spot,’’ Mescher said.

He added that “while many states do a good job with their 511 transportation systems, the problem is that they are all different and drivers have to go to a different website for each one. Iowa’s plan is to put information about available truck parking spots on its 511 system, and to also create a new system that monitors both public and private spots.’’ The system will be available as a smart-phone app and to companies who provide in-cab information systems, as well as truck dispatchers.

“In this proposal, what we wanted to do is to use some Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) technologies to provide truck drivers with information about the availability of truck parking at upcoming rest areas and truck stops,’’ Merscher said. “At some sites we will have in-pavement sensors in the parking stalls, and at other sites we will count the trucks going in and out so we will know what the availability is on a regular basis.’’

The new system will be developed and tested over the next year and is expected to be up and running by January of 2019. Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin will also be implementing their own truck parking information management system that will eventually interconnect into a regional system.

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