There is some good news regarding an issue that has been vexing 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.
Jason’s Law made Truck Parking a Priority
Phil Mescher of the U.S. Department of Transportation (U.S. 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 U.S. 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.’’
$25 Million of Federal Funding
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 the 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.
With the amount of trucks packing the rest stops and parking along the I-80 off ramps in Iowa, Mescher says 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,’’ he explained.
Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) Technologies
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, Mescher added. Iowa’s plan is to still put information about available truck parking spots on their 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 application and to companies that 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,’’ Mescher said. “We will either have in-pavement sensors in the parking stalls themselves at some sites, or we will count the trucks going in and out of other sites so we will know what the availability is at those sites.”
The new system will be developed and tested over the next year and is expected to be up and running by January 2019. Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin will also be implementing their own truck parking information management systems that eventually will interconnect into a regional system.
(This story was compiled by Truck Industry News)