Truck parking is one of the most frustrating issues that the trucking industry faces. With roughly 313,000 spots to park nationwide for 3.5 million drivers, it’s no wonder why truck parking is such a problem. Truck drivers will usually park for free at truck stops due to the offered amenities, or at rest stops. However, when they can’t find parking there, they either have to risk their safety and park in a less than desirable area or pay for parking out of pocket.
Many drivers, especially those new to the trucking industry, might have a difficult time understanding why the truck parking shortage is such an issue. The reality is that there’s no easy answer.
There are many reasons why there’s a shortage of parking spots, including:
The ELD Mandate: With HOS (hours of service) being restricted, drivers are now required to park after a specified number of hours, which increases the demand for spots.
Closed rest areas: Many of the country’s rest areas need renovations and states often don’t have enough funding to repair or replace them.
Shippers not letting trucks park at their dock: Many shippers fear drivers will leave the area worse than they found it, and will then have to clean up afterward. This may be an unfair assumption, but nonetheless, a reality that drivers have to navigate.
RVs and cars using truck spots: Sometimes recreational vehicles and passenger cars are directed to take truck parking spots because of their size. Sometimes these motorists just don’t know any better or don’t have anywhere else to park.
So, what are some of the long-term solutions to the lack of truck parking?
Federal level: In June 2023, two new major federal grants were awarded to expand the nation's commercial truck parking capacity. The two awards, totaling more than $33 million, will create 170 new truck parking spaces located at freight corridors in Louisiana and Texas.
State level: According to the American Transportation Research Institute, many local governments aren’t aware of how bad the truck parking problem truly is, so they’ve decided to develop three guidebooks that would help states better manage and improve truck parking facilities.
Trucking Associations: In 2022, the American Trucking Associations and the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association sent a letter to the U.S. Secretary of Transportation urging that the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act funds be prioritized to boost the nation's truck parking.
Private sector: Companies like Love’s are opening up more and more truck stops across the nation to create more parking spots, as well as other private companies, like Big Rig Parking, creating paid parking lots so truckers can reserve a spot in advance.
While there’s not much any of us can do to immediately solve the parking shortage, there are a few things that you do have control over. Here are some things that you can do to have the best parking experience possible.
Practicing parking etiquette might seem tedious, but it’s the right thing to do. By being a courteous parker, you’ll make it easier for companies to provide and maintain safe parking for drivers. Follow these tips the next time you park your truck:
Be tidy: Take your trash to the trash cans, and don’t leave a mess for a fellow trucker or truckstop/shipping dock employee to deal with.
Back your trailer in: Don’t park in the spot headfirst as this eliminates road space for others. Make sure the front of the truck is facing outwards.
Check the spot you’re backing into: Before you back into a spot, make sure it’s not already marked as reserved. A poorly marked spot will be harder to see, so double-check it to avoid getting woken up in the middle of the night by an employee asking you to move.
Be mindful of other drivers: Avoid making loud noises when parked, we’ve all had a noisy neighbor at some point - don’t be a nuisance to others.
Leave no trace: If there’s any grass around the parking spot, don’t drive on it - be respectful of the surrounding land and environment and leave no trace behind.
Don’t stay parked in fuel islands: Get your fuel, and get moving.
With so few spots available, sometimes parking in a less-than-desirable area is the only choice, so safety must always be your top priority. No one wants to think about a burglary, or worse, but the reality is that you need to be prepared if something does happen. Here are some tips to help keep you safe when you park:
Avoid parking on the shoulder.
Try to park in areas that are well-lit.
Trust your instincts - if something doesn’t feel right in a certain area, leave immediately.
Make sure your trailer is locked and secured, and avoid discussing what you’re hauling with anyone to prevent yourself from becoming a target.
Invest in a good lock for your trailer, like this one: The Enforcer Lock.
Close the curtains, and lock your doors.
Strap your doors shut and set up a makeshift alarm system.
Consider taking your dog on the road with you. Not only are they wonderful companions, they’re also great at notifying you of an intruder. These furry friends are also a tax deduction!
Be prepared to defend yourself. Keep items like pepper spray or a baseball bat within reach in case someone breaks in.
Free parking is always ideal, however, it’s not always possible to do so in a safe manner. Paid parking is controversial, some drivers like it, while others don’t. However you feel about it, there are tools available that can help you book and reserve spots in advance, if you choose to do so. We’ve listed some free and paid parking resources below that you can take advantage of:
Free Parking Solutions
Trucker Path helps you find free parking by providing real-time updates, or you can reserve paid parking in advance.
Dock411 has a free version of the app that provides information on whether or not shippers allow overnight parking, restrooms, wifi, etc.
DAT One also helps you find free parking or reserved parking.
Paid Parking Solutions
Trucker Tools is a free app that allows you to reserve paid parking in advance.
Pilot Flying J will enable you to reserve a parking spot at one of their locations.
Truck Smart by TA Petro helps you reserve a paid parking spot at one of their locations up to 30 days in advance.
While truck parking is a complicated issue that has no easy solution, there are wheels in motion for long-term solutions, and more importantly, there are things that you can do today to enhance your parking experience. Remember to be mindful, try to plan ahead, and use the tools you have at your disposal. Park safely!