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U.S. Department of Transportation U.S. Department of Transportation Icon United States Department of Transportation United States Department of Transportation
Date:
Winter 2023
Issue No:
Vol. 86 No. 4
Publication Number:
FHWA-HRT-23-002
Table of Contents

THE PARKING IMPERATIVE: A Safe and Healthy Supply Chain Rests with Truck Parking

by Caitlin Hughes and Jeff Purdy
Freight trucks parked at night on paved lot surrounded by grass and trees. Image Source: FHWA.
Trucks parked at night at a truck stop in Ohio.

The lack of safe truck parking is a consistent concern expressed by commercial motor vehicle operators according to national surveys conducted under Section 1401 of the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21) Act (Public Law [P.L.] 112-141), commonly referred to as Jason’s Law. This issue stems in part from an active economy, which places pressure on the trucking industry to move more goods by both long- and short-haul shipments and to make last-mile deliveries.

Acting Administrator for the Federal Highway Administration Stephanie Pollack has flagged this critical concern facing the trucking industry and the Nation in a September 30, 2022 press release from the U.S. Department of Transportation (https://www.transportation.gov/briefing-room/biden-harris-administration-brings-together-trucking-community-help-expand-truck), stating that “truck parking is a safety issue—both for truck drivers and all other road users, which is why FHWA has updated our guidance to ensure there is no question about eligibility for truck parking projects in new formula and discretionary grant programs authorized under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law [BIL].” She further notes that “this new information will help States, localities and other eligible entities identify eligible formula funding sources and apply for discretionary grants to fund truck parking projects that not only support the increased demand for truck deliveries and strengthen our supply chains, but also provide safe truck parking, which is critical to protect the truck drivers we rely on, as well as the traveling public.”

The front half of a freight truck alongside an industrial building. Image Source: FHWA.
Truck parked at a factory in Phoenix, AZ.

Public and private sector partnering is a key strategy in successfully addressing truck parking safety and capacity concerns. Such cooperation will help meet the safety rest needs of drivers and will help provide appropriate staging areas for transloading goods being moved by multimodal operations—operations where trucking meets ports, airports, and intermodal rail facilities. The National Association of Truck Stop Operators prefers this approach, and has been quoted as saying that, “To the extent that Federal dollars are utilized for truck parking, we think that partnering with the private sector in the existing locations is the best way to maximize the use of those dollars” (https://www.transportdive.com/news/national-coalition-of-truck-parking-pete-buttigieg-federal-grant-money-awards-jasons-law/633141/).

Although the need for truck parking has long been identified, ongoing growth in trucking operations is outpacing the construction of new spaces. Data collected for the Jason’s Law Truck Parking Surveys, published by FHWA in 2015 and 2020 confirmed this trend. Although the majority of truck parking is built and maintained by the private sector (i.e., truck stops and private lots), public sector providers of transportation infrastructure (i.e., counties, cities, States, some port authorities and toll road operators, etc.) are finding that roadway safety and the need to resolve supply chain issues are two compelling reasons to invest in the development of truck parking spaces. Drivers need adequate rest to continue to safely operate on the Nation’s roadways and continue to play a vital role in the American economy. Without safe parking, drivers are forced to park in unsafe locations, like highway shoulders and freeway exit/entrance ramps, creating a safety hazard for the truck driver as well as other motorists. The inability to find safe parking can result in fatigued drivers and unsafe driving conditions, loss of productivity and income, increased congestion, and higher costs for businesses and consumers.

Bipartisan Infrastructure Law - Section 21104: Improving State Freight Plans

SEC. 21104. IMPROVING STATE FREIGHT PLANS.

``(10) <> the most recent commercial motor vehicle parking facilities assessment conducted by the State

``(11) the most recent supply chain cargo flows in the State, expressed by mode of transportation;

Commercial Motor Vehicle Parking Facilities Assessments.--As part of the development or updating, as applicable, of a State freight plan under this section, each State that receives funding under section 167 of title 23, in consultation with relevant State motor carrier safety personnel, shall conduct an assessment of--

``(1) the capability of the State, together with the private sector in the State, to provide adequate parking facilities and rest facilities for commercial motor vehicles engaged in interstate transportation;

``(2) the volume of commercial motor vehicle traffic in the State; and

``(3) whether there exist any areas within the State with a shortage of adequate commercial motor vehicle parking facilities, including an analysis (economic or otherwise, as the State determines to be appropriate) of the underlying causes of such a shortage.

MAP-21

Section 1401 of MAP-21, also known as “Jason’s Law,” was intended to address the commercial motor vehicle parking shortage along the National Highway System to improve safety and directed the U.S. Department of Transportation to conduct a survey and a comparative assessment to:

1.    Evaluate the capability of each State to provide adequate parking and rest facilities for commercial motor vehicles engaged in Interstate transportation.
2.    Assess the volume of commercial motor vehicle traffic in each State.
3.    Develop a system of metrics to measure the adequacy of commercial motor vehicle parking facilities in each State.

Jason’s Law also expanded the eligibilities for Federal funding to include a variety of activities including construction as well as truck parking information systems.

New and expanded transportation funding programs resulting from the passage of the 2021 BIL offer opportunity and support for entities seeking to invest in truck parking space development, as these programs are broad enough to provide States, local governments, public ports, and other public sector organizations with funding—individually or in partnership with the private sector—to address truck parking shortages. Although BIL did not establish a dedicated truck parking program, and does not require expansion of truck parking, many Federal funding programs are eligible for the construction or expansion of truck parking. Funding can also be used for technologies that would support safe truck parking operations, such as reducing emissions through truck stop electrification and providing truck drivers with information on real-time truck parking availability.

U.S. map of public & private truck parking spaces per 100,000 daily truck vehicle miles traveled. 1st range 0-65 spaces: Washington, CA, Utah, MI, TN, WV, MD, DE, NY, MA, CT, ME & Alaska. 2nd range 66-83: Oregon, CO, TX, AK, Missouri, Illinois, AL, FL, NC, Ohio, New Jersey & Rhode Island. 3rd range 84-109: AZ, NM, KS, OK, MN, Wisconsin, MS, GA, Kentucky, VA, PA, and Vermont. 4th range is 110 plus: NV, LA, Idaho, MT, Wyoming, Nebraska, SD, ND, Iowa, Indiana, SC & New Hampshire. 5th range is No Data: Hawaii.
Total public and private truck parking spaces per 100,000 daily truck vehicle miles traveled, as a measure relative to the demand for truck parking.

In addition to creating funding programs, BIL directs States to assess truck parking needs as part of the revised State Freight Plan requirements. This must be included in the next State Freight Plan update to continue eligibility for use of National Highway Freight Program funding. This new planning requirement should improve State, regional, and local government understanding of truck parking needs and can inform private sector parking developers about the level of truck parking needs and locations. The U.S. Department of Transportation is actively providing information to States, and other eligible stakeholders, as guidance addressing the planning requirements and eligibility of various formula and grant funding programs.

“One of the leading causes of truck crashes is driver fatigue. It is clear that adequate rest for drivers is foundational for safe operations. We have heard loud and clear from drivers—they need more places to rest and they need to be safe and secure while doing so.”
—FMCSA Administrator Robin Hutcheson

Increasing Demand, Lagging Supply

FHWA has been surveying truck parking providers (both public and private sector), drivers, and law enforcement since the enactment of Jason’s Law—as part of MAP-21—in 2012. The latest survey results are available online: (https://ops.fhwa.dot.gov/Freight/infrastructure/truck_parking/workinggroups/2020/mtg/mtg12012020_jasons_law.htm).

In comparing data from the 2015 and 2020 surveys, FHWA found that truck vehicle miles traveled (TVMT) increased by 15 percent between 2012 and 2017. Moreover, data from the 2020 assessment indicate slower growth in truck parking capacity expansion—private truck parking spaces increased 11 percent, whereas public truck parking spaces increased by 6 percent.

Based on information collected from prior Jason’s Law surveys, 36 States reported an increase over 5 years in daily TVMT. Interstates connecting major metropolitan areas of the East Coast, Midwest, and Southeast have particularly high truck volumes; other concentrations of high truck volumes occur along major east-west interstate highways and along the West Coast. TVMT is a good indicator of parking demand since these regions and corridors of high TVMT coincide with the locations where surveyees have consistently indicated truck parking shortages.

From data in the 2020 assessment, approximately 313,000 truck parking spaces were documented nationally; nearly 40,000 parking spaces were located in public rest areas and toll road service plazas. The majority, however, were located at privately operated truck stops and establishments. Private truck stops are generally much larger than public rest areas, with an average of 50 spaces per private facility and 21 spaces per public facility. Data from this assessment also indicated a 10 percent increase in the number of private truck parking facilities and an 11 percent increase in the number of parking spaces at these facilities across the Nation.

States are opening more public locations to truck parking. A comparison of the responses from States in the 2015 and 2020 surveys indicated a 13 percent increase in the number of public truck parking facilities. These new public facilities and expansion at existing facilities has increased the number of parking spaces by nearly 6 percent. Although there has been expansion in some areas, 57 public facilities closed since the original Jason’s Law Truck Parking Survey in 2015; the expense of maintaining these facilities may have played a role in closing them, as that concern is raised by State departments of transportation (DOT) in meetings with FHWA.

In the 2020 survey of truck drivers, FHWA received 11,696 responses from drivers—a 43.5-percent increase over the 2015 survey reporting. Ninety-eight percent of drivers responded that they have problems finding safe parking. Almost 75 percent of drivers reported regularly experiencing a problem finding a safe location to park their truck for rest—one or more times a week—in the year prior to being surveyed.

This shortfall has serious implications as expressed by Robin Hutcheson, administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), an agency within USDOT. Hutcheson states, “Parking facilities provide commercial motor vehicle operators, including buses and trucks, locations where drivers can rest, recharge, and find needed services. Drivers also need to take breaks in compliance with hours-of-service [HOS] regulations. Without safe truck parking, drivers may end up parking in unsafe locations—or worse, continue to drive beyond HOS limits.”

Via the 2020 survey, commercial vehicle operators were asked to report which States have a shortage of safe truck parking. While shortages were identified across the United States for both for public and private facilities, drivers cited the greatest shortages in large, populous States on both the East and West coasts, as well as Illinois and Tennessee. Drivers reported fewer parking shortages in Hawaii, Alaska, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Montana. Drivers reported the greatest increases in parking shortages in States along the southern part of the Interstate-95 corridor as well as coastal States in the Pacific Northwest, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia.

Parking Inventory Results from the 2020 Jason’s Law Truck Parking Survey


Approximately 313,000 truck parking spaces exist nationally:
  • 40,000 at public rest areas.
  • 273,000 at private truck stops.
  • 2014-2019 growth in truck parking spaces:
    • 6 percent increase in public parking spaces.
    • 11 percent increase in private parking spaces.

The Trucker and the Supply Chain

Modern supply chains are highly optimized and depend on freight arriving at its destination on time. The reliability of shipments is an important variable for trucking companies and the location and availability of truck parking affects route planning and efficiency. Safe and adequate truck parking is tied to several factors in addition to parking availability:
Federal rest requirements HOS for commercial vehicle operators;

  1. Driver safety off the road at truck parking facilities;
  2. Truck operations in long-haul supply chains, and
  3. Impacts on local communities

(https://ops.fhwa.dot.gov/publications/fhwahop17026/index.htm#s4).

Public agencies have studied parking at national, regional, and local levels. Now, in an era of supply chain challenges and issues, truck parking considerations are beginning to be addressed in stand-alone truck parking plans and in more comprehensive freight plans by State DOTs and metropolitan planning organizations (MPO).

“I’ve heard from countless truckers across the country about how the shortage of truck parking costs them time and money—not to mention making our roads less safe and weakening our supply chains,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. “We’re using funds from President Biden’s [BIL] to help address truck parking shortages, and we’re working with state and industry leaders to develop more parking that will improve safety and quality of life for our Nation’s truck drivers.”

An underinvestment in infrastructure, as well as a healthy economy propelling more trucks on the road, has led to unsafe and unauthorized parking on highway shoulders and at interchange ramps, which is a key area of concern for many States. Congestion, construction, and decreased roadway reliability has a downstream effect on truck parking, causing drivers to fall short of where they planned to rest on long-haul trips.

Public agencies are now studying truck parking in the broader context of economic development opportunities and constraints, and the differences in parking capacity and information needs among various segments of the trucking industry are being examined in more detail. Long-term rest requirements, short-term parking activity, and staging near major freight generators have very different parking characteristics for the trucking industry.

Parking shortages can create strain on local communities from unauthorized parking, excessive truck movements on local roadways (and around schools and residential areas), roadway wear, idling, noise, and emissions. Further, some areas are unable to sufficiently enforce local ordinances while at the same time, there are no good alternatives for drivers in search of parking and truck parking bans compromise the ability of drivers in those areas to find adequate parking. Some of these issues compound existing equity and health and safety issues. In these locations, communication and collaboration is vital to identify solutions to meet the variety of community and trucking needs.

Why is Truck Parking Important? Safe, accessible parking is critical to drivers. Car with Zs, long-haul drivers on road days & weeks at a time; tractor and box, drivers picking up & delivering freight need to park & await appointment; timer, for federally mandated 30-min break, driver must not move truck; exclamation point in triangle, drivers impacted by closed or congested roadway need place to park; & house, independent drivers don’t have company facility when done with work week, need place to park truc
Safe, accessible truck parking is important, and critical, to truck drivers.

To address very unique issues affecting long-haul, interstate truck drivers during the height of the pandemic, FHWA signaled to States that rest areas should remain open and accessible to truck drivers, and that States would not be penalized for allowing the provision of food trucks to provide meals for drivers at Interstate System rest areas—something that generally falls under the longstanding ban on commercial activities at rest areas within the Interstate right-of-way. While these short-term, emergency actions helped alleviate some of the pressure at that time, the pre-existing lack of truck parking availability continues to grow with the increased demand for supplies.

One finding of the Jason’s Law surveys acknowledged that major freight generators, such as industrial parks, distribution centers, intermodal facilities, and ports, are key elements of the Nation’s freight transportation system and therefore provide critical context to understanding truck parking demand. The Jason’s Law survey looked at truck parking facilities near major freight corridors, origins, and destinations based on the National Highway Freight Network (NHFN) and interstates (https://ops.fhwa.dot.gov/freight/infrastructure/nfn/index.htm). Data collection for the 2020 survey documented 614 truck parking spaces per 100 NHFN miles across the country, with about 78 spaces per 100 miles in public facilities and almost 536 in private facilities. Nationally, 79 percent of spaces were within 1 mile of an interstate and 84 percent were within 5 miles of the NHFN.

Areas of major freight origins and destinations that were analyzed in 2020 included:

  1. The 20 Freight Analysis Framework zones (https://ops.fhwa.dot.gov/freight/freight_analysis/faf/index.htm) with the highest long-haul truck tonnage originating or destined for the zone.
  2. The 10 ports with the highest loaded container volumes in 2017 as measured by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
  3. The top 10 intermodal markets according to data published by the Association of American Railroads.

A total of 32 regions were identified as major freight origins and destinations using this method, with almost 24,000 truck parking spaces located within them.

Despite the critical need, the prioritization of public funding for capital costs and the lack of Federal funding for operating costs are major challenges in implementing solutions for truck parking. To help address truck parking amidst competing transportation priorities, States and MPOs are encouraged to look for solutions that leverage available federal funding for capital projects and to explore private sector partnership options. States have explored financing options with private partners, and a few have recently sought Federal grants for truck parking expansion projects. In September 2022, USDOT awarded two discretionary grants for truck parking capacity projects in BIL (https://www.transportation.gov/grants/mpdg-announcement).

FHWA has conducted a review of State and regional truck parking plans. Most State, MPO, or regional plans describe strategies for expansion and redesign of facilities to improve access and circulation, offer additional amenities, and provide a range of parking types (short or long term). Some have identified a need for expanding overnight rest options and for other types of parking, such as for staging activities. This mix of short-term and overnight parking is critical to the efficient operation of economic generators and nodes in the supply chain, such as ports and freight facilities. States such as Kansas and Nebraska have considered asset-based approaches to parking facility development so they can have an understanding of facility conditions and performance to implement improvements.

FMCSA’s Hutcheson also notes, “The availability of truck parking is a key concern to truck drivers.” She explains the USDOT’s focus on the subject, stating that, in “understanding the necessity for safe parking for drivers to improve working conditions and safety, the Department is working to raise awareness regarding eligibility for truck parking projects.” For instance, FMCSA has approved funding for truck parking Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) through its Innovative Technology Deployment program. FMCSA also issued the Accelerating SmartPark Deployment Strategic Plan (https://rosap.ntl.bts.gov/view/dot/40895) as part of its Accelerating SmartPark Deployment project. The plan reviewed ITS technologies to help monitor and disseminate real-time information on truck parking availability. The plan also documented ways that these projects disseminate information to the user and any lessons learned during the life cycle of the projects.

State action has shown the promise of connecting truck parking, economic development, and tourism as well as the importance of including truck parking in policy development discussions. For example, South Dakota engaged its economic development, tourism, and transportation entities to develop the South Dakota Interstate Rest Area Revitalization Plan to focus on parking and amenity needs for all travelers. Kansas has efforts to develop pro-parking policies and consider truck parking impacts and needs in transportation policy development. Other States like New Mexico consider truck parking an economic development issue and assessed bottlenecks, capacities on freight routes, gateways, and opportunities to improve parking to support freight flows.

The Safety Factor

The Safe System Approach (SSA), a vision to reach zero traffic-related deaths per year, is a goal for USDOT and many public partners. Secretary Buttigieg commented on the topic of truck parking safety during a hearing before the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works on March 2, 2022, stating, “This is a very important issue, and if you talk with any truck driver, it is not only an issue of convenience; it is an issue of safety.”

Studies

Exhausted truckers operating a vehicle are a risk to not only their health and safety, but also that of other motorists, bicyclists, and pedestrians using the same roadways. Furthermore, studies have shown (see box above) that unauthorized truck parking along the roadway impacts safety by creating a crash hazard to other motorists. Moreover, truck drivers need safe locations to park that include amenities, such as clean rest rooms and safe lighting, and advanced truck stop electrification to power auxiliary needs, such as the heating and cooling of parked cabs. Additionally, drivers responding to the Jason’s Law Truck Parking Surveys identified a need for police officer patrols, cameras, fencing, and other safety and security options at parking facilities.

Metrics of trucking safety and security within the context of truck parking include truck crashes, regulatory rest violations, and crime. Truck parking shortages can increase the chance of a driver becoming a victim of crime; for instance, when drivers park in unprotected areas. It may also be helpful to measure information on parking spaces that accommodate oversize and or overweight trucks to enhance the safety of these drivers and the security of their loads at rest areas and truck stops.

A row of parked freight trucks in a truck parking area. Image Source: FHWA.
Trucks parked at a Pennsylvania Turnpike travel plaza.

Truck parking improvements can be part of SSA strategies to reduce deaths and injuries. Using truck parking metrics, agencies can expand their SSA toolkit to justify and improve safety, directly and indirectly, by informing the siting, design, and implementation of new truck parking solutions. States are advancing metrics as data on truck parking demand/utilization become more readily available and analytical tools for truck operations become more advanced. These type of metrics include:

  • Average time needed to find truck parking locations (protracted searching for parking can increase traffic, increase emissions, and prevent a driver from getting timely rest).
  • Driver preference for the transmission method and timing of truck parking information such as secondary parking locations (e.g., public/private designated truck parking locations at retailers and hotels/motels).
  • Accessibility of truck parking locations from adjacent roadways.
  • Community impacts of truck parking in nearby residential neighborhoods.

Metrics can also be used to support the development of truck parking facilities directly within the sites of freight generators, such as industrial parks, warehouses, or distribution centers. In such cases, these facilities can be incorporated into an existing safety framework, and the support of potential stakeholders in these freight-intensive communities—such as school boards, law enforcement, and commercial vehicle safety agencies—is vital.

In recent years, States and MPOs are making efforts to focus on the safety aspects of truck parking issues. A key safety concern, as previously mentioned, involves the use of roadway ramps and shoulders for truck parking, which presents a risk to truck drivers and a hazard to other road users. In the 2020 Jason’s Law Truck Parking Survey results, 80 percent of States identified unofficial/unauthorized truck parking in their State. Safety considerations also included driver fatigue and HOS, crashes, crime at truck parking facilities, and driver safety. USDOT is also focused on safety; for example, FMCSA is currently conducting a study, “Crime Prevention for Truckers.” Moreover, FHWA included in its recently published truck parking development handbook
(https://ops.fhwa.dot.gov/freight/infrastructure/truck_parking/docs/Truck_Parking_Development_Handbook.pdf) a discussion of the need to combat human trafficking through better rest area design and awareness, in addition to more standard matters such as noteworthy safety practices for ingress/egress and internal layout of spaces. FHWA has been working in partnership with FMCSA and the U.S. Maritime Administration on initiatives related to truck parking, driver safety, and truck staging needs at ports.

Crash- and fatigue-related data, as well as crime reports by parking location, were included in the 2015 Jason’s Law truck parking survey. For operations, some States are improving on these metrics. Washington analyzes how many days per week parking shortages lead to fatigued driving and issues with maximum HOS. While only a few States are measuring and reporting crime at parking locations, Florida and Georgia both report on acts of theft and other incidences at parking locations.

A row of parked freight trucks in a truck parking area. Image Source: FHWA.
Trucks parking at the Interstate-95 rest area near Laurel, MD.

States and MPOs typically analyze data on truck-involved crashes to identify areas where incidents frequently occurred. States also use multiple approaches to analyze crash data, including crashes that involved fatigued drivers, crashes with trucks parked on roadway shoulders or ramps, and the distance of crashes from truck parking facilities. See examples in the box.

Analysis Examples

Some States and MPOs are using truck GPS data to identify how long trucks are parked, providing insight into how truck drivers are using truck parking facilities (e.g., for a 10-hour rest break or staging). More usage information could be available in the future with the implementation of truck parking availability systems by State DOTs. The trucking industry could also use data from electronic logging devices (ELD, https://eld.fmcsa.dot.gov/About) to provide accurate utilization information. An ELD synchronizes with a vehicle’s engine to automatically record a driver’s off-duty and on-duty time and securely transfer HOS data to a safety official. This includes GPS location data. Results of anonymized and aggregated ELD data would be useful to States in identifying locations where new truck parking capacity is needed.

States and MPOs are also analyzing crime statistics at truck parking facilities and using surveys of truck drivers to identify the driver’s perception of their safety at different types of truck parking locations. Though limited, some States are considering environmental and livability factors when analyzing truck parking. Examples include time spent idling, emissions during idling, and noise impacts.

New Partners, New Funding Opportunities

With the passage of the BIL that reauthorized surface transportation programs for the nation, Congress established new funding opportunities and expanded the eligibility of other programs. These changes offer additional chances for public sector entities looking to develop new truck parking. Some programs have more specialized eligibilities, such as a goal to reduce emissions. States, localities, MPOs, Tribal Nations, publicly owned ports, and other eligible entities are encouraged to consider using Federal-aid apportioned funding or apply for grants under the discretionary programs to develop or enhance truck parking facilities.

Federal Funding Programs Eligible for Truck Parking Development

For more information on commercial motor vehicle funding eligibility and related State Freight Plan requirements, visit: https://ops.fhwa.dot.gov/freight/infrastructure/truck_parking/title23fundscmv/title23_49_funds_cmv.pdf

The Office of the Secretary of Transportation is updating the State Freight Plan guidance to assist States in meeting the new requirements. FHWA, in partnership with FMCSA, updated the guidance on funding eligibilities for truck parking (https://ops.fhwa.dot.gov/freight/infrastructure/truck_parking/title23fundscmv/title23_49_funds_cmv.pdf) and created the truck parking development handbook to support public sector entities–especially local governments–in their efforts to invest in truck parking capacity solutions. FHWA also developed a workshop focused on creating an action plan to address truck parking needs, and has facilitated over 20 such workshops since 2018 at the request of cities, States, and transportation corridor-based organizations, engaging stakeholders from transportation agencies, law enforcement, and the trucking industry in the identification of needs and solutions.

A bar graph representing the results of a survey of drivers regarding their preferred method of obtaining truck parking information. The method “State 5-1-1 traveler information sites” garnered a 12% response rate; roadside variable message signs, 38%; in-cab communication systems, 25%; smartphone applications, 88%; and printed maps of truck parking locations, 24%. Image Source: FHWA.
The majority of drivers surveyed prefer to obtain information about truck parking via their smartphones.

Other initiatives led by USDOT include continued public engagement with a broad cross-section of industry and government stakeholders, academics and drivers. Established in 2015, the National Coalition on Truck Parking (referred to as the Coalition) was an early action of USDOT based on the severity of the issues raised by results of the 2015 survey. The Coalition includes public and private sector organizations with an interest in advancing safe truck parking measures. Four working groups within the Coalition were established to share noteworthy practices and information in topic areas including parking capacity; technology and data; funding, finance and regulations; and State, regional, and local government coordination.

Of the Coalition and FHWA-led workshops, Tom Kearney, a retired FHWA transportation specialist focused on freight and truck parking issues, says they “established an environment of open discussion and trust between the public and private sectors.”

The FHWA Resource Center has actively been delivering tailored truck parking workshops in specific states and regions that include a broad mix of public and private stakeholders. These events always include peers from across the U.S. who share how they worked through similar truck parking problems and solutions that have been effective. “Hearing success stories from peers really seems to motivate workshop participants,” Kearney notes.

“The key to a successful workshop is having the right people or mix of people participate. You never know where the gold is when you’re planning and operating a truck parking workshop.” Kearney recalled that “amazing contributions” were made by a legislative coordinator who worked with Union Pacific and Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroads. “The individual had no background in trucking, but was an expert on supply chains. His contributions were solid gold.” But even as the various levels of government and private stakeholders recognize the need for parking expansion, a struggle exists in developing business models that unite the public and private sectors in implementing solutions to the problem. Truck stop owners and operators cite a need to understand how to make parking a viable business, and how to better understand demand. Drivers and managers raise concerns about increased costs and regulatory challenges. The public sector’s concerns are safety, congestion, and economic development. More focus is needed on strategies that will work for the diversity of stakeholders as well as the types of commercial vehicles involved.

Local government involvement and education is also needed. Many respondents to the last Jason’s Law survey discussed the challenge of educating citizens and local governments about how trucking operations work and the value of trucking to their community. Understanding the linkage between land uses that generate truck demand and truck parking activity is critical to improving the planning for truck parking facilities and their utilization. Key institutional challenges include: lack for full alignment between land use and transportation planning products and processes; lack of clarity on appropriate roles (including for public sector agencies); and zoning polices that may not fully address freight needs. Lack of availability, affordability, and suitability of land on which to develop truck parking capacity is another challenge. And there is still ambiguity regarding the appropriate public sector role in solving truck parking needs.

The emergence of smart technologies to inform drivers of parking availability was another focus area resulting from the 2015 survey. Overwhelmingly, survey respondents indicated that they prefer smartphone applications to other methods of information. Federal funding has been provided through grants from USDOT to not only build spaces but also to improve their utility by “matching parking demand with parking supply, by leveraging technology to monitor parking space availability, and communicat[ing] this information to truck drivers,” describes Hutcheson. An 8-State coalition leveraged an FHWA-administered Federal grant from the former Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery, or TIGER, program, to build a TPIMS across key highways in the Midwest. To ensure the success of these technologies and improve access to parking information, understanding driver needs and preferences is important.

: A desktop computer screen with an ariel view of trucks parked in a parking lot in an area with snow. Image Source: FHWA.
Truck parking monitoring system at the Minnesota Department of Transportation Regional Transportation Management Center.

Stakeholders in the trucking industry and truck safety communities have been calling for a new funding program dedicated to truck parking, as a program has not existed since the sunsetting of a $25 million truck parking facilities pilot program under the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU, P.L. 109-59). At a September 30, 2022 meeting of the Coalition, the Owner-Operator Independent Driver Association spoke about the status of a pending legislative proposal to create a new grant program focused on truck parking.

Since the publication of the 2015 Jason’s Law Survey results, truck parking needs awareness, data gathering, analysis, and project development has significantly increased. Public interest in promoting safe truck parking as a key element of a safe transportation system as well as an important part of trucking operations has grown. Two issues related to these efforts have been:

  1. Identifying and addressing truck parking capacity needs, and
  2. Developing innovative and effective tools to collect and transmit information about parking availability.

As part of the collection of updated information for the 2020 assessment, FHWA reviewed State, MPO, regional, and Federal truck parking studies, plans, programs, and projects. FHWA also looked at major studies as well as State freight plans or long-range transportation plans that include truck parking activity and measurement. Overall, results and findings were that 41
States voluntarily mentioned truck parking in their statewide freight plans (inclusion of this information is now a required element of State freight plans). Another five States incorporated truck parking in their overall planning activities.

Many States have identified the location of parking capacity deficiencies as a major issue. Common locations with truck parking gaps are specific corridors with high truck traffic, areas with high levels of local truck activity, and areas with major freight generators (such as industrial parks and port terminals).

“It is important to advance truck parking efforts with ways to help local governments understand, plan for, and accommodate truck parking in their planning and development as well as with ways to partner with the private sector to offer public property or funding to spur parking increases or improvements, and to incentivize for parking (e.g., tax credits, incentive funding, alternative funding arrangements),” says Nicole Katsikides, a research scientist at the Texas A&M Transportation Institute.

Information about truck parking, provided via signs, maps, truck parking websites, and ITS technologies, is attracting interest in the public and private sectors, with significant activity related to ITS and data-transfer solutions. For participating States, TPIMS now provides robust technology solutions that collect and disseminate information on the availability of truck parking.

A number of State projects have been funded under Section 1305 of SAFETEA-LU to improve truck parking; however, this program was not continued under MAP-21. Since then, new major areas of research have sprung up to improve the analysis and planning in the field.

Advances in connected and automated vehicle (CAV) technology also offer potential opportunities for truck operations and data exchange. Implications of CAV growth on driver rest needs are yet to be determined. The new funding opportunities to expand capacity and technologies to transmit parking availability information are of great interest to many States. Several States are also looking into potential public private partnership options to finance new parking capacity. The September 2022 Coalition meeting included presentations from the Colorado DOT, California State Transportation Agency, and the Eastern Transportation Coalition on recent projects.

States and MPOs have greatly improved their stakeholder engagement processes. The involvement of different levels of government and multiple private industries makes truck parking a complex issue to address. Effective stakeholder engagement, particularly at the local level, is critical to the successful implementation of policies, plans, and projects to address truck parking needs.

Infographic depicting the percentage of commercial truck stops where parking areas are at or over capacity by time of day. From midnight to 5 a.m., 72 percent full; from a.m. to 9 a.m., 38 percent full; from 9 a.m. to noon, 15 percent full; from noon to 4 p.m., 15 percent full; from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., 29 percent full; and from 7 p.m. to midnight, 57 percent full. Image Source: FHWA.
Differences in parking capacity at commercial truck stops by time of day.

Planning for truck parking is becoming more advanced and more detailed, using new data sets and methodologies to predict truck parking need and locations. While the 2015 Jason’s Law Truck Parking Survey showed that States and MPOs were mainly using truck parking metrics that relied on easily obtained data sets, many States and MPOs are now using a wider range of data types, developing more sophisticated metrics to understand truck parking issues and solutions, and investigating options for harder to obtain data, such as improper parking and the proximity of truck parking to major freight generators. To reflect the advancements in the field, the 2020 survey asked additional questions about the metrics that can help improve safety. These details will aid in justifying and measuring the need for public investment and public-private partnerships to develop more truck parking capacity.

As truck parking needs evolve, the Coalition will continue to serve as a forum for discussion and information-sharing. Secretary Buttigieg has spoken publicly on several occasions about the need for safe truck parking and USDOT’s support for parking investment. At the September 2022 Coalition meeting, USDOT announced $37.6 million for two parking projects awarded under the Infrastructure for Rebuilding America program, a new memo on truck parking funding eligibilities, a new truck parking development handbook, and a summary of State Freight Plan requirements. Subsequent meetings may look at future policy and operational considerations that may occur where truck parking for safety rest would exist together with parking needs for recharging trucks powered by electric and hydrogen fuels.

Evidence of State, local government, and MPO activity to measure truck parking problems and explore solutions was spurred by truck parking advocates, industry and Federal surveys, truck driver and road user safety concerns, and community needs. Federal surface transportation laws and funding, government- and industry-led dialogues and training, and improvements in technology will help change the future of this industry and provide much-needed expansion in truck parking. Many States and MPOs are including truck parking in their ongoing planning and program activities or developing stand-alone truck parking studies.

This heightened focus on truck parking is fostering an environment for new ideas, expanded analysis, and innovative solutions. These solutions can provide better data to States for understanding how truck parking improvements can support highway safety as well as businesses within their State. Technology and capacity solutions can be deployed to provide truck drivers the ability to more reliably find truck parking on their delivery route. Successful implementation of these solutions will be improved through a collaboration of the public and private sectors. All signs point to a coming realization of these efforts, an expanded investment and nationwide improvement in the safety of trucking operations, and a more resilient supply chain.

Caitlin Hughes is the director of the FHWA’s Office of Freight Management and Operations where she oversees highway freight policy and programs and the administration of infrastructure investment programs. She has a B.A. from the University of Vermont and an M.A. in public administration from George Washington University.

Jeff Purdy is the freight programs team leader and works with an interdisciplinary team to advance freight policy and programs. He has a B.S. and a master’s degree in urban planning from Michigan State University.

For more information, see https://ops.fhwa.dot.gov/Freight/infrastructure/truck_parking/index.htm or contact Caitlin.Hughes@dot.gov or Jeffrey.Purdy@dot.gov.