What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think about the biggest problems facing the trucking industry today? Is it the state of the economy? Inflation? Adapting with emerging technology?
Whatever it is you thought of, unless you are a driver, odds are “parking” almost certainly wasn’t a subject that came to top of mind. In fact, there’s a chance you’re completely unaware of the ongoing parking plight faced by today’s drivers. According to the 2023 Truck Parking Shortage Survey conducted by CloudTrucks, up to 56% of the general public is completely unaware there even is a parking shortage.
This may seem like a trivial issue to the uninitiated. A full parking lot may just be an inconvenience to you and me, but for the professionals whose entire career plays out on the open road, a lack of parking can have drastic effects on their health, as well as the health of our economy.
Here’s the Rub
According to a 2021 joint survey conducted by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), the American Trucking Associations (ATA), and the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA), there is just a single parking spot for every 11 drivers. Do the math and what that tells you is that on any given day, about 90% of drivers might not have anywhere to park for the night.
This roughly translates to a nationwide shortage of over 40,000 parking spaces. If that wasn’t bad enough, in November of 2023, president of the Iowa Motor Truck Association Brenda Neville provided testimony to the U.S. Senate Transportation & Infrastructure Subcommittee that paints an even bleaker picture.
According to Neville, over the next decade, drivers will be tasked with moving roughly 2.4 billion MORE tons of freight than they do today. With this increased strain on the industry, there will be greater need for more trucks and drivers to meet the rise in demand. This will inevitably lead to an even greater need for more parking that we don’t have, and haven’t even begun to make.
Common problems that arise from a lack of parking include:
- Increased driver fatigue
- Decreased road safety
- Increased regulation violations
- Supply chain disruptions
- Economic losses
- Increased strain on infrastructure
The Dissonance Between Truckers & Higher Ups
There is a drastic disconnect between how the parking problem is perceived between drivers and their managers. Although truckers have been very vocal about the growing issue for a long time, fleet managers have been burdened by other concerns that have pulled their attention, and resources, into different directions.
According to a survey from the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI), “Truck Parking” was the 2nd-ranked concern for drivers, behind only concerns over their compensation. On the other hand, the issue barely squeaked into carriers’ top 10 list of concerns.
Fleets’ Top 10
Issues of 2023
- Driver shortage
- Lawsuit abuse reform
- Driver retention
- Fuel prices
- Insurance cost/availability
- Zero-emission vehicles
- Truck parking
- Diesel technician shortage
- Driver distraction
Drivers’ Top 10
Issues of 2023
- Driver compensation
- Truck parking
- Fuel prices
- Speed limiters
- Detention/delay at customer facilities
- Driver training standards
- Broker issues
- ELD mandate
- Autonomous trucks
This is a real problem. Although drivers compose the backbone of the U.S. economy, their collective voice is often ignored. In order for real change to be made, they need powerful allies in their corner.
The trucking companies that understand the gravity of this situation can better prepare for the future of trucking and position themselves to improve financial performance. Understand, this isn’t simply an issue of convenience or driver comfort. There are very real financial consequences from the lack of parking. Consequences that are on the verge of quickly compounding.
It’s Affecting Your Bottom Dollar
For most drivers, the biggest challenge is finding available spaces where and when they are needed. According to the ATA, the average time it takes a driver to look for parking is about 56 minutes every day.
When you do the math, the time drivers spend looking for parking adds up. About 12% of lost earnings can be linked directly to the time drivers are looking for parking spaces that aren’t there. These losses then get compounded after taking into account the drivers stopping even earlier in their day to search for a place to park before spaces fill up.
To put it another way, lost time spent searching for parking drives up lost revenue to about $5,500 per driver, per year. And with the industry in need of an additional 80,000 drivers (as of 2023), this also creates demand for even more operators, leading to increased recruiting and retention costs.
The concerning thought is how much more revenue will be lost as more drivers come into the industry without the proportional increase in parking? If money is already being left on the table with the current status quo, it’s completely logical to conclude that as the situation worsens, potential lost revenue will continue to increase as well.
What Should You Do?
1. Invest in Technology
Implement technology solutions like mobile apps or GPS systems that provide real-time information on available parking spaces. This helps drivers plan their routes more efficiently and find suitable parking in advance.
2. Collaborate With Rest Area Authorities
Work collaboratively with government agencies and rest area authorities to expand and improve truck parking facilities in key transportation corridors.
3. Educate Your Drivers
Provide more in-depth training to truck drivers on effective trip planning, time management, and how to utilize available resources to find parking.
4. Implement Flex Scheduling
Develop flexible scheduling policies that allow drivers to plan routes that minimize parking challenges. This could involve adjusting delivery times or providing more options for rest breaks.
5. Advocate For Regulatory Changes
Engage with industry associations and regulatory bodies to advocate for changes in regulations that address parking shortages. Start by supporting efforts to fund new parking facilities and improve existing ones.
The current parking situation is already resulting in concerning trends. If the problem is exacerbated even further, it will soon be completely untenable. This is not the kind of problem that can be kicked down the road to be solved at a later date.
Any real solution to the issue will take significant time and resources to avoid the coming “A-Park-olypse,” and it’s important for fleet managers and carriers to recognize this now, before it’s too late.