A shortage of truck parking spaces risks exacerbating the driver shortage and threatens the long-term growth of the industry.
With so much effort put into recruiting drivers, is anyone asking the question where will all these new drivers eventually park their trucks?
Some estimates put the shortage of drivers close to 80,000. If through a combination of government incentives, shifting industry priorities, and a little luck, the industry does fill this shortfall, the lack of truck parking spaces will only get worse.
We will investigate what we can do about this parking shortage. We will detail what is and isn’t being done, and the long-term consequences of neglecting this important issue.
Where do drivers usually park their trucks?
The most likely place for a driver to park their truck for the night is at a truck stop. These facilities offer a range of services, depending on how big they are. These services can include laundry and shower facilities, food and entertainment, power hookups, and even heating and air conditioning for drivers spending the night.
The problem with finding parking at truck stops is, they usually fill up quickly, with truck stops on busy corridors filling even faster.
Rest stops are another location where drivers can sleep or perform vehicle safety checks, but they have availability issues too. While rest stops for truckers are typically government-run, the services they offer vary. If a driver does manage to secure a spot at a rest stop, there might not be electrical hookups or other facilities. This forces drivers to idle their diesel engines or power units for heating or cooling during the night.
Finally, if drivers aren’t parking at an official rest stop or truck stop, then the problems are even worse. If drivers park on the side of the road, in a commercial parking lot, or anywhere they can get their truck in and out of, they risk their own safety. They also increase the chances of receiving a parking ticket.
On average, truck drivers spend nearly an hour per day looking for a parking space. This equates to approximately $5,000 annually in lost wages, according to the American Transportation Research Institute.
The frustration of lost wages due to time spent looking for parking or paying for tickets doesn’t incentivize drivers to continue in the profession. In addition to the out-of-pocket expenses, the anxiety of simply trying to find a place to sleep at night could stall growth in the profession.
Truck parking in the US
In the US, the issue is getting some traction.
While the Biden Administration’s infrastructure bill didn’t explicitly set aside money for truck parking, there are some glimmers of hope.
The bill allocates funds into accounts that could be used to increase the availability of truck parking spaces.
In addition, the House of Representatives introduced The Truck Parking Safety Act last year. This bill would set aside $755 million for truck parking capacity, but it hasn’t had a committee hearing yet.
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg also indicated that truck idling could be considered an emissions issue. Therefore, it would not be unreasonable to use funds set aside for carbon reduction to improve truck parking availability and services.
Truck parking in Canada
In Canada, the response has been more muted and lacks federal intervention. In fact, in some parts of Canada, the situation is so bad that illegal truck parking lots are popping up to help fill the demand.
Of the legally available rest stop options for parking your truck in Canada, drivers often report a lack of facilities. Amenities like washrooms, drinking water, and power hookups are often lacking.
There is some movement to address the problem like the Ontario Truck Rest Area Projects. This project looks to increase available truck parking and improve lighting and signage at existing rest stops. Some industry analysts have been skeptical of this project, labeling the efforts as token measures or insufficient to say the least.
Long-term consequences of inaction on truck parking availability
The shortage of available truck parking spaces is a problem for all of us.
A tired driver is a dangerous driver.
If truckers are suffering from fatigue due to a poor night’s rest, they are at greater risk of getting into accidents on the road. The lack of available parking spaces is also frustrating to hardworking professionals who just need a safe place to rest for the night.
The more frustrated you are, the less likely you are to continue with the profession.
Drivers who have no other choice than to park illegally are more likely to receive traffic tickets. The drivers often pay these tickets themselves, lowering their bottom line. The less truckers’ take-home pay is, the less likely they will continue in the profession. It also means the profession will be less attractive to the next generation of drivers coming. With the average driver age around 50+ years, the industry needs a new, younger generation to replace an aging cohort.
If there is anything that unites us, from white-collar to blue-collar, and everything in between, we all need a safe place to rest our heads at night. The lack of truck parking infrastructure is a critical issue. It needs addressing to ensure the long-term viability of the profession and the health of the industry.