Finding a safe place to park a big rig is the fourth most important issue the trucking industry faces, according to the American Transportation Research Institute. The issue rose one spot in 2016, from fifth in 2015.
Drivers said it was the third most important issue, said Rebecca Brewster, president and chief operating officer for the American Transportation Research Institute, the nonprofit research organization for American Trucking Associations. Brewster spoke at the Arkansas Trucking Association’s business conference in Rogers last week.
“I don’t see the issue of truck parking disappearing anytime soon,” she said. “I think we may start to see it climb even more so.”
The parking shortage is requiring drivers to have to park on interstate exit and entrance ramps.
“Drivers are not willingly choosing to park where they are not allowed to park,” Brewster said. “But they’ve got to get their rest somewhere.”
Last year, ATRI developed a diary for truck drivers to complete over 14 days, and 148 completed them, she said. Many drivers said it took too much time to complete, but others didn’t want to give away their secret parking spaces and were worried they wouldn’t be there when they returned, if they revealed them.
“In terms of the data request, it was a fairly heavy lift for drivers,” Brewster said.
About 55% of drivers use mobile apps to find parking, and 96% choose parking close to their route, the data shows. Drivers are giving up about an hour a day of available driving time to find a place to park. Federal hours-of-service rules allow drivers to drive up to 11 hours per day after 10 consecutive hours off duty.
Drivers must balance compliance with the rules against delivering their goods on time on top of shorter lead times to plan trips, according to a January 2017 report on truck parking by the University of Minnesota.
“The driver must then decide between either continuing to drive fatigued to search for available parking or to park illegally.”
POTENTIAL IMPACT OF ELD MANDATE
Giving up an hour of available driving time per day equates to about $4,600 annually out of a driver’s pocket, Brewster said. She was curious as to how the electronic logging device (ELD) mandate would impact this over the next year or two.
The mandate, which will go into effect Dec. 18, was the top issue the industry faces, according to ATRI. It’s expected to remove capacity from the industry, but when it will be removed is being debated. David Ross, transportation and logistics analyst for Stifel, doesn’t expect the ELD mandate will cause a capacity shortage soon.
“Our summary view is that the real squeeze will be felt in the next upturn, as it is easier to remove capacity (and some removes itself) in a downturn.”
But Ross expects that more drivers and more trucks will be needed to move the same amount of freight once the mandate is fully implemented.
“Most investors and industry participants we speak with believe this should tighten capacity significantly in the trucking industry, as it should finally force the thousands of small trucking companies who are currently falsifying their log-books out of business, driving rates up big,” Ross wrote in an industry update. He expects the capacity to decline in 2019-2020.
Ross offered three reasons as to why capacity won’t be immediately impacted:
• Enforcement is difficult;
• Implementation deadline could be delayed; and
• Possible ELD order backlogs.
But for those who believe the mandate will impact capacity before the deadline, they said insurance companies won’t provide insurance to carriers who don’t have ELDs. Also, shippers could require ELD compliance.
Some solutions to the parking shortage include increasing the time limit driver have to rest at public rest stations, encourage state transportation departments to open up more rest areas, better management of spaces at private truck stops and for carriers to pay to reserve spaces.
According to a 2015 survey, nearly 50% of drivers said they would pay zero to reserve parking spaces. But 15% of carriers pay to reserve spaces.
In 2015, the U.S. Department of Transportation completed a study on parking inventory across the nation, with the findings correlating with anecdotal information from the industry.
States with the most severe shortages included New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York, Virginia, Maryland, South Carolina, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, California, Washington and Oregon.
While people want the goods on the trucks, they do not want truck parking where they live and work, making it difficult to add truck parking capacity, the study shows.