ATRI’s Driver Diaries Give Real-World Perspective to Truck Parking Concerns

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To tap into first-hand accounts of professional truck drivers and gain insight into their daily parking needs, the American Transportation Research Institute launched its Truck Parking Diary project in March 2016, document­ing the experiences of drivers as they find safe, available truck parking. 

“Every year for three years we’ve been surveying thousands of driv­ers with high-level surveys, but we haven’t been able to do a lot of data mining,” said Dan Murray, vice president of ATRI. “This allowed us to understand it isn’t a homog­enous population of drivers with the same issues.”

As part of the diary project, drivers recorded their parking experiences and issues over 14 days of driving, representing over 4,700 unique parking stops documented in the diaries. The report stated that private truckstops are drivers’ preferred location for 10-hour required HOS breaks, but drivers’ preferred stops can vary based on a number of factors.

Gender Differences
Murray said he was surprised to learn that women’s and men’s issues were different. For example, ATRI found that women preferred public parking rather than private truckstops. “They felt the lighting and security was bet­ter at the public rest [areas] and they weren’t being bothered by a lot of people,” Murray said, adding that fe­male drivers often brought food with them because it was healthier and more cost effective. “When you have these one-on-one conversations you realize the issues surrounding gender alone are different.”

There are generational differences among drivers as well. “The stereo­types hold true. Older drivers want to minimize technology utilization. As drivers get younger and younger, they want to rely on smartphone apps and online reservation systems, Murray said. “It is not shocking, but it validates what the stereotype is.” 

Murray said the latest research made him realize truck parking solutions will vary based on the different types of drivers. “It gives insight to the private truckstop operators,” Murray said.

Time-of-Day Challenges
The ATRI study found that drivers looking for parking between the hours of 4:00 p.m. and midnight face a num­ber of challenges, including increased search times and truck parking spaces used by non-commercial vehicles.

Just over 61 percent of drivers re­ported that time-of-day impacts truck parking availability. Some drivers in the sample avoid truck parking challenges by operating at night or beginning their duty cycle in the early morning. Some drivers provided estimates of when finding available parking is most dif­ficult, and those who did said finding parking becomes uncertain between 4:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m.

ATRI’s diary research also docu­mented the amount of lost revenue drivers experience by parking earlier than they otherwise needed to just to find parking. “There are a large per­centage of drivers who are stopping their revenue time 40 to 60 minutes early to look for parking. They’re not getting paid for that,” Murray said. “They know it is hitting them in the pocket book but very few people really understand that.”

The study found that stopping ear­ly cut individual driver’s productiv­ity by 9,300 revenue-earning miles a year, which equated to lost wages of $4,600 annually, ATRI said.

Parking Selection
The majority of drivers—55.5 per­cent—used websites or smartphone applications to find parking; 53.4 percent use GPS; 37.7 percent use books. Almost half of drivers in the study—45.6 percent—have used a parking reservation system before, and 15 percent have the reservation fees covered by their carrier.

However, truck parking reserva­tions were the second most cited parking issue among drivers, with 25.6 percent listing it as a concern. Drivers reported that truck park­ing reservations effectively reduce parking supply, observing that these spots go unused and that free parking spaces reach capacity.

The report made several recommen­dations for the private sector, includ­ing enforcing driver parking behav­ior so multiple spots aren’t needlessly used by a single vehicle. “Truckstop enforcement of ‘parking manners’ to maximize existing supply could im­prove capacity issues,” the report said.

Another issue identified in the re­port is the use of truck parking spaces by bobtail trucks. “Dedicated bob­tail truck parking or allowing bobtail trucks to park in the car lot would pre­vent bobtail trucks from using park­ing that could accommodate a tractor trailer combination,” the report said.

Future Studies
Murray said ATRI will conduct driver diaries again to gain even more insight. “We hope to get to a level where we could provide al­most design-specific recommen­dations to people building truck parking,” he said.

About the Drivers

88% were male

12% were female

91% do not drive dedicated, regularly scheduled runs

4.7% operate as team drivers

87% operate in the for-hire segment

13% drive for private fleets

72.3% are employee drivers

25.7% are independent contractors leased to a motor carrier

2% are owner-operators

90.4% spend more than five nights away from home per week

8.2% spend three to four nights away per week

1.4% spend one to two nights away

94% select truck parking locations on their own

4% do not do any advanced planning of their stops

0.7% of dispatchers select parking for drivers

Average Length of Haul

35.8% Regional (100–599 miles per trip)

33.1% Inter-Regional (600–999 miles per trip)

31.1% Long Haul (1,000+ miles per trip)

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Last year, the NATSO Foundation launched the mobile app PARK MY TRUCK, a highway safety initiative to help professional drivers find available truck parking.

The app was created by the Truck Parking Leadership Initiative, which includes the NATSO Foundation, NATSO Inc., the American Trucking Associations (ATA) and ATRI. Park My Truck includes the total number of truck parking spaces for nearly 4,500 truckstops in the United States and some rest areas. In addition to being an important industry initiative, Park My Truck is an exciting new way for drivers to find your truckstops or travel plazas. Reasons to participate include:

  • Participation is free and simple—all you need is the ability to count.
  • Participation in the app shows your commitment to provide safe, reliable parking for your customers.
  • The success of this initiative hinges on the nation’s truck parking providers working in partnership to supply drivers with current, reliable data on available truck parking.

Truck parking providers can contact the NATSO Foundation at (855) 650-6935 or hello@parkmytruck.com to establish an account to provide truck parking availability.

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Photo credit: Amy Toner/NATSO



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