State programs Trucking Transportation

Safe parking for truckers: Iowa set to debut info management system in 2019

purple-blue trucks

Photo: David H. Lewis/iStockphoto

Ames, IA — Iowa’s truck parking information management system is slated to be fully operational by Jan. 4, 2019 – providing commercial truck drivers with “real-time, in-cab information on truck parking availability at public rest areas and private truck stops” along Interstate 80 – the state’s Department of Transportation announced Dec. 7.

The system, part of an eight-state project intended to create safe parking for commercial motor vehicles, will use sensors on pavement and exit/entrance ramps to gather data on truck parking availability. Drivers are expected to have access to that information through in-cab routing systems, Iowa’s 511 Traveler Information system and a hands-free Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration-compliant mobile app.

“We are committed to providing the means for safe, efficient and convenient travel throughout the state,” Phil Mescher, Iowa DOT transportation planner, said in a press release. “Having this system in place will help truck drivers better manage their hours of service and provide a safer, more efficient travel experience for motorists along I-80. Availability and awareness of available truck parking is an ongoing national highway safety concern, which our system will address head-on.”

In October 2015, the U.S. Department of Transportation awarded a $25 million federal grant to the Regional Truck Parking Information and Management System Project. That system features a network of Midwestern states: Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin, as well as Iowa.

“Safe and reliable access to truck parking reduces overcrowding at rest areas and truck stops and decreases the number of unsafe incidents involving commercial vehicles parked on the shoulders and ramps of highways,” the U.S. DOT stated in a graphic detailing its Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant to the states.

Michigan and Wisconsin already have announced new truck parking developments. Michigan activated its I-94 Truck Parking Information and Management System in September 2014, and Wisconsin installed TPIMS this past spring near four rest areas on the eastbound side of that same interstate.

The Federal Highway Administration has deemed safe truck parking shortages a “national safety concern.” The agency details hazards such as tired drivers becoming potentially more fatigued while searching for a spot to rest, as well as parking in unsafe locations such as exit ramps, vacant lots and road shoulders when safe spots are unavailable.

In an American Transportation Research Institute survey of 148 truck drivers published in December 2016, nearly 37 percent admitted to parking in unauthorized or undesignated spaces three to four times a week. The survey showed that truckers, on average, cut their drives short by 56 minutes to begin the search for safe parking.

FHWA conducted its own survey, published in August 2015, to comply with the Jason’s Law study requirement in the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act, signed by President Barack Obama in July 2012. Jason’s Law was named for Jason Rivenburg, a truck driver who was murdered in March 2009 while parked at an abandoned gas station in South Carolina.

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