Could a national “SmartPark” initiative for the trucking industry become a reality soon?
Pilot programs that give truckers real-time information about parking availability are well underway in Tennessee and Michigan. The goals of the projects are to reduce driver fatigue, better adhere to hours of service requirements, and improve drivers’ work conditions. Commercial truck drivers typically spend 30 minutes or more searching for a place to park their rigs.
Expansion of these “SmartPark” projects into a ubiquitous, multi-state, corridor-focused network is a dream of many in the industry. They hope Congress will make the necessary funding available when it confronts reauthorization of the current surface transportation law, which expires October 29.
The National Transportation Safety Board recommended 15 years ago that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) take steps to provide truckers with real-time information on the location and availability of parking spaces. But it was just two years ago that federal officials felt they had found a workable technology a system that identifies vacant spaces through a combination of Doppler radar and laser scanning and disseminates that information via dynamic electronic message signs, smartphone apps, websites and in-cab messaging.
The FMCSA has been testing the system on northbound Interstate 75 in eastern Tennessee. The Federal Highway Administration is funding a similar system along a 129-mile stretch of southwest Michigan’s I-94 corridor that’s used by 10,000 trucks daily but offers only 158 spaces in its five public rest areas. The corridor’s commercial truck traffic accounts for 23 to 30 percent of all its traffic and represents some of the highest commercial volumes in the Midwest.
The projects are working well, making it easier for drivers to avoid going over hours and saving carriers money because drivers can spend more time driving and less time searching for parking. Truck Smart Parking Services, one of the partners working with FMCSA, estimates that national deployment of the system could save industry $4.4 billion annually. Each driver could save two gallons of diesel and reduce greenhouse emissions by nearly 45 pounds per parking search, more than 3.3 million tons of carbon dioxide each year.
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