Anyone driving through the United States at night will notice the number of unused parking lots, yet American truckers are facing a shortage of safe places to park between destinations.
At best, this leads to irritation, lost time and lost money. At worst, it can lead to tragedies like the 2009 shooting death of Jason Rivenburg, who was forced to park at an abandoned gas station less than 15 miles from his destination. Numerous studies and reports since his death have all echoed the need for safe places to stop. With some creative thinking, logistics companies can actually work with local businesses and municipal governments to create safe places to park.
The truck parking problem is really a space problem. In rural regions, truckers have numerous options when it comes to resting for a few hours or pulling over for the night. However, this isn’t really viable in crowded, highly dense areas such as the Pacific Northwest, Northeast, Mid-Atlantic region and California. Any driver who has gone through Chicago or Dallas looking for a place to park knows this all too well.
One of the biggest issues is that rest stations and truck stops require a lot of land, which is in short supply in cities and the immediate suburbs. That’s why truck drivers will often have to make a round-trip of more than 100 miles with empty trailers just to park their trucks. This is a problem on a number of levels. For starters, it creates significant traffic issues in metropolitan areas as thousands of trucks take up space on the roads unnecessarily.
With the price of fuel today, the economic cost of wasted runs creates significant financial hardship for commercial carriers and that doesn’t even factor in environmental concerns as millions of miles are driven in diesel trucks every year solely to get drivers to a safe place top park. It really is the worst of all possible worlds and it doesn’t have to be this way.
Many studies highlight this problem for truckers. More than 75% of truck drivers and nearly 66% of logistics personnel regularly experience problems finding safe locations to rest, and 90% reported struggling to find safe parking during night hours – primarily during weekdays but also during weekend hours.
This influx of requests proves there is a problem. Thankfully the solution is well within reach.
The obvious answer is to find places for truck drivers to park near where they are dropping off or picking up their loads. Unfortunately, there aren’t vast swaths of undeveloped land that truckers can magically use when their shifts are done. Or are there? As it turns out, most urban areas have existing parking facilities that literally sit empty during the hours when truckers are burning hours looking for places to stop. Until now, there hasn’t been a practical way to tap into this resource, even though it is the perfect solution for a critical problem.
One obvious solution is the shopping mall. Most suburban malls, and even those located within city limits, were designed in the 1960s and 70s to accommodate large amounts of vehicle traffic and have hundreds of acres of spaces for employees and customers to use. As soon as the mall closes, this area quickly empties out and remains unused until the next morning.
These are precisely the hours that truckers most require places to park, and given the significant downturn in the mall retail business over the last decade opening up these parking lots to trucking companies could create a significant income stream for the property owner. Creating these kinds of partnerships would require direct contact between logistics companies and mall operators. Fortunately, from a logistics perspective, a number of national companies control large chunks of the mall market. One contract could solve the parking problem in multiple cities.
Another unused parking resource can be found at stadiums, many of which are under the control of local and municipal government. These lots are full during sporting events but in places with NFL teams, lots may only be used a few days a month. Drive by Gillette Stadium near Boston when the Patriots aren’t playing and you will see tens of thousands of empty spaces, even as thousands of truckers drive to the middle of Massachusetts to find a place to bunk down.
There are very few easy solutions in this world, and things that seem like they should be simple turn out to be complicated. When it comes to parking trucks safely in areas close to where they need to be, the solution could be straightforward. In fact, a number of trucking companies are leasing spaces from non-traditional property owners and managers to alleviate what has been an intractable problem for decades.
Much more can be done, and the good news is that there are technology platforms out there that make it possible for all parties to connect with each other and do a “digital handshake” that will benefit drivers, carriers, the public, municipalities and the environment. If this is done right, it could be a win-win for everyone.
Edward Moon is a Growth Marketer at WhereiPark, a technology company that enables multifamily, residential, and commercial property owners to discover new revenue sources through innovative solutions that leverage unused parking spaces.