Florida Launches Program to Tackle Truck Parking Problemby Jana Ritter - Published: 9/12/2016
Following last year’s announcement that the U.S. Department of Transportation was providing $25 million in funding for the Regional Truck Parking Information and Management System across eight states, including Kansas, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin, the Florida Department of Transportation has launched their own pilot program geared towards solving the truck parking problem.
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The issue began getting more attention as a national concern in 2009, when truck driver Jason Rivenburg was making a delivery job from New York to South Carolina. His unfamiliarity with the area's designated parking options led him to park at an abandoned gas station, where he was a target for criminals and murdered during a robbery. Then in 2013, the new hours of service rules kicked in requiring drivers to take mandatory rest breaks after eight hours and only operate within a 14-hour period each day. With everyone being forced to pull over after a certain number of hours, it has become that much more difficult for truck drivers to find safe and legal parking spots. “Finding a safe place to park is an issue, a problem, for truck drivers. If they have to stop at a certain number of hours, they may park in an unsafe location. The whole thing is to ensure safety for truck drivers and all motorists,” said FDOT project manager Jeff Frost.
The FDOT program is attempting to help solve the problem by monitoring parking availability at state rest areas and weigh stations using censors and closed circuit television cameras to let truck drivers know how many spaces are available at a given site. That information is displayed on signs several miles from the rest area, allowing drivers to not only determine where the parking is located but to plan in advance whether they can count on having a spot. The first phase of the program has been launched in north and central Florida, including the two rest areas along Interstate 95 in St. Johns County and in 2018, the second phase is expected to expand the program statewide. Ultimately, the plan is to distribute the information in several ways, including an app that can be accessed by drivers and dispatchers for the entire interstate system in Florida. Frost said the system will eventually be able to demonstrate trends so that drivers have an idea of what spots are generally more crowded at certain times.
Craig Toth of HNTB, the engineering firm that is working with FDOT, said the parking program has just received a $10 million grant that will help with statewide implementation. He said he hopes the program will serve an example for all other states and that there has been increasing support for making parking information available throughout the entire interstate system.