Posted on November 6th, 2013

Back to School – Keep on Truckin’

Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Texas &M University have studied the safety and convenience of available parking for truckers along our nation’s highways and interstates. A recent survey by the National Transportation Safety Board indicated that only 34% of truckers find suitable parking at commercial truck stops and travel plazas, and a staggeringly low 11% when public rest areas are considered. The study looked at ten states in the Central United States to assess parking locations and the timing and frequency of use by truckers.

RiverRoad_WV2_50cmcolor_11_22_2011_ENHANCEMany a trucker has passed under the Great Platte River Road Archway Monument on I-80, just east of Kearney, Nebraska. It is meant to symbolize westward expansion. Image captured by the 50-cm satellite WorldView-2 on November 22, 2011, and comes courtesy of DigitalGlobe. Photo enhanced by Apollo Mapping.

The researchers visited four truckers’ conventions to collect survey data, and in total, 317 truckers were surveyed. The respondents indicated nearly 400 issues with truck stops in the ten-state focus area, and the greatest shortages were found to be heavily clustered. The Mid-America Freight Coalition orchestrated a GIS-based survey with a Google Maps interface to address the issue of parking shortages. It allows truckers, freight planners and state patrol officers to login and record their specific parking issues in addition to the time of peak use. In all, there were 21 stops in the study area that were deemed to have severe use issues.

It was ultimately decided, however, that based on cluster analysis, shortages of truck parking should not be considered by a particular location, but rather as parking capacity over the larger area of trucking operations. A related study shows that 34 new locations with parking areas did not have spots for trucks. This suggests that the construction of new facilities in these areas will help to alleviate parking use issues in the aforementioned 21 locations.

Iowa, one of the states in the study region, happens to be home to the largest truck stop in the world, the Iowa 80. Set on a 220-acre plot of land (four times larger than the average truck stop) off of I-80 near Walcott, Iowa, it receives more than 5,000 visitors a day and has parking for 800 trucks. The original truck stop was built in 1964, seeking to provide refuge for a stretch of interstate that goes from New York to San Francisco. Built and still owned by the Moon family, the Iowa 80 states that trucker satisfaction is their #1 priority. Since the construction of the original Iowa 80, they have built six more truck stops from Missouri to North Carolina, along with a plethora of truck washes and CAT scales scattered throughout. Maybe the Moon family can lend their expertise to help alleviate the problems identified by the aforementioned study. Until then, keep on truckin’.

Justin Harmon
Staff Writer

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