As a driver, it seems intrinsic to the job that one ought to have a place to park their rig when working.
Unfortunately, one of the largest issues the transportation industry is facing today is a distinct lack of available and safe parking for truckers, especially in areas where stops are already few and far between. More truckers have been faced with the situation of parking their trucks in unsafe or otherwise illegal spots, and often endanger themselves as well as other drivers in doing so. More than anything, the lack of parking represents an interesting dichotomy in the trucking industry – drivers must legally take a rest period, but without a place to do so, they may end up obeying the law while driving with fatigue or impaired senses.
The Wall Street Journal reports that more than 3/4 of the current trucking industry reported having trouble finding parking at the time they were ready or required to rest. The problem is reportedly only getting worse with more freight expected on the roads, though there is a greater level of awareness now surrounding the issue.
According to the accounts of many drivers, when sanctioned rest stops or lots are full, there is quite literally nowhere else to turn to other than parking in non-conventional locations or spots wherein a driver can wake up from and carry on with their routes. This leaves a driver vulnerable and a potential hazard on the road to unsuspecting civilian motorists. It may also be harmful to a truck driver in a part of the country that faces harsh weather conditions, in that they may find themselves susceptible to extreme temperature changes or other perils of the climate.
When parking in less-than-ideal places, drivers may also become victims of theft or other safety related concerns. It’s unlikely that any driver sets out to park in a place that seems shady or unreliable, but it is sometimes unavoidable.
The truth of the matter is, the lack of parking is not a relatively easy fix. With this issue, the industry finds itself simultaneously battling two front; they are attempting to staff empty seats with qualified drivers and finding those new drivers – as well as existing truckers – the correct and safe spaces in which to park their rigs.
There have been rumblings about city and state councils who have a substantial involvement with commercial trucking to buy acres of land and to build more frequent and decent truck stops, but many of these decisions have been waylaid or otherwise have not moved forward.
One suggestion extended from those of us behind the wheel (though one that is not entirely feasible) is to increase the salary of drivers making runs in sketchy areas, or to offer bonuses for drivers willing to put up with lackluster conditions. This is a likely longshot but may reward drivers willing to make the commercial runs and in a sense apologize for the lack of proper rest stops.
In any case, if a driver must make a run without adequate stops, they may wish to take into consideration the following tips:
1. Try Searching For a Well-Lit Area
If possible, find an area to park your rig that is well-illuminated and that allows you to have visibility. Some may think this makes a resting driver a sitting duck. In all reality, it may deter any malicious individuals from considering you a target, as a potential passerby may see any crime happening. As opposed to parking in the dark, a theives or wrongdoers may think they can get away with crimes more easily.
2. Inform A Superior or Friend/Family of Your Location
Whenever staying in a location outside of the recommended or preferred rest areas, it is imperative that a driver lets someone know of their whereabouts. Whether a driver informs their fleet manager in addition to a friend or family member, someone other than the driver should be aware of their location in the case of an accident or emergency. There’s no heroism in being secretive with where one is staying – be safe and alert others.
3. Plan For An Overnight Stay Without Amenities
With very little exception, a driver staying on the side of the road (or in a similar rural area) will be without any additional rest stop perks outside of what is contained within their cabs. A driver may find it hard to take a warm shower or to turn on a ball game while roughing it, but that doesn’t mean they can’t (somewhat) comfortably prepare for an evening. A prepared driver can plan to shower/freshen up at an official rest stop in advance, or go without a shower altogether if pressed for time, using dry shampoo and other non-water based products. A driver can also pack some snacks for a meal if they will be out of range from any food. Even something as simple as packing a deck of cards or a small battery-powered radio can make spending the night somewhere less exhausting.
4. Plan For Parking Legally
While it is another step that requires planning on the driver’s end, planning one’s trip without rest stops also requires drivers to ensure they are parking somewhere that is legal to do so and that will not have legal ramifcations for themselves or their company. If need be, plan with a dispatcher or local road authorities to see what is off-limits and what is not. Many times, large commericial parking lots will be sympathetic to truckers without a stop who wish to park after hours, and contacting them in advance is a courtesy that may work in one’s favor.
Whatever the situation requires from a driver, try your best to maintain a level of safety that accommodates you and other non-commercial vehicles on the road. Talk to officials and superiors and plan ahead in hopes of a mostly hassle-free experience while the transportation industry works on a solution to the problem at hand.