- Successful collaboration techniques used across the MAASTO Region that led to development of a continuous system for data exchange on truck parking
- Effective communication techniques that led to high levels of use of the available truck parking technology
- Ways safe truck parking leads to more efficient and safe movement of goods across the country
For many years, one of the biggest challenges facing truck drivers, fleet managers and owner-operators has been parking. Commercial trucks move nearly two-thirds of North America’s almost $1.2 trillion in freight shipments annually. How and when these long-haul truck drivers can safely rest are logistical details that are often overlooked. Truck drivers consistently report issues finding safe, legal parking places along their routes. In a study for the Kansas Department of Transportation (KDOT), 78 percent of drivers reported that on average it takes them longer than 30 minutes to find parking. Long-haul truck drivers struggling to find safe parking significantly reduces national freight productivity. More importantly, searching while fatigued and parking in unauthorized spots, such as interstate service ramps, puts truck drivers and other motorists at risk.
In 2016, eight members of the Mid America Association of State Transportation Officials (MAASTO) came together to improve commercial freight safety and efficiency in the Midwest. The collaboration with the Federal Highway Administration, which provided $31 million in TIGER grant funding to help launch the project, involves Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin. Their vision is “help commercial truckers make safer, more efficient parking decisions through a user-focused information service”. Thus, they teamed up to develop a first-of-its-kind, multi-state Regional Truck Parking Information and Management System (TPIMS) across the MAASTO region. The system was fully constructed by the end of 2018, with a go-live date of January 4, 2019.
The project goals were to:
• Improve safety
• Provide timely, reliable information to drivers and dispatchers
• Ensure harmonious and consistent operations between states
• Maximize usage of existing parking facilities
• Add value to the trucking industry
• Implement the system in a sustainable way
• Allow state-specific flexibility
TSMO Planning, Strategies and Deployment
The core ITS technologies used for the system are not complex. They include monitoring available parking at authorized public and private truck facilities in real time, and then relaying the information to truck drivers and dispatchers through roadside dynamic truck parking signs (DTPS), in-cab systems, mobile applications and state traveler information websites such as 5-1-1. Understanding these needs, however, took over two years and substantial coordination amongst eight states, the federal government and various project partners/organizations.
States understood that addressing the truck parking issue would require ensuring that each agency had the flexibility to work out for itself the technical details of its state truck parking system. States also understood that the overall system must appear seamless to the truck operator when moving from state to state and must adhere to the same levels of performance.
TIGER grants require demonstrating close adherence to budget and schedule requirements. This put a premium on clearly defining roles and expectations to avoid unanticipated delays or budget risks. The difficulty lay in developing an architecture flexible enough for each state to create an individual parking information system integrated into its existing ITS network and software platform, yet still be capable of regional interoperability.
System design began in 2016 and concluded in the fall of 2017. Designing and implementing a regional technology initiative required reconciling different, sometimes conflicting, agency technical preferences and requirements. Differences arose in such areas as: procurement; data collection method; data collection technology; operations & maintenance; data analytics and sharing; and, information dissemination. States had the flexibility to choose the technologies they preferred, so long as they satisfied the project’s requirements. States committed to their own budgets and schedules that supported those of the overall project. An important cost benefit to the project was that states could deploy the technology on existing sites. Preliminary site selection and design plans were completed at the end of 2017.
System construction, system testing and promotional outreach were done in 2018. States had the option to construct their system or procure an outside team to do so. All states were required to do three months of system testing prior to system launch in January 2019. Each state agreed to host their own data feeds and store all data for performance measuring. Real-time data is currently available to any third party who wishes to use the data to enhance their platform.
Communications Planning and Execution
TPIMS greatest innovation lies in that state agencies have collaborated to ensure that the truck parking system on an interstate corridor does not stop at the state boundary. Each of TPIMS Partnership states recognized that the need for a truck parking system is not simply a state issue, but a regional issue, as drivers can cover up to 600 miles of roadway in one shift. The massive coordination effort led by the Kansas Department of Transportation involved eight partner states, six advisory organizations, the FHWA and buy-in from private industry technology developers.
The TPIMS partners did considerable internal and external outreach to improve the proposed system and mitigate or eliminate potential threats to the project’s success. This included workshops, surveys and in-person meetings conducted throughout the implementation process. Billboards, rack cards and other promotional materials were strategically placed along the interstate corridors prior to and after the system launch in 2019. The partners also reached out to third-party application developers such as Google, Waze and Truck Specialized Parking Services, among others, to engage them in using TPIMS parking data in their applications. Numerous third-party developers are now using TPIMS data on their platform.
Outcome, Learnings and Public Benefit
The TPIMS partnership developed three broad categories of performance measures: parking utilization and demand measured by driver perceptions of how full MAASTO truck stop are and how often; corridor safety measured by fatigue-related crashes on TPIMS corridors; and, system reliability measured by total system downtime, user complaints and accuracy of system reporting available parking spots.
With full implementation, the use of ITS technology in TPIMS is expected to significantly reduce the amount of fatigue-related accidents that occur on interstates every year. In the three years after system launch, the system will be evaluated to determine if the performance measures are being met and if truck operators are reporting a positive experience using the system. Thousands of truck operators responded to the initial baseline survey that was sent out in 2017. The first of three yearly surveys was released in September 2019.
TPIMS aims to reduce the incidence of commercial truck drivers injuring themselves and others due to fatigue-related crashes and unauthorized parking along the interstate highways. It improves the safety and efficiency of America’s freight network by providing real-time parking availability information to truck drivers through dynamic message signs, smart phone applications, traveler information websites and other means.
TPIMS adds value to the trucking industry. With drivers spending less time searching for parking, they can move goods more efficiently, have fewer non-routine maintenance repairs on shoulders and ramps, and reduce fuel consumption and emissions. It is projected that the Regional system will have $430 million in benefits annually.
Ultimately, the MAASTO TPIMS Partnership will strengthen America’s freight network by helping commercial truckers make safer, more efficient parking decisions through a user-focused information service that consistently provides timely, reliable parking availability information. The MAASTO TPIMS initiative will provide a truly regional ITS-driven system within which truck drivers, dispatchers and others will see a consistent, cohesive parking availability system regardless of when or where they cross state lines.
For supplemental information regarding TPIMS, visit www.trucksparkhere.com.
Operations Area of Practice
- Freight Infrastructure
- Freight Management
- Freight Technology and Operations
- Case Studies & Lessons Learned