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“Smart Parking” Systems Help Truck Drivers Find Safe Place to Rest

A “smart parking” system recently tested in Michigan is about to be expanded nation-wide. The system uses road signs, smartphone applications, websites, and instant messaging to help truck drivers find a safe place to park their commercial vehicles.

Truck Stop by Jamest4all Infrastructure firm HNTB recently announced that, thanks to a new partnership with Truck Smart Parking Services Inc., it will be expanding its “Truck Parking Information and Management System” beyond Michigan to other U.S. states.

The system has been in place along a 129-mile stretch of Michigan’s I-94, a corridor that roughly 10,000 trucks travel each day, for about a month, with positive results. It’s been particularly helpful because this widely-used stretch of highway includes only 158 parking spots, making careful coordination of those spaces very necessary.

The system uses digital cameras and sensors to collect data from both public and private parking facilities. It then sends that data in the form of road signs, app messages, website alerts, and in-cab messages to truck drivers looking for a safe place to leave their vehicles.

So far the system has guided truck drivers towards rest areas, though HNTB says it’s working on a new agreement that will help commercial vehicle operators find safe spaces at truck stops.

It’s expected the Truck Parking Information and Management System will make its way to other U.S. states over the course of 2015. HNTB project manager Eric Morris says he believes the system can be expanded “quickly and efficiently”.

“Our ultimate vision is a ubiquitous, multi-state, corridor-focused network that covers a trucker’s route from origin to destination,” Morris said.

A similar system is being rolled out in Minnesota by the state’s Department of Transportation. “So far the results have been positive,” noted John Tompkins, project manager at the Minnesota Department of Transportation. “We’ve had 95% accuracy in determining the availability of spaces.”

Thompkins believes these kinds of smart parking systems are critical in protecting commercial drivers. “We know truck parking is a serious issue along the highway system in the country,” Thompkins noted. “Drivers on the road for more than eight hours have twice the risk of crashing compared to those driving for a shorter period of time.”