‘SmartPark’ Expansion Could Mean Savings for Carriers

Pilot “SmartPark” programs in Tennessee and Michigan that give truckers real-time information about parking availability could be expanded if the U.S. House and Senate finally reach agreement on a long-term federal surface transportation bill.

It often can take a driver 30 minutes or more to find a place to park his or her rig, increasing fatigue, consuming as much as two gallons of diesel fuel, and producing 45 pounds of greenhouse emissions. Industry-wide, these searches annually cost an estimated $4.4 billion and produce 3.3 million tons of carbon dioxide. That’s why many in the industry want to expand these “SmartPark” projects into a multi-state network focused on the most highly trafficked trucking corridors.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is testing the system on northbound Interstate 75 in eastern Tennessee. The Federal Highway Administration is testing a similar system along the I-94 corridor in southwest Michigan, a 129-stretch of highway that’s used by 10,000 trucks daily but offers only 158 spaces in its five public rest areas.

These projects stem from a recommendation made 15 years ago by the National Transportation Safety Board that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) undertake an effort to give truckers information in real-time on the availability and location of parking spaces. But it was just two years ago that federal officials found a workable technology that identifies vacant spaces using Doppler radar and laser scanning and distributes reports on parking availability via in-cab messaging, websites, electronic message signs, and smartphone apps.

Legislators hope to finalize a long-term federal surface transportation bill before the current bill expires November 20. Most expect funding levels of the long-term bill to approximate those of current levels, providing $261 billion for highways, $55 billion for transit, and $9 billion for various safety programs.

The savings for carriers could be considerable if SmartPark is expanded. To explore ways you can improve fleet efficiency and save on trucking insurance, contact us.

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