It’s Time to Talk Truck Parking

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21 SEP

It’s Time to Talk Truck Parking

It is easy to complain about parking no matter who you are. There is not enough, it costs too much, it takes up too much space, etc. But for commercial vehicles, parking is serious business problem. Trucks often have limited space to park overnight near Florida’s metropolitan areas. The state lacks enough space on its interstates to park the thousands of trucks that bring us the goods we need each day.

Trucks are the number one way to move products in, out, and around Florida, and space to park these invaluable assets to the state’s economy is a big issue, particularly in Central Florida. More than 70% of the state’s freight is is moved by trucks. This equates to thousands of trucks traveling hundreds of miles on the state’s transportation network.

Why Is Truck Parking Important?

The trucks on Florida’s roads are carrying both interstate and intrastate commerce, which means they have to comply with the hours of services rules https://www.flaeld.com/blog1.php. Let’s refresh on what those are.

Drivers are limited by law on the amount of time they can drive and work. The federal government establishes the regulations for commercial travel between states (interstate commerce) while the Florida Legislature sets the rules for intrastate commerce. These two sets of rules differ, but both affect truck parking similarly.

The Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21) Act, the federal surface transportation legislation signed into law in 2012, included Jason’s Law . https://ops.fhwa.dot.gov/freight/infrastructure/truck_parking/jasons_law/truckparkingsurvey/ch1.htm This made truck parking as national transportation priority.

Jason’s Law requires the US Department of Transportation to survey each state’s ability to provide safe and adequate parking and rest stops for commercial motor vehicles. This legislation wants to create an adequate amount of truck parking in all 50 states while establishing a set of metrics to monitor the effectiveness of truck parking facilities.

It’s not a secret Florida is a fast growing state and the I-4 corridor is absorbing many of the new residents. But it is hard to build new rest areas or truck stops near existing interchanges. There is a limited amount of developable land or the surrounding community opposes the project.

A growing population means more trucks and more trucks means more parking spots. But the number of spots has not grown to the needs of the growing population – a classic supply and demand problem. Truck parking is not just about shortages, though. It is also about location.

Let’s say a driver starts his trip in Norfolk, Va., and needs to drop the cargo in Naples, Fla. He or she is only allowed to drive for 11 hours, according to the federal Hours of Service requirements for interstate commerce. If traffic flows smoothly, the driver will reach Orlando at the 11 hour mark. But there is only one official truck parking location in the Orlando area, in Longwood. That location is notorious for a lack of available spaces. https://www.mynews13.com/fl/orlando/news/2017/11/22/seminole_county_lead

The driver has two options: 1) drive to Orlando and hope there is an available space in Longwood at literally the 11th hour, or 2) stop at a facility on I-95, well short of the maximum drive time allowed. That is lost time and money, which can result in economic loss, late arrival of goods, and more negative consequences.

Across the State

Truck parking is a hot topic across the state, but the issue differs slightly depending on the region. The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) has worked across its districts to identify issues locally and possible solutions. At least three FDOT districts – the agency is divided into seven geographic areas – have conducted truck parking studies.

District 1 – located in the Southwestern part of Florida – inventoried all existing and planned public and private facilities. https://freightmovesflorida.com/local-regional-initiatives/dfc-interactive-map/district-1/ This inventory revealed the region only has 1,320 truck parking spots, with almost half of these in Polk County. This concentration of spaces and lack of supply is exacerbated by local ordinances that prohibit truck parking.

District 4 – the region for Indian River, St. Lucie, Martin, Palm Beach, and Broward counties – conducted their truck parking study in 2016 and 2017 . http://www.miamidadetpo.org/library/presentations/Freight-Transportation-Advisory-Committee/fdot-district-4-truck-parking-supply-and-demand-study-ftac-meeting-2017-05-10.pdf This region has 1,619 spots spread over 26 facilities, mostly private facilities and mostly in St. Lucie and Broward counties. The 595 truck stop in Broward is the largest and most well-known. The study identified parking surpluses in Indian River and St. Lucie counties, but severe shortages in Palm Beach and Broward, even with the 595 truck stop. Demand exceeds supply by 500-1000 spots per day across the region.

The largest FDOT District, the 5th serving East Central Florida, recently completed the first phase of its truck parking study. The inventory of available parking spots revealed shortages on every interstate corridor, with 550 spots needed each day on I-4, but only 89 available spots. https://metroplanorlando.org/wp-content/uploads/FDOT-D5-TruckParking-Study-Update.pdf Remedies to these issues are currently being identified.

What FDOT is Doing

Recently, the state launched its Truck Parking Availability System (TAPS). https://ops.fhwa.dot.gov/publications/fhwahop18020/rt_truck_parking.htm If you have driven on I-75 or I-95 recently, it is likely you passed one of these electric signs alerting truck drivers to the number of available parking spots at the next location. Eventually, this system will include private truck parking spots as well. It is not the solution, but it is a solution, one that FDOT hopes will take the guessing game out of finding a parking spot.

It’s clear there is no one solution to address the state’s truck parking issues. The problems are varied, depending on the area of the state. It takes time to identify and build new parking locations, and it can be hard to assess how much to build, taking into account shifting demand or new regulations. We are going to be talking about truck parking for a long time.

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Elizabeth Whitton (Author)

Elizabeth Whitton is a 7th generation Floridian, who feels equally at home traveling the back roads of North Florida or I-4 through downtown Orlando. She spent the last decade working with cities and regions across the United States with a significant amount of her time focused on addressing transportation issues in Central Florida. Her goal is to effectively communicate complex policy issues and research to a broad audience. Elizabeth is a graduate of the University of Alabama and Florida State University.

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