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October 17, 2019 11:45 AM, EDT

Florida DOT Surveys Stakeholders on Truck Parking Issues

Florida DOT weighs issues with truck parking.Trucks parked at the Florida 595 Truck Stop in Davie, Fla. (Florida 595 Truck Stop)

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The Florida Department of Transportation is conducting a survey to study truck parking issues.

Spokeswoman Natalie McElwee said the survey, which opened Sept. 30, has garnered about 100 responses. The survey, which is available to anyone online and has been extended to close Oct. 25, is meant to improve FDOT’s understanding of commercial truck parking experiences in the state and help resolve problems.

“We’re targeting a variety of different perspectives to get insight from truck drivers, operators, distribution facilities, local planners, municipal representatives, law enforcement who address truck routes [and the] general public,” McElwee said.

Truck parking ranked No. 5 on the American Transportation Research Institute’s Top Industry Issues report, issued Oct. 6. Truck parking also is listed as an issue in FDOT’s Freight Mobility and Trade Plan and Motor Carrier System Plan. According to McElwee, Florida has about 300 truck parking locations and more than 10,000 parking spaces.

READ MORE: ATRI: Driver Shortage Tops Trucking Concern List for Third Straight Year

FDOT has identified certain areas of concern for truck parking. The agency’s survey maps out these chokepoints and asks participants where they have experienced parking overcapacity or have used unauthorized parking areas.

The areas of concern overlap with major routes and metropolitan areas. They include the areas surrounding Orlando, Lakeland, Tampa, Miami and Jacksonville. The survey also presents an option for respondents to list critical areas other than the ones near these cities. Florida Trucking Association Vice President Alix Miller said Jacksonville is particularly strained because the city serves as the port of entry for many people traveling the East Coast using Interstate 95.

Miller noted that Florida’s narrow geography can make it difficult for truckers to find sufficient parking. The state has two north-south interstates, I-95 and I-75, and two east-west interstates, I-10 and I-4. Miller identified interstates 95 and 75 as the main routes people use to get in and out of the state.

Florida DOT weighs issues with truck parking.

Miller

“When you’re talking about a truck going from South Florida up to Georgia, everyone’s taking that route,” she said. “You’re going to have trucks needing to stop along those roads.”

In particular, Miller said finding overnight parking can be a challenge. If a trucker runs out of service hours, he or she will sometimes park in an unsafe location, such as the shoulder of a highway or ramp. For example, Miller mentioned she saw overflow from a rest area had prompted truckers to park on the side of the highway overnight as she drove to a voluntary vehicle inspection at the Flagler Weigh Station before dawn Oct. 15. The voluntary inspection was arranged by Florida DOT, the Florida Highway Patrol and the Florida Trucking Association.

Parking on an interstate shoulder can be dangerous for truckers and motorists, Miller said. She identified weigh stations as “safe havens” and recommended that drivers use them as overnight parking locations.

“When a truck has to stop, it has to stop,” Miller said. “When there’s a lack of parking, it’s really problematic.”

FDOT also displays truck parking facilities and space availability on the Florida 511 mobile app, which drivers can use to plan where to stop.

“We really enjoy working with our state agencies to try to help solve these issues,” Miller said. “We like to pride ourselves that we have a strong relationship with our state partners in order to make things safer for everyone out on the roads.”

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