A group of transportation departments representing southwestern states has applied for a federal grant of more than $6 million to develop a system that informs truck drivers of parking availability along Interstate 10.
Texas, Arizona, California and New Mexico DOTs, which together make up the I-10 Corridor Coalition, applied for the grant. Formed in 2016, the coalition aims to improve movement and safety along I-10, which runs from Los Angeles to Jacksonville, Fla.
The coalition requested $6.85 million from the Federal Highway Administration’s Advanced Transportation and Congestion Management Technologies Deployment grant program.
The corridor is important for freight movement. The coalition found that sections of I-10 in these four states carry more than 26,000 large commercial trucks per day. These trucks haul everything from almonds and milk to copper ore and oil.
According to the grant application, the award would finance truck parking availability detection and information-sharing systems at locations along the route from California to Texas.
Arizona Department of Transportation representative Tom Herrmann explained the systems would take the form of electronic signs designed to broadcast available parking spots.
In Arizona, the earliest of these systems would communicate parking availability at four rest areas: Bouse Wash and Burnt Well in the western portion of the state, and Texas Canyon and San Simon in the southeast. Each of these rest areas has a location on the east and the west side of I-10.
“Rather than have to park on an interstate exit ramp, they’ll be able to see 30 miles ahead there’s parking at the San Simon rest area [or] 30 miles ahead there’s parking at Bouse Wash,” Herrmann told Transport Topics. “They can go on and take the greatest advantage out of their day. They can relax, do their job safely and have a place to park.”
Herrmann said that the signs installed through this grant would display information for Arizona-based rest areas, but he said it is “very feasible” that such signs may be posted in the other I-10 Corridor Coalition states in the future.
Besides the signs, Herrmann said the coalition is trying to develop an app that will alert drivers of parking availability. He said the goal is to communicate with drivers in a simple way without adding another device to their truck.
Arizona Trucking Association President Tony Bradley said trucks pulled over on the side of the road so drivers can rest is not an uncommon sight. The association has been working closely with ADOT and industry representatives to identify places where unauthorized parking is prevalent.
Bradley acknowledged that the broader solution to the truck parking shortage is adding more parking spaces, but he said a “multifaceted” approach of meeting with different agencies is the best way to reach this solution.
“Truck parking’s an issue everywhere,” Bradley said. “There’s little doubt in my mind that we need more truck parking spaces. However, there’s not one silver bullet that’s going to solve this issue.”
The coalition submitted the application for the grant June 18. FHWA is supposed to let the group know if it received the grant later this summer.
“I’m sure the drivers themselves would rather park in a clean, safe area with lots of folks around rather than park on the side of a ramp,” Herrmann said. “We’d rather have them park in a safe, lit rest area. This benefits everybody in all four states.”
Truck parking is important to the industry. The shortage of available truck parking ranked fourth on the American Transportation Research Institute’s list of most pressing concerns, which was released Oct. 23. Drivers often feel pressed for time to find parking before exceeding their hours-of-service limits. Bradley said the issue was especially important in Arizona because the state is about a “truck day” away from the port of Los Angeles, and drivers run out of hours when they reach Arizona on their way to Texas.
Texas Trucking Association President John Esparza explained truck parking information management systems to members by comparing this technology to the systems at the Dallas-Fort Worth Airport parking lots that tell drivers how many spaces are available.
“We’re somewhere just under 200,000 heavy tractor-trailer drivers in Texas,” Esparza said. “We just have a lot of drivers here and a lot of trucks moving through the state.”