The Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) has started installing technology at seven rest areas in the state that will help truck drivers find safe parking along high-volume freight corridors.
Minnesota is working with seven other states to implement the Regional Truck Parking Information and Management System (TPIMS) that will collect and broadcast real-time parking availability on dynamic message signs (DMS).
In Minnesota the signs will be posted along the I-35 and I-94 corridors and on MnDOT’s 511 traveler information website. The complete network will become operational in January 2019, however some states, including Minnesota, could become operational sooner. The technology includes in-pavement sensors that detect the presence of the truck above it and send the information to MnDOT’s Regional Transportation Management Center (RTMC), where the TPIMS technology interprets the data and sends the appropriate number of available parking spaces to the DMS network. Trucking companies’ dispatchers can also access the information on the MnDOT 511 truckers’ page and relay the availability to their drivers.
The scheme has been initiated by the Mid America Association of State Transportation Officials (MAASTO), and alongside Minnesota, other states participating in the project are Iowa, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin. Project funding comes from a US$25m federal USDOT TIGER grant and the member states. In Minnesota, the project will cost US$1.4m, with MnDOT contributing US$177,500. The seven Minnesota rest areas with the technology will be at Lake Lakota, Big Spunk Lake, Enfield, Elm Creek, St Croix, Heath Creek, and Forest Lake.
Truckers are required to comply with hours-of-service rules that limit how many hours they can drive. Fatigued driving is a major cause of preventable truck crashes. MnDOT and the other participating states first proposed the project when truck parking became a national safety concern following the 2009 murder of a trucker in South Carolina. Federal legislation, called Jason’s Law, put a national spotlight on addressing the shortage of long-term parking.
“Truck drivers sometimes spend 30 minutes or more looking for parking spots. We want to help them find safe, reliable parking so they don’t waste time looking, which decreases their downtime, and so they can move their products faster,” said Dan Rowe, MnDOT state project manager.
“There will also be less fuel consumption and reduced emissions. Rest areas fill up at night and truckers often park on exit ramps, which are unauthorized spots. This is a safety concern and when we provide safe parking for truckers, we also save lives by getting fatigued drivers off the road.”