By Heather Hogeland & Kim Grimm
The planning stage of your trip is getting to be so much more important when it comes to parking. Due to increased regulations that require drivers to rest more frequently and for longer periods of time, combined with the shortage of safe places to park, it has become necessary to plan well in advance where and when you are going to be stopping for your 10 hour break. Places to park are easier to find in the middle of the day, yet, when the sun goes down (or your 14 hour clock has run out) the places get tougher and tougher to find. When you need to stop you don’t want to be unable to park and go to sleep.
It doesn’t hurt to call a shipper or receiver to see if they have staging areas available and how long before your appointment you might be able to check in. Or, if there is a place close by that you can park. I always ask two questions “is there a place to park” and “is it safe to park there”? I’ve found that people are usually very honest when it comes to this. If you get a reply like “I wouldn’t park here at night” that tells me everything I need to know.
Sometimes it doesn’t hurt to get a little creative. Late one night the truck stop was full and I saw a large facility just down the street. I found an employee outside and asked if it was alright if I parked out of the way. I got his name when he told me that would be fine. It was not fine 20 minutes later when a local police officer came by to tell me that he had gotten a report about my being there. I told him that I had asked permission and he said that didn’t matter, the company didn’t allow overnight parking. When I asked him where a safe place might be he was very nice and gave me directions to a street just across the Interstate that was not technically within city limits and where he could not cite me for being. He added that it was patrolled all night long and I wouldn’t be bothered.
The local authorities are familiar with the area and it’s their job to keep the public safe, so it’s a source that many drivers probably wouldn’t think of utilizing. Another night I was at a different truck stop and not too far from there was a company where I load at occasionally I asked the security guard who happened to be behind the fuel desk about going there. He said that they were getting funny about that, but directed me to a lot close by that the company lets them use on the weekends. It was clean, quiet and there were only three of us there. The need for more safe parking is real. There are a few Wal-Mart stores that still allow us to park but many will not let you stay overnight. It’s not hard to Google search and call to ask if they allow overnight truck parking.
We have been noticing lately many more than ever big trucks on off-ramps sleeping. This is a dangerous situation, PLEASE, don’t get into this terrible habit! If you absolutely have to stop on a ramp, at the very least, make it an ON-ramp. The chances of being involved in an accident are significantly reduced on an on-ramp than on an off-ramp. The off ramp side has speeding traffic coming down the ramp. Sure, it’s slowing down from highway speed, but it’s still much faster than traffic just turning onto an on-ramp. Also, the chances of being rear ended are much less on and on-ramp than if you were on the off-ramp.
Above all, wherever you park, PLEASE, be SAFE! Remember Jason’s Law? It was passed in 2012 as part of MAP-21 (the then two-year reauthorization of the highway bill) and in memory of driver Jason Rivenburg who was murdered in 2009 while parked at an abandoned gas station in SC while waiting to deliver a load of milk. Stay safe and use your head when you plan your trip. Many truck stops even have reserved parking these days. You can call ahead or use an app to reserve a spot. There are options available for us, we just need to learn what they are and how to use them.
Stay Safe Out There And Keep It Shiny!
Heather Hogeland and Kim Grimm are CDL holders and longtime friends with a combined 75 years and 7 million miles of driving experience. Both are writers and have a love for everything trucking, as well as, furry, four-legged friends. Kim is currently a full-time owner-operator and part-time writer. Heather writes for various trucking publications and enjoys traveling with her husband Roger.