Are Truck Stops About to Become Smarter?

Minnesota’s DOT, working together with the University of Minnesota, have developed a new piece of technology which will allow truck drivers to see how many parking spots are available in nearby rest areas.


The importance of rest areas for the well-being of truckers can’t be stressed enough, especially after the enactment of the restart rule a year ago. Unfortunately, not all rest stops are up to par when it comes to meeting a trucker’s needs. The result is that while the most popular stops are facing problems with overcrowding and a lack of parking spaces, others aren’t being fully utilized. This is leading to risky actions such as trucks being parked on highway shoulders.

One state in which the situation is especially grave is Minnesota. Fortunately, the state recently received a $2-million grant to conduct a study on how to remedy the problem. While some of the study’s conclusions are still being reviewed, one major piece of technology coming out of the study has the potential to drastically improve the situation. Here’s what we know so far:


Cameras at Truck Stops Could Change Everything

Minnesota’s DOT, working together with the University of Minnesota, have developed a new piece of technology which will allow truck drivers to see how many parking spots are available in nearby rest areas. The information is available thanks to a network of digital cameras which search for available parking places and notify drivers in several ways: via electronic signs on the highway a few miles ahead of the stop, via a website, and directly to truck cabs equipped with the necessary technology.

The tech is still being developed, but a pilot study on its efficacy showed it was 95% accurate in determining how many spots were available. A full evaluation will be available next month, deciding whether such a model can be applied nationwide. What’s clear at this stage is that the potential for this technology is immense, but how exactly could it alter the industry?


Increasing Efficiency and Safety Benefits Everyone

If this technology is adopted by a growing number of rest areas in states all over the country it could help not only truck drivers, but the entire industry.

For one thing, it would significantly increase safety. Studies show that driving for an extended period of time greatly increases crash risk. If a trucker drives for more than 8 hours, their risk of having an accident doubles. So why are they driving for so long? Often, drivers lose valuable time checking each individual rest area and end up driving too long as a result. This new technology would make that task far easier.

Truck drivers and their employers would also be able to plan their trips much more precisely, knowing exactly where they can stop. As it stands now, drivers may park earlier than necessary after finding a parking space because they fear if they go on they may not find one when they must absolutely stop. This brings things back to the dreaded new restart rule, which doesn’t allow drivers to stay on the road for more than 11 hours. With this new technology, the rule would be far easier to comply with and wouldn’t force drivers to park in unsafe locations to avoid breaking it.

State DOTs, on the other hand, can use that information to improve parking availability in places where there is over-capacity, such as many rest areas in Minnesota. Private truck stop owners can benefit in the same way – if their location is not meeting the demand, they can expand or make other modifications to their facility. This kind of broad view of the situation brings with it tons of potential for everyone connected to the trucking industry to gain better perspective.


What Should We Look For Going Forward?

Although still in development, this technology holds great promise for the future of trucking and highway infrastructure. We’re currently waiting to find out if it’s suitable for wider application, so look for new developments in the weeks ahead.

Meanwhile, in what other ways can rest areas be improved to make trucker drivers’ lives easier? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.


This guest post is courtesy of JW Surety Bonds


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