America's Truck Parking Crisis

An Inside Lane Exclusive: Unpacking the truck parking crisis reveals deep impacts on U.S. logistics, driver safety, and the pressing call for infrastructural improvements.

America's Truck Parking Crisis

By Alan Schmadtke, for The Inside Lane

Todd Spencer, president of a large trucking association, remains optimistic about effecting change in the industry's parking crisis, though past endeavors have resulted in limited success.

Maybe if enough packages get delayed enough times, or if the cost of shipping jumps so dramatically that businesses and consumers demand action, then Congress will jump higher.

Until then, the nation’s truck drivers, many represented by Spencer and the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association he presides over, find themselves in parking purgatory.

In an economy in which more than two-thirds of goods move around the country by truck, there is only one parking spot available for every 11 trucks on the road, according to the OOIDA.

The lack of adequate parking is costing more than just inconvenience.

Drivers add about an hour to their workdays, searching for a place to put their rigs to bed and take their mandated break. And drivers trust that the spaces they find are in safe areas with low risks of being robbed, injured or worse.

“It’s been an issue with us for years, 25 years, steadily getting worse,” said Spencer, whose association represents about 150,000 drivers in North America.

In an interview with The Inside Lane, Spencer said: “We’re certainly hopeful to see the legislation that passed two years ago as part of the infrastructure law . . . but we’re also hopeful Congress will do more by appropriating money for expanding rest areas and constructing new ones. . . . There is certainly more needed.”

“We need more rest areas.”

The U.S. interstate system has too few rest stops, and not nearly enough parking spaces at those facilities to provide temporary overnight homes for trucks.

Although large corporate travel centers continuously beef up their facilities to stay competitive, they can’t build enough new ones — or in some cases gain enough local government approvals — to satisfy the national demand.

“We need more rest areas,” Scott Draves, 54, a longtime car hauler for Accelerated Services and a 35-year driver told The Inside Lane. “There’s not enough of them, and what we have, they’re not big enough. They’re limited to 20 or 30 trucks. That’s not enough.”

The ripple effect of parking shortages

On its surface, a parking shortage seems like a mundane problem that only affects a driver’s mood, sleep patterns and delivery times. But the issue has many tentacles and eventually affects everyone.

Ultimately, it can mean increased fuel prices (more driving around), parking costs and transportation times all go up — and as businesses plug those higher prices into the cost of their products and pass them to consumers.

But the major issue is one of safety. Lack of quality parking leads to the reality of drivers settling for what they can find, sometimes leading to unsafe practices and less-than-ideal locations.

Truckers and industry leaders have raised the lack of parking problems since the early 2000s, gaining traction only after a tragedy. In 2009, driver Jason Rivenburg was fatally shot when he was robbed of $7 after parking at an abandoned gas station off I-26 in South Carolina.

“Jason’s Law,” passed in 2012, required states to evaluate traffic and commercial vehicle parking, develop parking metrics, report them and create safer areas for longer rest stops. However, it did not mandate more parking spots.

Drivers “really, really struggle to find someplace where they can be out of the way, where they won’t get a ticket and won’t get mugged or killed,” Spencer said. “It’s by no means an ideal way to live.”

More spaced needed or tech can't help

So how did we even arrive here? Much like the country’s aging interstate roads and bridges (and railroad and other transportation infrastructure), the crisis of truck parking built up over decades of neglect, other priorities and ineffective lobbying.

Drivers have talked about parking woes for two decades. The private sector listened and built more and better travel centers across the country. They want to build many more but struggle to win local government support.

Proposed overnight truck stops rarely win popularity contests from nearby residents who complain about night-time noise, large fuel tanks going in the ground, increased car and truck traffic during all hours and other problems.

Meanwhile, the industry embraces all the good news it can find.

Most recently:

Other help may come from technology. Just as more high-density communities and airports are adopting advanced parking management systems, there’s a thought that the same thing can help truckers. Think about an app that gives drivers real-time data about what nearby facilities have open spaces, creating more efficiency and saving drivers time.

“Three’s always been an interest in applications for technology to solve a problem,” Spencer said. “That stuff has been around for a lot of years and they’ve been saying, ‘We can solve your parking problem.’ But the technology basically says there is virtually no parking out there. So, the focus needs to be on [creating more] spaces, not technology.”

Legislators considering parking legislation

Driving in Missouri, Indiana, Kentucky and Tennessee, Draves starts his route about 2 a.m. most days and likes to settle in for the night no later than 5 p.m. — early enough to get a vacant spot he likes on the outside lane of a rest area.

“The later you drive, the harder it is to find a spot,” Draves said.

Not all big-rig drivers have the luxury of that schedule. Some have to make deliveries after business hours, which means their workdays end in the early and late evenings. Others drive in the crowded Northeast corridor (Boston, Philadelphia, New York) and in other metropolitan areas with even more parking problems.

Sound Off: What do you think should be done to alleviate the truck parking crisis? Send an email to

The industry was on the verge of a solution with the 2021 Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. Money to build more parking was one part of the legislation — until it was cut when the House and Senate hammered out a final bill.

The law delivered help for safety, human trafficking, access and support for women drivers and equitable truck leasing — but not parking.

Last year, however, U.S. Rep. Mike Bost (R-Illinois), whose family was in the trucking business, sponsored the bi-partisan Truck Parking Safety Improvement Act, which proposes $755 million over three years for improved and additional parking facilities for commercial vehicles.

The legislation faces the amendment process before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

The issue isn’t going away soon. In fact, most business trend lines suggest an increasing squeeze until changes get made.

As of 2023, nearly 3 million semi-trucks were registered in the United States. And despite a temporary pandemic-related halt in 2020 that spurred some drivers to get out of the business and a workforce slowdown during 2023, the industry projects to nearly double by 2050.

“We want to see this legislation that’s now on the table passed,” Spencer said. “It’ll help alleviate the problem.”

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