MnDOT starts installing truck parking technology at rest areas

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ST. PAUL, Minn. – Work is under way by the Minnesota Department of Transportation to install 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 that will collect and broadcast real-time parking availability on dynamic message signs. In Minnesota the signs will be posted along the I-35 and I-94 corridors and on MnDOT’s 511 traveler information website. The network will become operational in January 2019 however some states, including Minnesota, could become operational sooner.

“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, state project manager. “There will also be less fuel consumption and reduced emissions.”

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. The RTMC technology interprets the data and sends the appropriate number of available parking spaces to the dynamic message signs.

Trucking companies’ dispatchers can also access the information on the 511 truckers’ page and relay the availability to their drivers.
Other states participating in the project are Iowa, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin.

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.

“Rest areas fill up at night and truckers often park on exit ramps, which are unauthorized spots,” Rowe said. “This is a safety concern and when we provide safe parking for truckers, we also save lives by getting fatigued drivers off the road.”

Project funding comes from a $25 million U.S. DOT TIGER grant and the states. In Minnesota, the project will cost $1.4 million. MnDOT contributed $177,500.

The seven rest areas with the technology will be at Lake Lakota, Big Spunk Lake, Enfield, Elm Creek, St. Croix, Heath Creek and Forest Lake.

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.

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