With holiday traffic volumes expected to be near pre-pandemic levels this year, professional drivers can expect to share the road with millions of motorists nationwide. But the highways won’t be the only crowded place. Truck stops and rest areas will be jam-packed, too!
The American Transportation Research Institute’s annual ranking of top industry concerns ranks truck parking as commercial drivers’ #1 trouble spot. The Federal Highway Administration says there are only about 313,000 truck spots nationally to accommodate the 3.5 million drivers on the road today.
Finding safe parking isn’t impossible. But it does take some pre-trip strategy. Follow these tips to secure the best possible parking spot this holiday season:
- Plan ahead. As soon as you know your route, make a plan. Map out your journey and identify truck stops and rest areas where you may find adequate parking. Helpful hint: Look at truck stop reviews online to find the spots drivers like best.
- Use your smartphone (but not while driving!). Commercially available mobile apps can help you plan your route and find available parking. Some states also report open rest stop parking spaces in real time.
- Watch time of day. Truck parking fills up quickly. Plan to arrive early, or reserve a parking spot in advance at a truck stop on your route if you can.
- Know how to find the best spot. The earlier you arrive at a safe parking spot, the more choices you’ll have. The better choice: spots in the back two-thirds of the lot, where you can pull through. The worse choice: Spots in the front two-thirds of the lot or on the end of a row, where more traffic will increase your risk for an accident.
- Keep your rig straight in the middle of a marked parking spot. Avoid spots where other drivers’ rigs cross the lines and could crowd you out.
- Choose a well-lit spot. Thefts can happen at rest areas and truck stops. Parking in a brightly lit spot will reduce your risk of being a target. Consider installing window shades or dash cams for extra security.
- Lock it up. If you’re sleeping during your break, close all windows, lock all doors and keep valuables out of site. Use a padlock to secure your cargo.
- Take it slow. Drive slowly through parking areas so you’re ready to react if a pedestrian or another vehicle crosses your path unexpectedly.
- Know where not to park. Do not use highway on- or off-ramps or the shoulder of the road as a parking place—it’s illegal in most states. Also, avoid parking in vacant lots or isolated areas with no visible security.