Proactive Parking

Now that the industry has fully converted to elogs, those who once relied on creative logging when searching for parking must master a new skill—finding a safe and legal place to park within the hours of service limits. In days past, many drivers would simply continue on well past their actual driving hours until finding a better parking option. Today, when your hours are up, that’s it. Now each of us must use all the information available to find and secure a place to park before we run into violation on our logs.

The most difficult times to find parking are typically between 10 pm and 4 am. And now that the elog revolution is in full effect these hard to park hours can begin far earlier. The closer you are to a major city, the sooner parking is likely to dry up. In the Dallas area it can be as early as 5 pm at the major chain truck stops. Yet in other areas, like along Interstate 80 in Pennsylvania, I often see plentiful parking even at the rest areas at 3 in the morning.

Veterans of electronic logging know it comes down to planning in advance with a realistic view of what the parking situation will be towards the end of your drive. Think beyond using the major chain truck stops. Some of the big name truck stops do offer the option of “RESERVED” parking which guarantees a spot when you get there. I’ve paid between $12 and $18 per night. I try to base my decision on:

  1. Whether it makes the difference between an on-time delivery and a late one.
  2. Whether stopping at that location is going to make me more money in the long run as opposed to parking at a free place a little earlier.

Be aware that your best bet is to pay in advance once you are certain you will be able to make it to the location you’ve chosen, as the fee is non-refundable.

So, if you don’t want to risk a full lot at your preferred truck stop right about the time your driving hours run out, what’s a driver to do? Think about alternative places to park. You could choose a rest area, but once again you run the risk of continuing your search as your clock winds down. Walmart stores and other retail centers can be an option but not all of them allow truck parking. An often overlooked location is casinos.

Drivers today have the benefit of technology to assist us in locating parking at Interstate truck stops and rest areas, back roads locations, and everything in-between. Perhaps your goal is to park at a location that has both free and reserved parking. You can monitor the amount of paid parking as you get closer and make a late-term decision on whether to pay for a reserved spot. You can view a select rest area on your route with a mapping application in satellite view and see how many trucks it can hold. Some hold only a few while others can hold a couple hundred like some of the big ones in Texas.

When it comes to considering a retail facility as a parking place, always follow one simple rule. Call ahead and ask if they allow truck parking and if so, where do they want trucks to park? You can also use your mapping apps to look at the prospective location in satellite view. If it has landscaping islands at the top and bottom of each row, parking may be difficult without damaging their property. Look for locations with wide open lots where you can easily enter and exit the lot. If you see trucks parked there in the overhead view it’s a good indication they may allow trucks to park there for breaks. But ALWAYS, call first to confirm!

Indian tribal casinos are located throughout the country, and are often overlooked by drivers. Many times they’re in a prime parking location. Some, like those west of Albuquerque on I-40, have been a staple for drivers. They make a big production about being truck friendly and even have driver-oriented promotions. I have utilized several of them, but as always, do your research on each location.

One of the key benefits to casino parking is the dining options. From the ever-present all-you-can-eat buffet, to 5-star dining experiences. There’s one in Nevada by the state line that I would pay the price of the buffet just for the items on the dessert counter. Use the internet to research these places and determine if they fit your trip plan. These can be great places to stop if you’re a driver that likes to do a 34-hour reset every week like me. Who knows what featured entertainment might be performing? In any case, it’s certainly going to be more fun than sitting in the driver’s seat of your truck overnight, where the most likely form of entertainment is watching drivers battle over the last few parking places.

Make sure you have multiple parking options available to you and think each of them through in detail. I’ll usually have at least four options on the table before I get down to my last three hours of driving. I’ll set the furthest one away as my destination and then keep a sharp eye on the application’s “ETA to Arrival” time and the total mileage to the destination. If something comes up such as a traffic backup that prevents me from reaching my stopping point, I fall back to the next closest spot and continue on. Know your options, keep them open to changes that may occur and adjust your trip plan as needed.

To sum it all up, the parking situation has changed drastically since the enforcement of the elog mandate. It falls upon each of us as drivers to protect our CDL and livelihood by acquiring safe and legal parking at the end of each driving day. No matter how much you plan ahead, there will certainly be occasions where everything goes wrong. But keeping yourself apprised of multiple options can greatly reduce the stress of parking in today’s trucking world.