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MnDOT’s Parking Availability System Helps Truckers

Thursday, August 28, 2014  
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New technology along the Interstate 94 corridor west and northwest of the Twin Cities is helping truckers find safe places to park. Three Minnesota Department of Transportation rest areas are now equipped with automated truck stop management systems that tell truck drivers when parking spaces are available.

The system uses a network of digital cameras to monitor parking availability. In-cab messaging and variable message signs a few miles ahead of the rest area help truckers decide when to stop and rest. Dispatchers can also access a website and relay the real-time information to truckers.

The technology will improve safety, lead to better trip and operations management by drivers and carriers, and help MnDOT and private truck stop owners manage their facilities more effectively, according to John Tompkins, MnDOT project manager.
“So far, the results have been positive. We’ve had 95 percent accuracy in determining the availability of spaces,” he said.

Federal hours of service rules require truck drivers to stop and rest after 11 hours of driving. Tompkins said if drivers continue to drive beyond 11 hours, they could become fatigued and be forced to park in unsafe locations, such as freeway ramps. They could also face legal penalties.

Tompkins said providing the number of available parking spaces at each stop will help drivers determine if they should stop at the current location or if it’s safe to continue to the next safe place to park.

“We have over-capacity in some areas, so this information will also help MnDOT structure its parking availability,” he said.

The technology is active at the Elm Creek Rest Area, on I-94 two miles north of I-494, the Big Spunk Lake Rest Area between Albany and Avon, and the Enfield Rest Area near Monticello. A fourth site is planned at a private commercial truck stop.