The Truck Parking Conundrum

A significant challenge that all commercial truck drivers face today is finding a safe place to park. With driver numbers at an all-time high, finding a safe and legal place to park can be a real challenge the later in the evening it gets. Add to that the current trend of corporate-owned truckstops (i.e., TA/Petro, Loves, Pilot, etc.) converting formerly “free” parking spaces to the “Reserved” parking spots. Both of these situations can leave drivers in the uncomfortable position of having to “create” a parking spot on their own, where and when they can.

Not All Truckstops Are Created Equal

Every driver on the road has found their “favorite” truckstops. Some drivers are partial to the TA/Petro chain. Others prefer the Loves or the Pilot/Flying J chains. Still others like to sleep in out of the way spots and rest areas. Whatever your preference, it is safe to say there are more trucks looking for spots at the end of the day than available spots out here.

Too Many Trucks, Not Enough Spots

I don’t believe it’s possible for any driver running at night, not to find that truckstop after truckstop is full when it’s time to park. Since the implementation of the ELD’s, this has made it difficult for some drivers to get shut-down before the dreaded clock ticks to zero. There is a fix. Finish your day by 4 PM. I realize that for many drivers this isn’t feasible.

Smelling blood in the water, Travel Centers of America (TA/Petro) was the first of the Big 3 to offer “Reserved” parking accommodations. Reserved Parking is a pleasant name for a parking spot that costs between $14 and $18 dollars for one night (Check in @ 4pm, Check out by 3pm the next day).

At first, this seemed like a useful option in a pinch. Most of their sites had between 4 and 10 Reserved spaces. At first. Now there are sites with nearly a third of the parking as reserved. Pilot/Flying J followed shortly after. In their defense, i have never been to one of their sites that had more than 10 paid spots. It’s only been recently that Loves has started too get into the game. I have been to 2 Loves locations with paid parking. I think it is safe to assume that all the locations that can, will follow suit.

Reserved Parking vs. Paid Parking (Is there a difference?)

Paid parking is not a new concept. Most truckstops in close proximity to major cities (especially in the northeast and around Chicago, Houston, Dallas, etc.) have paid parking. $15 to $25 per night. So, not different than these reserved spaces, right? Wrong. Nearly all the sites that require money to park will accept a receipt for 60 gallons of fuel or money spent inside the truckstop. This is manageable because drivers can often spend some money on dinner or snacks or get fuel (they do this normally).

Reserved parking is a flat fee upfront to secure the space. TA/Petro has amended their system to accept shower credits and points earned for parking fees. To use the Ultra-one credit for parking a driver must fuel up 1250 gallons the previous month (Gear Lvl 4). Pilot/Flying J and Loves only accept money. The sense from the truckstop employees is if you get here early you can park in a free spot, if not…

Full Disclosure

I personally don’t have an issue with paying to park. It’s a tax write-off and based on what I see happening to these truckstops, it’s going to get worse. This is not a popular position at the lunch counter, I can assure you. My feelings are conflicted. On the one hand, it feels like one more hand in a driver’s pocket. On the other, if I owned a truckstop, I would definitely be charging people to park on site. I know first hand how disgusting some drivers are. The maintenance costs for keeping the lot cleaned and trash collected alone would make me charge rent for the evening. All that said, Paid Parking and Reserved Parking are two separate animals because one can be mitigated by spending money a driver would normally spend and the other cannot.