It's bad all around when truck drivers can't find a place to park and take a break, which has been happening frequently across the United States for decades. An industry research group asked truck drivers about one idea to help — reserving parking spaces, possibly at a cost — and got an earful.
The question comes down to what form such reservations would take. They could be like no-charge restaurant reservations, for instance, where you'd just reserve online or call ahead, or hotel reservations, where if you don't keep them, you may be on the hook to pay some amount. Or parking reservations could be their own add-on charge.
And just who would cover any fees or up-front costs of these hypothetical truck parking reservations is a key issue the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) turned up in its survey of more than 1,400 truck drivers. Against a backdrop of serious and worsening driver shortages and questions of driver pay adequacy, that much comes as little surprise.
In ATRI's survey, close to half of truck driver respondents — about 48% — said they're not willing to pay any amount to reserve a parking space. For the rest, it's a question of how much: one out of five said they'd be willing to pay between $1.00 and $5.00, and about that same amount said they'd be willing to pay between $6.00 and $10.00. Another 9% said they're willing to pay from $11.00 to $15.00 and about 2% said they'd pay $16.00 to $20.00. Slightly less than 1% said they'd pay $21.00 or more.
The ATRI researchers note that the push-back from nearly half the drivers unwilling to pay anything could just be because fee-based parking reservations are something they're not used to. "The prevalence of 'I would not be willing to pay any amount' responses may relate to driving on corridors with greater parking supply or the initial rejection of an unfamiliar concept, although industry economics do favor cost reductions wherever possible," the study authors write.
As far as who ultimately should pay for truck parking reservations if there's a cost, nearly 47% of respondent drivers said it ought to be the motor carrier's responsibility, about 21% said carriers and drivers should split the cost, about 15% said only drivers should pay and about 6% said fees should be the government's responsibility. Another approximately 6% reiterated that there should be no parking reservation fees or just stated "other."
In an era of common traffic backups and other delays, what if a truck driver pays to reserve a space and can't get to that location on time? Slightly more than half the ATRI survey respondents said the fee should be refunded; some 32% said the fee should be transferrable to a new date and time; about 10% said the fee should be forfeited; and a little less than 8% said something "other" than those outcomes ought to happen.
"The trend and conclusion appears to be that willingness to pay increases when the responsible party is someone other than the driver," ATRI observes. Additionally, owner-operators and independent contractors — who generally are responsible for business expenses — "are expected to have differing expectations of payment responsibility" than employee drivers do, ATRI notes, since those latter drivers' carriers typically cover such expenses.