Commercial truck drivers on Kansas highways and roads in seven other Midwestern states will be able to plan their rest stops more easily and efficiently using a new system launched Friday.
A ribbon-cutting for the new Truck Parking Information Management System, or TPIMS, was held at the Paxico rest area, one of 18 sites in Kansas that are part of the new system.
The $28.6 million system, the bulk of which was paid for with a $25 million TIGER grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation, gives truck drivers real-time information as they travel through the eight states about parking availability.
The seven states in addition to Kansas are Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Kentucky and Wisconsin, said Davonna Moore, transportation planner for the Kansas Department of Transportation.
"The idea was to introduce a regional system, from Kansas to Kentucky, as far north as Michigan, along the heavily traveled freight corridors that will supply the truck drivers with information, with signs on the road and also information through a public feed that could be integrated through some of these travel applications," Moore said.
A trucker will be able to plan where to stop for either a rest break or to sleep overnight by using smartphone applications or reading signs along roadways, Moore said.
"Each system is designed to count trucks that enter and exit the lot, giving accurate counts of parking spaces that is updated at least every five minutes," she said.
Kay Hendrix, director of safety for the Kansas Motor Carriers Association, said such information is critical for truck drivers for a number of reasons.
Safety for the truck drivers is a big point of concern, she said, referring to Jason's Law, passed in 2012 honoring truck driver Jason Rivenburg, who was robbed and killed in 2009 after pulling into an abandoned gas station to take a nap. The lack of well-lit, safe places for truck drivers to stop when they were tired became a national issue and the law put funding in place to address concerns.
It is important for drivers to be able to get off the road when they are tired and also when they need to meet laws that limit how long they can drive without a break, Hendrix said. A video on the trucksparkhere.com website said driver fatigue causes 87 percent of all crashes in which the truck was the main cause of the crash.
"Companies are trying to make sure their drivers are safe," Hendrix said.
A public feed that can be included in travel applications commonly used by commercial truckers is available and expected to be incorporated into apps, such as TruckMap and SmartTruckRoute, Moore said. For now, large blue signs at the 18 sites along Interstate 70 note the available parking spaces.
Along with addressing important safety concerns surrounding driver fatigue, the ability to plan a route and determine where available rest stops are will help trucking companies be more efficient, Hendrix said. The use of electronic logging devices in trucks means drivers must plan their routes carefully.
"It requires drivers to really look at the routes, figure out where the best available places are for them not only to take breaks but to be able to do their sleeper berth time in a safe location where it's well lit and it's being surveyed," she said. "It's going to allow companies to plan their routes more effectively to ensure the safety of their equipment, their loads and, of course, more importantly than anything else, the drivers."
A survey after the passage of Jason's Law found that one-third of truck drivers have an issue trying to find a safe location to park. In addition, many spend 30 minutes or more trying to find a location to stop, Hendrix said.
In looking at industry concerns, Hendrix said she would rank safe parking as the No. 2 issue for most motor carrier companies. Other big issues are workforce and the use of ELDs in general.
Moore said Kansas deployed the system at 18 locations in the state — all rest areas — with the TIGER money and additional safety money will allow the state to deploy parking information for two additional sites on K-135 highway. Those two sites will open soon, she said.
The eight states were required to cover about $3.6 million of costs above the $25 million, Moore said. Kansas' cost came to about $500,000. KDOT served as the lead agency on the project.