Reserved truck parking at daytime

TD125: Reserved Truck Parking: Convenience or Exploitation?

We’ve all heard that there is a shortage of truck parking. Truckers deal with it every day. The public can see it as we’re lined up on interstate on and off ramps and crammed into Walmart parking lots. The government has done the research to prove the problem is real.

And of course, the truck stop owners know it. So what’s their answer to the problem? Hey, I have an idea! Let’s charge truckers money for these coveted parking spaces! Enter; reserved truck parking.

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For you non-truckers out there, some of the large truck stop chains have decided to block off some of their premium spots for those willing to pay. As a world-class cheapskate, you can imagine how I feel about it.

The idea behind reserved truck parking is that you can call ahead or go online and reserve your parking space early in the day so you know you’ll have a safe place to park for the night. Sounds like a great idea, right? We’ll come back to whether this works or not here in a bit.

My first (and only) experience with reserved truck parking

I had accepted a load from dispatch with the understanding that it was going to be really tight. The issue wasn’t my available hours; the issue was time. While that might sound like the same thing to you non-trucking folk, all you truckers know what I’m talking about.

I had an 8 AM delivery at the Costco warehouse in Morris, Illinois. I was going to get there about 11 PM, but the receiver didn’t have overnight parking available on site (despite their humongous, always half-full parking lot 😡). Luckily there are two truck stops within a couple blocks of my delivery. This was important because if I had to park for the night even 5 miles away, I couldn’t have delivered on time.

You see, if I started my mandatory 10-hour break when I got there at 11 PM, my break would be up at 9 AM. Problems is, I’d be late for my 8 AM appointment. But if I could find parking within 1 mile of Costco, I could drive over to the delivery in the morning while I was still officially on break, thanks to the very little bit of leniency my e-logs afford where it doesn’t register me driving until I drive over one mile. So by the time they finished unloading me, my legal break would be over and I’d have another 11 hours to run that day. That’s what I’m talkin’ about!

Now I know some of you truckers out there are screaming at your phones right now, so let me explain to the non-truckers why you’re losing your ever-loving mind right now. Officially, I could have delivered the load on time in a legal way by utilizing the God-awful 8-hour split sleeper berth.

Again, let me explain to the non-truckers out there. Normally after driving 11 hours, we are required to take a 10-hour break. But there is also an option to only take an 8-hour break if you haven’t driven your full 11 yet. So if I had used 9 hours getting to the customer, I could take an 8-hour break (it must be all in the sleeper berth) and still have my other 2 hours to run (9 hours driving before break and 2 hours after equals 11 total). After that, I’d need to take a full 10-hour break before I could drive again.

Yes, the 8/2 split sleeper berth is as complicated as it sounds, which I why I avoid doing it like a meth head shuns toothpaste. And it almost always screws up your day somehow. In this situation, I was pulling in at 11 PM, so I could move again at 7 AM (after 8 hours in the sleeper). So as long as I was parked within two hours of the delivery location, I would’ve been on time for delivery. You’re right, trucker. But you also know why I didn’t go this route. Let’s look at the bigger picture, non-truckers.

Being in the sleeper from 11 PM to 7 AM is 8 hours. I would then drive for 2 hours, deliver and then go back on break for another 10 hours before I could drive again. Do a little math and you can see that my mandatory 10-hour break has effectively turned into an 18-hour break! No thanks. If I want to screw myself, I’ll just sign up for a marathon or something.

This is why it was so important to me to get close to Costco. The issue was going to be finding parking at either of those truck stops. The Pilot is smaller than the TA, but they both fill up pretty fast because they’re some of the last truck stops on I-80 eastbound if you’re staging to head into Chicago the following morning.

Honestly, I wasn’t worried about finding parking. Obviously, I was hoping to find a free parking spot, but if all else failed I knew both locations had reserved truck parking. I drove through the Pilot lot. All full. No surprise.

I thought about parking along the side street, but the only thing worse than paying for parking is a police officer knocking on your door in the middle of your break and telling you to move your truck. Not only does it suck getting woken up, but depending on how far you have to drive, it also might screw up your break, effectively putting you right back with the possibility of doing that 18-hour break like I was trying to avoid in the first place. I saw a reserved parking space, but I didn’t give up just yet. I’m ever-hopeful when it comes to saving a buck.

Not only were the employees tired of hearing truckers gripe about it, but it was also a pain to monitor the area to see if someone was trying to park there without paying. They also had to deal with the reservations, which they said was a major pain-in-the-tookus.

I drove over to the TA and they were just as jam-packed. No place to even park illegally that wouldn’t have blocked another driver in. There are drivers who would do this, but I’m not one of them.

Reserved truck parking at nightGuess what? There was plenty of reserved truck parking at the TA. This is my point. There often is. Take a look at this photo I took at the TA in Greencastle, Pennsylvania the night of TD124: The Overweight Axle Debacle. The rest of the lot was packed like a Casper mattress in it’s shipping box! Some drivers were even parked outside of legal spaces to avoid paying for a spot! Although honestly, that’s just par-for-the-course.

So anywho, since the Pilot was closer to Costco, I quickly drove back over, backed into a reserved parking space (with no pull-ups I might add – yes, I’m that awesome) and walked inside to pay. As I paid the $12, I told the cashier how much I hated it. Much to my surprise, the cashier and one of the managers told me they hated paid parking too!

Reserved parking receiptNot only were the employees tired of hearing truckers gripe about it, but it was also a pain to monitor the area to see if someone was trying to park there without paying. They also had to deal with the reservations, which they said was a major pain-in-the-tookus.

So to bring this seemingly never-ending story to a close, I stuck the receipt in the window so no one would bother me, grabbed some shuteye, and I delivered on time without my e-log screwing me over. Yeah! I win! Go me! Other than the fact that I had to pay to be victorious, which disturbs the innermost part of my being.

The problem with reserved truck parking

Listen, I’m all for capitalism. If the truck stops think they can make some extra money by having reserved truck parking, then who am I to say they shouldn’t do it? So with that, let me just say:

YOU SHOULDN’T DO IT!

I guess these truck stops have forgotten that there used to be paid parking at lots of their locations. And I’m not talking about some of the parking spots. I’m talking about paying for parking anywhere in their parking lot! But for some reason (that I honestly don’t understand), they decided to quit charging for parking.

There are still a few holdouts near big cities, like the Greater Chicago Truck Plaza in Bolingbrook, Illinois or a couple of TA’s near Baltimore, just to name a few. I haven’t been out west in quite a while, but I’d bet a full-nekid body massage from The Evil Overlord (wife and ex co-driver) that both the TA’s in Ontario, California still charge to park too. (I later found out one of them is a Petro now, but they both still charge for parking – good thing, because she’d have killed me dead if I’d lost that bet.)

Still, the vast majority of the paid parking truck stops have gone to a totally free model. You’ll recognize them when you see the long-abandoned little booth that guards the parking lot from the outside world. Why is this?

Perhaps because truckers were avoiding them to find free parking elsewhere? I’ll bet if we could examine their books, we’d noticed an uptick in gross revenue when they axed the paid parking. I mean, if more drivers are parking there for free every night, they’re probably also buying fuel, eating in the restaurant, filling up their coffee thermos, and buying horrifically overpriced, decade-old DVDs. Just a guess, but why else would they quit charging for parking?

Give it up. It doesn’t work

I was talking to my friend @driverchrismc the other day and somehow reserved truck parking was brought up. He said he used to reserve spots when he thought there wouldn’t be any free parking by the time he got there, but he quit reserving in advance because he’d often arrive at the truck stop and still find free parking available. He now waits until he arrives before he pays.

So doesn’t that defeat the purpose of reserved truck parking? At that point, I feel like it’s more exploitation of drivers than it is convenience. Yes, I know exploitation is a pretty strong word, but look how the Google dictionary defines it.

ex·ploi·ta·tion

ˌekˌsploiˈtāSH(ə)n

  1. The action or fact of treating someone unfairly in order to benefit from their work.
  2. The action of making use of and benefiting from resources.
  3. The fact of making use of a situation to gain unfair advantage for oneself.

Okay, Definition 1 might be a stretch. Definition 2 is getting warmer though. The truck stop has a resource (a parking spot) and they’re charging for the privilege of using it. Definition 3 nails it right on the head though. They are making use of a situation (truckers not being able to find parking) to gain unfair advantage.

Whether all this is “unfair” or not is up for debate. But in my eyes it’s similar to that argument of “just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should.”

Again, saying the act of charging for parking is “unfair” might be pushing it a tad. But in a sense, it is unfair because you have to pay for it simply because other drivers got there before you did. And if you paid in advance like Chris did, only to find there was still free parking available, now you’ve paid for a parking spot that you no longer need. That’s kind of unfair too, isn’t it?

I looked on the Pilot/FlyingJ website and apparently you can’t ask for a refund once you show up either. You have to do it 4 hours before your reservation starts. So there’s no backing out there. You’re just out the $12.

Whether all this is “unfair” or not is up for debate. But in my eyes it’s similar to that argument of “just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should.”

Trucking companies and truckers keep these truck stops alive and kicking. And to thank us for that, they take advantage of us when we least need to take their crap; after a long day of driving when we just need  a warm meal, a hot shower, and a place to lay down and recharge so we can do it all again the next day. Is that so much to ask?

Please don’t get me wrong. I’m grateful that truck stops exist. Without them there’d be even fewer places to park and we’d probably start seeing truckers squatting behind bushes on the side of the highway. God, help us. But do they really need to charge us for the last few parking places when we’re at our most desperate? I mean, they’re already charging $8 for a tiny bottle of Pepto-Bismol. Isn’t that exploitation enough?

What are your thoughts on reserved truck parking? Please leave your comments below.

Podcast show notes:

As you can tell from the title, today’s show is about this reserved truck parking that is popping up at all the truck stops. But before we get to that, listener Kevin wrote in to tell me I screwed up the Meritor jacket contest from the last podcast. He was right! We also have some gift ideas for truckers, which is handy right before Christmas. We also discuss Telsa’s fancy new electric truck and I share a mechanical tip I learned from listener Mike. But that’s not all! Connor Smith from the Big Rig Banter podcast shares his article on the Top 5 Issues In Commercial Driving.

In the feedback section, Renae shares her experience with her training and being a trainer herself, Tim points out a problem with one of my books, and Ryan thinks he couldn’t solved my overweight issue from the last podcast. And to wrap things up, Shannon lost a bet with me and had to send in an audio comment telling me how awesome I am!

Links mentioned in the intro:

The School of Podcasting podcast with host Dave Jackson

The Hindenburg Journalist Pro audio editing software that I want to purchase. Feel free to buy it for me. It’s pretty cheap. 🙄

The Audio-Technica ATR2005USB Cardioid Dynamic USB/XLR Microphone I’m hoping to buy. (not an affiliate link)

You should buy my books so I can afford the two previous products! Free text samples available! (not affiliate links)

Trucking Life: An Entertaining, Yet Informative Guide To Becoming And Being A Truck Driver
Free audiobook sample of Trucking Life
How to Find a Great Truck Driving Job

The good folks from Factor Finders supplied a handy-dandy article and infographic called Gift Ideas For Truckers. Just in time for the holidays!

This article from TheTruckersReport.com called Tesla Semi Promises 500 Mile Range, Safety, and More prompted me to talk about it on the show.

Links in Connor Smith’s article:

Connor Smith from the Big Rig Banter podcast and AllTruckJobs.com shares his article called 5 Top Issues in Commercial Truck Driving and mentions the following articles:

5 Benefits of ELDs
ATA Driver Shortage Report
Nikola One: Driving the Future of Trucking
MIT Technology Review article about Self-Driving Trucks

Links in the blog post section:

The Federal Highway Administration, or FHWA, Study of Adequacy of Commercial Truck Parking Facilities

Late night photo I took of the reserved parking area at the TA in Greencastle, PA. NEED LINK

TD124: The Overweight Axle Debacle

Unboxing of a Casper Mattress

Pilot/Flying J refund policy for reserved truck parking

Links mentioned in the feedback section:

Renae Savage talks about her training and her experience as a trainer at CR England.

Tim Rife tells me all the hyperlinks to the Trucking Company Questionnaire in my book How to Find a Great Truck Driving Job are broken. He’s right. So if you’ve had the same problem, try downloading the book again. They should be fixed by the time you’re listening to this.

Ryan Moede thinks he could’ve easily solved the overweight problem I talked about in TD124: The Overweight Axle Debacle. Is he right? Guess you’ll have to listen to find out. I mention a free PDF called How To Axle Out A Load.

Shannon Holden lost a bet with me and had to send in an audio comment telling me how awesome I am. No way this wasn’t going to make it onto the podcast!

Horrid Genius left an awesome review of the podcast over on iTunes. Thanks, Mr. Genius!

Please consider joining the Trucker Dump Podcast Facebook Group and take the poll.

Show info:

You can email your comments, suggestions, questions, or insults to TruckerDump@gmail.com

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Mystery Feedback Song – Only a cheater would click this before listening to the podcast! You aren’t a cheater, are you?

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