Reserving a Parking Spot Is Effective, but Costly

Published on 4/1/2024 10:15:40 AM

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NORTH MANKATO, Minn. — With 35 years of driving a big rig, Gary Schmidt knows the trucking industry.

Schmidt is a driver for Cliff Viessman Inc., which has a terminal in North Mankato, and confirms that a nationwide problem affecting drivers is occurring locally as well. That problem is the drastic shortage of spots for truckers to park their rigs at night to get sleep.

“The whole object is to make sure you have a safe space to get the proper rest so you’re safe on the road,” he said. “Safety is still the top priority. That trumps everything.”

The parking spot shortage has been an issue for years but has gotten worse, Schmidt said. As the problem has worsened, some drivers have opted for dangerous solutions, such as pulling off to the side of the road on on-ramps or off-ramps to sleep because other off-road spots are full.

Schmidt was South Dakota's 2022 grand champion of its truck driving championships, and qualified for the National Truck Driving Championships again in 2023 as the state's tank truck winner. His solution to the parking shortage is to book paid spots on his travels. He recently went south to Georgia and called ahead to truck stops on the way there and back to buy a spot.

“You have to call ahead because by 6 or 7 in the evening, it’s full.”

Paid spots aren’t a cheap solution for truckers, however. They’re typically about $20 a night, and when you’re on the road 200-plus days a year, “That’s a lot of money,” said Dan Forsythe, owner of Minnesota Valley Transport in New Ulm, Minn.

The whole object is to make sure you have a safe space to get the proper rest so you’re safe on the road. Safety is still the top priority. That trumps everything.

Cliff Viessman truck driver Gary Schmidt

Gary Schmidt

The parking shortage for truckers ranked as being among the top five concerns, according to a Minnesota Trucking Association survey, said Ryan Viessman of Cliff Viessman Inc. It’s No. 2 on the American Transportation Research Institute’s 19th annual Top Industry Issues list, released in October. Cliff Viessman Inc. ranks No. 9 on the Transport Topics list of top tank truck/bulk carriers.

“Yes, definitely there is a shortage,” said Viessman, director of operations at the company. “And it’s not only in Minnesota but all over the country.”

He calls the overcrowding “a safety issue.” Trucks are forced to go up and down a road, sometimes parking before a rest area and with their truck sticking out on the interstate a bit.

Others might drive on, far from well rested, Viessman said. But they’re still on the road because there was no place to stop and sleep. The private sector has been building stores across the country, he said, but “it isn’t keeping up with demand” for big rig parking spots.

Ben Froehlich


“It’s a constant concern,” said Ben Froehlich, vice president of operations with Volk Transfer in Mankato. “What ends up happening is drivers will short their drive time in order to make sure they’ve got safe parking. Other times, they end up having to park on ramps. It’s not safe.

“It’s a long road. We have a long ways to go to make up to where we need to be to provide enough parking. But if we don’t do something, the problem is never going to go away.”

Safety is the biggest factor for both truck drivers and the motoring public, Froehlich said.

“We don’t want motorists out there to be running into the back of semis sitting on the side of the road,” he said. “It does happen on occasion, and it turns out very poorly for the motorist.”

Forsythe said the parking shortage problem has “been going on for decades.”

John Hausladen


One solution is for truck stops to expand their footprint and add parking spaces.

John Hausladen, president and CEO of the Minnesota Trucking Association, agreed that safe and readily available truck parking is a “huge issue for the trucking industry.”

His group has been lobbying every year for expanded truck parking, and one bill the association proposed is intended to create incentives for government and public partnerships to expand truck parking.

“It’s a big problem, and it’s been ongoing,” Hausladen said.


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