By Ted Harvey, SPR Associates Inc.
In May 2018, SPR Associates of Toronto submitted a report to The Ontario Ministry of Transportation (MTO) on long-haul truck parking and rest areas along Southern Ontario Highways. This $280,000 Study involved a major review of truck parking in Southern Ontario and was led by Dr. Ted Harvey of SPR, with a U.S. and Canadian advisory panel of engineers and transportation and safety specialists. This state-of-the-art project was the most thorough study of this issue ever conducted in Canada, or perhaps anywhere, with engineering simulations based on over 450,000 truck trips on 25 highway segments, and online surveys of over 2,300 Canadian and U.S. truck drivers. Several hundred trucking companies were also surveyed. The goal of the Study was to assess the extent to which there is a shortage of truck parking and rest areas in Ontario and to make recommendations to address this issue.
The Study focused mainly on the highway 401 corridor from Detroit-Windsor to the Québec border, but with attention also to other 400 highways and rural areas. The 400 corridor, used by some 40,000 trucks per day, is a vital part of the supply chain for the Greater Toronto Area as well as the rest of Ontario. The surveys yielded detailed estimates of the need for parking on 25 Ontario highway segments and for over 70 existing truck stops. Drivers provided over 60,000 ratings of the difficulty of finding parking at all these locations. We also examined the history of implementation of Hours of Service (HOS) and Electronic Logging Device (ELD) regulations which limit driving hours to ensure rest. HOS drives the parking shortage and has been neglected by MTO for the past 15 years. On January 7, 2021, MTO issued a press release describing their proposed remedies to the parking shortage.
SPR’s Study confirmed that the longstanding truck parking shortage is a major issue for Ontario, resulting in extremely negative impacts on drivers and the trucking industry in general. The Study demonstrated that driver fatigue from not being able to find a safe place to park to rest or sleep results in a higher risk of collisions and risks to public safety. More broadly, the shortage of parking was noted to have extraordinary economic costs and other negative impacts, for example on driver health and the workforce. Key findings were:
- There is a current shortage of between 1,200 and 2,600 truck parking spaces in Southern Ontario (with an estimated 3,900 parking spots currently available, and some 1,000 parking spots lost in the past five years, mainly from the closing of the Fifth Wheel chain of truck stops).
- The most severe shortage of parking is in Central Ontario and the GTA, with a lesser but still noteworthy shortage of parking within other zones surrounding highway 401 and other highways across Ontario.
- MTO’s efforts to create truck parking at ONroute centres in the three years preceding the study are regarded as ineffective by truck drivers and trucking companies. Improvements to ONroute parking areas were seen as mostly aesthetic, creating prettier parking, with no real increase in truck parking spots.
- Nearly all drivers surveyed (97.5%) reported that they regularly had trouble finding parking. The study showed that resulting fatigue was a major risk factor for collisions and public safety. Drivers also reported negative impacts on their overall health due to a lack of parking and resulting stress and fatigue.
- The search for adequate parking costs drivers an estimated $15,000 per year for full-time drivers, looking for parking, fuel costs etc. (Estimated using the U.S. Trucker Path cost model). Overall, SPR estimates these costs to trucking companies and independent drivers total hundreds of millions of dollars per year.
Significance to Ontario and the Trucking Industry
The parking shortage impacts the economy, infrastructure, the supply chain, food insecurity, and the health of the trucking industry. Drivers are most directly impacted. When drivers cannot find legal parking, they must, resort to illegal catch-as-catch-can parking on the sides of highways, on municipal streets, or at ‘big box’ stores. This exposes drivers to long searches for parking, fines for parking in unsafe locations, crime, harassment, and violence. (Trucks, August 2, 2016, Truck Parking Shortage Exposes Drivers to Crime, Other Danger.)
Key SPR Recommendations in 2018
SPR recommended a focus on Southern Ontario, and its economies (1) the creation of over 350 new parking spots each year; (2) provincial leadership of stakeholders, e.g. partnerships with municipalities and others to address the truck parking issue, (3) public safety (driver fatigue = collisions), (4) land banking (potentially using vast acreages expropriated in the 1970s for the never-built Pickering airport); (5) use of other available land for emergency parking; and (6) creation of an industry advisory panel (including drivers).
To read the full report, Asleep at the Wheel: A Critique of the Ontario Ministry of Transportation Response to the 2018 Highway Truck Parking Study, and an Action Plan for Discussion, visit www.privatefleetinfo.com. For more information, contact Ted Harvey at firstname.lastname@example.org.