News | PSR Hosts Seminar on Balancing of Truck Parking Demand by a Centralized Incentives/Pricing System

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by Hayley Rundle, USC Master of Urban Planning

On Tuesday, April 12th, the Pacific Southwest University Transportation Center (PSR) hosted Professor Petros Ioannou for a seminar on the challenges of truck parking. Titles “Balancing of Truck Parking Demand by a Centralized Incentives/Parking System,” the seminar featured METRANS-funded research from Dr. Ioannou and USC Electrical and Computer Engineering PhD student Filipe Vital. Dr. Ioannou is a professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering, where he is the AV. Bal* Balakrishnan Chair and the Director of the Center of Advanced Transportation Technologies.


The seminar drew an enthusiastic audience of transportation researchers, practitioners, and students. The session began with a formal presentation and ended with a discussion of the audience’s questions.


The main objective of this research, Dr. Ioannou explained, is to develop a centralized truck parking system that is able to balance truck parking utilization in time and space by using full information about supply and demand. This research was motivated by surveys that found that most truck drivers use unauthorized parking locations at least once a week. Additionally, studies report that truck drivers spend more than 30 minutes looking for parking or park one hour earlier than required in order to guarantee parking. Overall, this reduces productivity. Further, less than 50% of truck stops reported working at overcapacity, and the reported difficulties were usually between the time period of 7PM and 5AM.


Dr. Ioannou emphasized that this topic is important, in no small part because trucking is a $700 billion industry, and therefore, improvements to productivity in the trucking industry could have significant impacts on the country’s economy. Searching for parking or stopping early has a significant impact on driver productivity, causing an estimated reduction of 93,000 driven miles per year. Further, the United States had more than 50,000 truck-related accidents in 2017. Most truck-at-fault accidents were caused by mistakes in drivers’ perception or decision making, which can be affected by fatigue due to lack of available truck parking space to stop and rest.


Dr. Ioannou noted that a survey conducted in 2013 interviewed 4,000 truck drivers on Interstate 5 in California and found that 40% of truck drivers spend over an hour to find night parking. To find night parking, 28% of truck drivers regularly or occasionally stay on freeway ramps, 52% pull up behind shopping center, and 45% hunt for places like abandoned gas station or vacant strip malls to park. However, although many truck drivers report difficulty finding nighttime truck parking, less than 50% of truck stops report operating at overcapacity at night. This suggests that drivers are going to the same rest areas at the same time. Thus, better distribution of truck parking demand over time and space can help mitigate the parking shortage.


To solve this problem, the researchers propose creating a system to achieve balancing parking across time and space so that overall system and users benefit by utilizing available capacities. To do this, they must make a set of assumptions, such as that each truck driver is choosing routes and parking while attempting to minimizing overall cost, including parking cost, under certain constraints. Parking rates depend on both time slot and location. Each truck is identified by an origin, destination, departure time, delivery time, initial state based on hours-of-service (HOS) regulations and an hourly operational cost. Penalties regarding parking difficulties at some locations and times are treated as parking costs. The central coordinator changes the parking costs dynamically based on expected demand in an iterative manner until all overcapacity issues are removed. Lastly, different scenarios are used to evaluate the impact of pricing on truck driver decisions assuming they are all going for the least cost solution.


Visual of the system the research proposes for balancing truck parking demand.


The seminar wrapped up with Dr. Ioannou reviewing the results of the research regarding balancing demand for truck parking. The research proposed a centrally coordinated pricing scheme to balance parking demand where planners (truck drivers) make their own decisions about routing and parking and propose them to the coordinator. The coordinator of the system identified parking locations where demand exceeds capacity and changes prices to influence changes in time and space. The process is iterative and stops when no parking locations have demand that exceeds capacity for any given time slot. Lastly, central coordination allows the researchers to look at the system as a whole and utilize hidden capacities in time and space, benefitting the system and user.


About the Author:

Hayley Rundle is a second-year Master of Urban Planning student at the USC Price School of Public Policy, concentrating in Mobility and Transportation Planning. Hayley is interested in sustainable transportation planning to improve environmental quality, equity, and mobility for all. Hayley serves as the team leader for the METRANS Industry Engagement and contributes to the Student Research Team, summarizing cutting edge transportation research projects and findings for the METRANS Fast Facts for Students series.