Parking lots are supposed to provide a sanctuary. It’s where drivers find the all-important spaces to stretch legs, inspect equipment, and log valuable downtime.
But these settings also introduce a common source of collisions.
Most of the crunching fibreglass and metal can be traced to two situations: trucks that are hit while parked, or vehicles which run into stationary objects. The majority of the crashes that remain involve drivers who sideswipe each other as they head in and out of travel plazas or fuel islands.
Every parked vehicle in a parking area introduces what amounts to an intersection and the threat of a T-bone collision. To compound matters, the surrounding trucks are often moving in every direction and don’t remain inside marked lanes. Vehicles cut across spaces at an angle and travel at unsafe speeds.
But each of these threats can be minimized by following a few key practices.
The first practice involves looking for a parking space in the middle of a row rather than stopping at the end. This will ensure that a truck is not exposed to careless drivers who clip vehicles on the outer edge. The best spaces of all will line up on an angle and allow trucks to pull straight through, giving drivers the opportunity to continue their journeys without having to reverse. At the very least, a good spot will eliminate the need for backing manoeuvres.
Vehicles can be further protected by parking clearly inside any available markings. Those who are centred between the lines will send a clear message to fellow drivers. Stray over top of a line and other motorists might begin to question where their own spots begin and end. Valuable buffers will be eroded.
Some of the most dangerous areas of all will be along the shoulders of lanes which reach into parking areas. When the sun sets and lights are turned off, many motorists can be surprised by trucks in these impromptu locations. When a spot like this can’t be avoided, visibility will offer the most effective defence. It’s yet another reason why conspicuity tape and other reflective markings need to be regularly maintained and cleaned.
Of course, the importance of visibility is not limited to the trucks alone.
Many fleets require drivers to wear reflective vests when walking through terminal yards. The same personal protective apparel can be used to enhance visibility when walking through parking areas of every sort. Those drivers who do not have the purpose-made vests can opt for lighter clothing or jackets with other reflective markings.
The strategies to remain visible do not end there. Like every other workplace, safety in a parking lot begins by assessing all potential hazards.
Another way for a driver to ensure they are seen is to maintain eye contact with all surrounding motorists, especially if wheels are turning or smoke is blowing out of an exhaust.
When such visibility is questionable, a friendly tap of the horn can offer a gentle reminder that someone is nearby.
Of course, the threats are not limited to motorists. This is where drivers are also exposed to the unpredictable actions of pedestrians who could step into a vehicle’s path without looking.
The focus on safe procedures does not end there.
Parking involves a step-by-step process. Once in position, drivers apply the parking brake, shift into the lowest forward gear, or Park with automatic transmissions, shut down the engine and remove the keys from the ignition. Only after checking the mirrors for approaching hazards should someone step down from the cab. Using three points of contact will avoid a common source of slips and falls, and a securely locked door will reduce the potential for any thefts.
Once it is time to depart, after your circle check, looking into properly adjusted mirrors will offer a view of clearances available on both sides of the vehicle. All of the steps originally used to shut down are followed in reverse. The parking brake is the last thing to be released before the wheels begin to roll. And a careful eye on the mirrors will help to track the rear of a trailer as it pulls through a space.
The best speed will not be expressed as a number, either. The driver of a moving vehicle needs to ensure that they can see and assess every parked vehicle and hazard around them as they move through the parking area.
Anyone unable to do that is travelling too fast for conditions.
But those who respect the conditions will be able to avoid a “lot” of problems.
This month’s expert is Albert Zimbalatti. Albert is an executive risk services consultant for Northbridge Insurance, and has more than 35 years providing loss control and risk management services to the trucking industry. Northbridge Insurance is a leading Canadian commercial insurer built on the strength of four companies with a long standing history in the marketplace and has been serving the trucking industry for more than 60 years. You can visit them at