Work underway to improve truck parking in Southern Ontario

by Sonia Straface

TORONTO, Ont. — A study into truck parking and rest stops in Southern Ontario is underway and the findings could lead to the improved availability and quality of truck stops along major highways.

SPR Associates, a research and consulting firm in Toronto, was chosen by the Ontario Ministry of Transportation to conduct the three-pronged study that involves consultations with Canadian trucking associations, a survey with more than 1,000 truck drivers, and a detailed analysis by traffic engineering experts.

Unsurprisingly, truck parking and rest stop quality has been an issue for truck drivers across the country, especially in Southern Ontario. Commercial drivers have groaned about the lack of safe and adequate parking in the province for years. And it’s only been getting worse over time as many formerly privately-owned stations have permanently closed, like the Fifth Wheel truck stops in Bowmanville, Milton, Grimsby, and Dorchester, Ont.

In late 2016, the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) estimated that drivers spent about one hour of drive time on average per day to look for parking – totalling US$4,600 in lost wages annually because of the truck parking shortage.

According to SPR Associates consultant Ted Harvey, the study hopes to find details of the inadequate truck parking and rest stops in the southern part of the province and recommend improvements to the MTO.

“Because of all the truck stops closing and the increasing enforcement on the hours-of-service regulations, drivers are caught between a rock and hard place,” he said. “Lack of parking has also been to blame for instances of fatigue which is a public safety issue.”

The study began in August, and findings are scheduled to be released in April 2018.

The first part of the study involves consultations with key trucking associations in London, Toronto, and Ottawa in October to help identify and brainstorm ways to address the shortage of truck parking.

So far, SPR said it has gained support from the Ontario Trucking Association, the Private Motor Truck Council of Canada, the Owner-Operator’s Business Association of Canada, Women’s Trucking Federation of Canada, the British Columbia Trucking Association and the Alberta Motor Transport Association.

The study will also include a major survey of drivers who frequently travel along the major highways in Southern Ontario.

“Our survey is going to ask truckers to identify specific zones on Ontario highways where parking is especially insufficient and to recommend ways to improve that,” Harvey explained, saying the hope is to gain feedback from more than 1,000 drivers.

The survey is set to roll out online from November to February, and Harvey said the goal is to reach drivers through reputable longhaul trucking companies and members of the various provincial partner associations. Drivers do not need to live and work in the Southern Ontario area, Harvey clarified saying, “We want to hear from drivers who use Southern Ontario highways. They can come from Quebec, Western or Eastern Canada or the U.S., but we want to make sure they use the Southern Ontario highways frequently.”

The final part of the study is having traffic engineering experts tally up all adequate truck stop and parking spaces in Southern Ontario since, Harvey said, there is no definitive list or inventory of how many stops there are in the province, and what services those rest stops provide.

In the end, Harvey said that so far everything is scheduled to go according to plan with the study being concluded and findings to be released in April 2018. He is hopeful the study will provide the relief many in the trucking industry are all too familiar with.

“Truck drivers are important to us since their work is critical to the economy,” he said. “We are hoping our work or survey will help to identify specific areas where parking shortages are greatest and recommend to the ministry how we can alleviate them.”

You can take the survey by clicking here.

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