Last year, more than 100 million people hit the nation’s highways between Dec. 23 and Jan. 2, according to the American Automobile Association (AAA). Experts predict that this year’s holiday traffic patterns will be just as active.
But for professional truck drivers, crowded roads aren’t the only potential holiday headache. So too are jam-packed parking areas.
Right now, a lack of available truck parking nationwide ranks as the No. 1 industry concern among truckers, according to the American Transportation Research Institute’s annual survey. And with the holidays bringing more truck traffic due to increased package deliveries and returns, it could be harder than ever to find a safe place to park.
These five tips can help you survive the holiday season, find safe parking, and protect yourself, your vehicle, and your cargo.
1. Plan Ahead
“Good dispatch at the beginning of the day will save you time throughout the entire day,” says Chuck Pagesy, Director of Safety at Penske. Look at your route at the start of the day, and identify safe parking areas close to your destination. Start your route early if possible—truck stops can reach capacity as early as 7 p.m. Consider reserving a parking spot in advance.
2. Watch Your Hours of Service (HOS)
If you wait until the last minute to find parking, you could run out of hours. Keep an eye on your HOS throughout the day to reduce the risk of a potential violation.
3. Choose Wisely
Always park in well-lit areas. If possible, choose a spot you can pull in and out of easily without needing to back up. Avoid spots where other trucks are parked at odd angles or over the painted lines. Try not to park at the end of a row, which is where collisions are more likely.
4. Know Where Not to Park
Do not park on the shoulder of the highway or on offramps and onramps.
5. Lock It Up
Lock all doors and hide valuables such as wallets and smartphones. Close all windows. Consider using window shades. Make sure your cargo is secure. Dash cams may also help deter thieves.
If you have a breakdown or need to pull over for any reason this holiday season, remember to wear a high-visibility safety vest. This will increase the chances you’ll be seen by oncoming drivers.