Mini-Guide to safe truck and car parking

Kentucky single-unit coal truck with poor guard and poor visibility or conspicuity.


Pre-plan your trip to include safe parking areas such as truck stops, company parking, and motels. Map low-speed roadways if needed to avoid high-speed roadway parking or stopping. Always include parking pre-trip safety planning training in your company or employee safety manual. Never park on high-speed roadways unless you are emergency parking, always light lamps and place triangles!

Tips from

“70 percent of truck drivers wake with the sun and start driving in the morning. Driven by their desire to find parking space for the night, many simply prioritize finding a safe place to stop, get a meal, and sleep before additional rolling time (FreightWaves). A recent poll supports this logic. About two-thirds of respondent drivers said they now find parking lots full or almost full earlier in the evening, and only about 6 percent claim to drive at night (Overdrive).”

1. Use Radar to Find Open Spots. As part of an 8-state partnership with the Mid America Association of State Transportation Officials (AASHTO), Iowa is using its share of a $25 million grant to install in-ground “puck” sensors and radar sensors that will help truckers locate open parking spaces in rest stops and private locations along I-80 (FreightWaves). Florida also installed a Truck Availability Parking System to monitor spaces at weigh stations and rest stop locations along heavily traveled interstates (FleetOwner).

2. Reserve a Parking Space. Several websites and mobile apps allow drivers to reserve parking spots online, some free and some for a fee, with the idea to integrate data with ELDs in the future. The idea is to help drivers plan their routes around safe, available parking. Available apps include TruckPark, TruckerPath, TA, Prime Parking, Truck Parking USA, and others.

3. Park with a Shipper of Choice. The terms “shipper of choice,” “receiver of choice,” and “preferred shipper” are often touted as best-case-scenarios for drivers and shippers alike. Such shippers are known to offer parking spaces to drivers for breaks, which earns them preferred status among weary drivers. Unfortunately, parking at shipper locations is not in abundance, but a new mobile app called Dock411 could change that. The app provides crowd-sourced driver reviews of loading dock locations and lets shippers outline services they offer to drivers, including parking. Shippers, take note: Rising freight demand, tougher regulations, and a current shortage of 60,000 drivers mean less available capacity for shippers. Because carriers will have the power to choose which customers they work with, it’s imperative to position your business as a preferred shipper. Offering amenities like safe overnight parking can go a long way in ensuring load coverage.

Changing arrival times with pre-trip planning would eliminate 3/4 of drivers looking for parking during the same evening hours, truckers and companies claim we must provide free parking rather than a simple change to their schedules. Reserve a parking space, yes, we have apps for this! Use only “Receivers of Choice” or pressure your receiver to provide 24 hour parking or to open during load arrival hours. Use apps or the telephone to check on availability of spaces during your planned arrival hours.

Quote from the Wall Street Journal:

“The FHA found that one of the most critical issues cited by law enforcement and safety regulators in the study is the dilemma they face when they encounter trucks parked—often illegally—on road shoulders.”

“Police know the reason is often that the trucker got tired or ran out of his 11 hours of drive time but couldn’t find a parking place. “A driver sleeping in a truck parked on the side of a highway may be more of a danger if he or she is awakened and ordered to vacate the premises,” the study noted.”

This is the sad outcome that control of this issue has been given to trucking unions and parked truck victims are not allowed to be part of the conversation. It takes 5 seconds to place triangles and a minute or two to find a slow speed parking location. Any law enforcement officer allowing illegal parking on freeway ramps or high-speed locations should be cited for homicide if this activity more dangerous than drinking and driving results in deaths. This has been a problem for fifty years and the ATA and U.S. Government refuse to publicly provide safety guidance on this critical issue. Do not park on ramps or high-speed roadways, whenever parked or disabled place triangles or other safety devices. Stay out of the CRASH lane!

It is the responsibility of the shipper, receiver, and truck driver to pre-plan safe truck parking. Contact the receiver and establish best time for local parking, availability of spaces, does receiver have on-site parking and if not can this be accomplished for future regular shipments as part of cost of doing business. Contact local private parking and make sure spaces will be available upon your arrival. Know the location of nearby rest areas. In case of emergency, establish locations of safer lower speed roadways. Shipper, regular customer or route, buy parking location as part of doing business. Safety train to always place triangles and light hazard flashers. If you live in the big city you usually must buy or rent a parking space, businesses have the same responsibility. Never park or disable on high-speed roadways or shoulders, never if avoidable. It is never fatigue, illegal parking is always a dangerous choice, parking deaths are the most preventable trucking safety issue. It is never fatigue! Include pre-trip safety planning as part of your parking safety training in your company or employee manual.

More areas for long-haul trucks to park could help prevent some crashes

Truckers Report – Warning Triangle Reflectors Discussion

AAA What to do when your vehicle breaks down – PDF


Download (PDF, 75KB)

The crash lane or shoulder on high-speed roadways earned it’s name due to numerous preventable fatal crashes. Even the ATA (American Trucking Association) was recommending not to park on high-speed roadways for many years. Due to flawed underride guards on trucks and trailers crashing into the back of a truck turns fatal above 25 mph. We also have problems with visibility of parked cars and trucks on high-speed roadways. Unfortunately, truck and auto makers use red and white for both reflective tape and reflectors. We have a phenomenon at night for highway drivers called Red-Dot confusion which is caused by all of the red lights from multiple vehicles making it difficult to recognize a hazard situation ahead exists in time to react and avoid a collision. There is also a similar and related phenomenon called Moth-to-Flame which relates to a drivers tendency to follow the vehicle ahead, a deadly occurrence for stopped or parked vehicles.

We must demand the Federal government update the red and white reflective tape regulations to require fluorescent colors which have higher candlepower and help prevent Red-Dot confusion. A Canadian study found white tape increased driver recognition by over 350 feet from that of red and white tape. Fluorescent colors have similar candlepower to white tape with the added visibility of color for daytime recognition. Lime green and bright orange are commonplace on traffic signs and emergency vehicles because of their superior candlepower. Increasing the amount of reflectors and maintaining cleanliness of reflective material can also increase reaction time for motorists approaching slow moving trucks on hills and in slow moving traffic. Road film can decrease effectiveness of tape and reflectors by 90%. Clean your tape and reflectors at every pre-trip inspection to save lives.

The law requires for trucks and trailers and we recommend for cars to always light emergency flashers and place triangles whenever you are parking on a high-speed roadway (30 mph and above). Always park on low-speed roadways (Below 30 mph) if you are able to, and also park under street lights if available. Reaction time for recognizing the hazard and then taking emergency actions such as swerving or braking can take several seconds and so requires a long distance of warning of the hazard ahead. Flashers and triangles give warning of an hazard and will also give warning of an parked or stopped vehicle. They prevent both Red-Dot confusion and Moth-to-Flame accidents. Disabled trucks must always light emergency flashers and place triangles or other warning devices. Too many rear of truck fatal crashes are preventable with 2 minutes of effort.

In the event of a spilled fuel fire around the crash threatening the underriding car or vehicle:

Obtain the truck or trailers fire extinguisher and fight the fire, if the fire is going to take the lives within the crashed vehicle, as a last resort, pull the truck forward to pull the vehicle away from the spilled fuel. Always as a last resort as this is a dangerous maneuver!

Crash Statistics and Quotes

NHTSA in 1991 stated “Rear impacts involving underride, which are virtually all PCI (Passenger Compartment Intrusion), have the highest severe injury rate, from 25-28 percent of all injuries sustained in rear end crashes. Without doubt, the great majority of these serious injuries occur above 30 mph, especially when one acknowledges the fact that two-thirds of all rear impact closing speeds are judged to exceed 30 mph. It is not surprising that severe injury production would be inordinately high in rear impacts by passenger cars given the statistical anomaly that over 50% of combination truck rear underride crashes by passenger vehicles occurred with big rigs that were stopped on the shoulders of high-speed highways.” The current U.S. guard standards were acknowledged to be effective to 27 mph, a 40 mph standard was acknowledged to be feasible, but was overruled as not cost-effective due to a 40% higher cost for the stronger guards. Modern cars can survive a 35 mph impact into a stiff wall but an impact with current U.S. underride guards above 25 mph can often be fatal.

Excerpt from NHTSA – Heavy-Vehicle Crash Data Collection And Analysis to Characterize Rear and Side Underride and Front Override in Fatal Truck Crashes: Impact speed estimation

“Impact speeds and relative speed of trucks and light vehicles at impact were estimated for 193 light vehicles that struck the rear of a truck in fatal crashes. The mean velocity of trucks at impact was estimated at 16.3 mph, but almost 41 percent were stopped at impact and 52 percent were estimated to be going 5 mph or less (including stopped). For striking vehicles, mean speed was 59.8 mph at impact, with a range of 15 mph to 110 mph. Relative velocity is more meaningful in terms of impact however. Overall, the mean relative velocity at impact was estimated at 44.0 mph. About 32 percent of the impacts occurred at relative velocities less than 35 mph, and in 43 percent, the relative velocity was 40 mph or less. However, many impacts were at very high relative velocities, and probably not survivable. In over 25 percent of the cases, relative velocity was over 55 mph and in 13 percent it was more than 60 mph.”

Quote from the Desk Book:

“The Washington State Department of Transportation has stated, “Millions of dollars are spent each year to make highways safer and the roadside features more forgiving to errant drivers. Why, then, do we tolerate parked or abandoned vehicles to remain along our highways for extended periods of time? We have designed standards that require a ‘clear zone’ on limited access highways. Nothing can be placed in this zone without providing protection to the motorist in the form of a guardrail, barrier, crash cushions, or breakaway supports. Yet, we allow heavy vehicles to stand a few feet or even inches from the traveled lanes”

Truck Parking Regulation for U.S.

Part 392

§ 392.22: Emergency signals; stopped commercial motor vehicles.

(a) Hazard warning signal flashers. Whenever a commercial motor vehicle is stopped upon the traveled portion of a highway or the shoulder of a highway for any cause other than necessary traffic stops, the driver of the stopped commercial motor vehicle shall immediately activate the vehicular hazard warning signal flashers and continue the flashing until the driver places the warning devices required by paragraph (b) of this section. The flashing signals shall be used during the time the warning devices are picked up for storage before movement of the commercial motor vehicle. The flashing lights may be used at other times while a commercial motor vehicle is stopped in addition to, but not in lieu of, the warning devices required by paragraph (b) of this section.

(b) Placement of warning devices —(1) General rule. Except as provided in paragraph (b)(2) of this section, whenever a commercial motor vehicle is stopped upon the traveled portion or the shoulder of a highway for any cause other than necessary traffic stops, the driver shall, as soon as possible, but in any event within 10 minutes, place the warning devices required by § 393.95 of this subchapter, in the following manner:

(i) One on the traffic side of and 4 paces (approximately 3 meters or 10 feet) from the stopped commercial motor vehicle in the direction of approaching traffic;

(ii) One at 40 paces (approximately 30 meters or 100 feet) from the stopped commercial motor vehicle in the center of the traffic lane or shoulder occupied by the commercial motor vehicle and in the direction of approaching traffic; and

(iii) One at 40 paces (approximately 30 meters or 100 feet) from the stopped commercial motor vehicle in the center of the traffic lane or shoulder occupied by the commercial motor vehicle and in the direction away from approaching traffic.

(2) Special rules —(i) Fusees and liquid-burning flares. The driver of a commercial motor vehicle equipped with only fusees or liquid-burning flares shall place a lighted fusee or liquid-burning flare at each of the locations specified in paragraph (b)(1) of this section. There shall be at least one lighted fusee or liquid-burning flare at each of the prescribed locations, as long as the commercial motor vehicle is stopped. Before the stopped commercial motor vehicle is moved, the driver shall extinguish and remove each fusee or liquid-burning flare.

(ii) Daylight hours. Except as provided in paragraph (b)(2)(iii) of this section, during the period lighted lamps are not required, three bidirectional reflective triangles, or three lighted fusees or liquid-burning flares shall be placed as specified in paragraph (b)(1) of this section within a time of 10 minutes. In the event the driver elects to use only fusees or liquid-burning flares in lieu of bidirectional reflective triangles or red flags, the driver must ensure that at least one fusee or liquid-burning flare remains lighted at each of the prescribed locations as long as the commercial motor vehicle is stopped or parked.

(iii) Business or residential districts. The placement of warning devices is not required within the business or residential district of a municipality, except during the time lighted lamps are required and when street or highway lighting is insufficient to make a commercial motor vehicle clearly discernable at a distance of 500 feet to persons on the highway.

(iv) Hills, curves, and obstructions. If a commercial motor vehicle is stopped within 500 feet of a curve, crest of a hill, or other obstruction to view, the driver shall place the warning signal required by paragraph (b)(1) of this section in the direction of the obstruction to view a distance of 100 feet to 500 feet from the stopped commercial motor vehicle so as to afford ample warning to other users of the highway.

(v) Divided or one-way roads. If a commercial motor vehicle is stopped upon the traveled portion or the shoulder of a divided or one-way highway, the driver shall place the warning devices required by paragraph (b)(1) of this section, one warning device at a distance of 200 feet and one warning device at a distance of 100 feet in a direction toward approaching traffic in the center of the lane or shoulder occupied by the commercial motor vehicle. He/she shall place one warning device at the traffic side of the commercial motor vehicle within 10 feet of the rear of the commercial motor vehicle.

(vi) Leaking, flammable material. If gasoline or any other flammable liquid, or combustible liquid or gas seeps or leaks from a fuel container or a commercial motor vehicle stopped upon a highway, no emergency warning signal producing a flame shall be lighted or placed except at such a distance from any such liquid or gas as will assure the prevention of a fire or explosion.

Citation: [37 FR 17175, Aug. 25, 1972, as amended at 40 FR 10685, Mar. 7, 1975; 47 FR 47837, Oct. 28, 1982; 48 FR 57139, Dec. 23, 1983; 59 FR 34711, July 6, 1994; 60 FR 38747, July 28, 1995; 63 FR 33279, June 18, 1998]