Spurred by a trucker’s murder, MnDOT installing truck parking technology at rest areas

Updated Feb 10, 2018
Truckers at a Minnesota rest stop. Photo courtesy of MnDOT.Truckers at a Minnesota rest stop. Photo courtesy of MnDOT.

Minnesota is now taking action with a $1.4 million project to improve trucker’s safety at rest stops, culminating a long effort touched off by the 2009 slaying of New York-based trucker Jason Rivenburg.

Work is now under way by the Minnesota Department of Transportation to install technology at seven rest areas in the state that will help truck drivers find safe parking along high-volume freight corridors, the agency says.

Minnesota is working in tandem with seven other states to implement the Regional Truck Parking Information and Management System. It will collect and broadcast real-time parking availability on dynamic message signs.

Jason RivenburgJason Rivenburg

Rivenburg, 35, was shot twice and killed in a robbery for $7 cash as he cleaned his dashboard at an abandoned gas station in South Carolina.

The long-distance trucker, who was father to a toddler and unborn twins, had spent the night sleeping at that abandoned station, as many truckers did. His killer was sentenced to life in prison, and two accessories were also convicted.

In the aftermath, truck parking and trucker’s safety became a national concern, and in 2012, “Jason’s Law” became part of the federal highway bill. The section of the law opened up funding in an attempt to heighten safety for truckers who need to park.

MnDOT and the other participating states had first proposed a project to heighten trucker’s safety following the murder. The federal legislation put a national spotlight on addressing the shortage of long-term parking for truckers.


Parking availability will be posted along interstate corridors and online

In Minnesota, the signs will be posted along the I-35 and I-94 corridors and on MnDOT’s 511 traveler information website. The network is slated to become operational in January 2019, however some states, including Minnesota, could become operational sooner.

“Truck drivers sometimes spend 30 minutes or more looking for parking spots. We want to help them find safe, reliable parking so they don’t waste time looking, which decreases their downtime, and so they can move their products faster,” says Dan Rowe, Minnesota’s state project manager.

“There will also be less fuel consumption and reduced emissions.”

The technology includes in-pavement sensors that detect the presence of the truck above it and send the information to MnDOT’s Regional Transportation Management Center. The RTMC technology interprets the data and sends the appropriate number of available parking spaces to the dynamic message signs.


Trucking dispatcher can relay parking availability to drivers

Trucking companies’ dispatchers can also access the information on the 511 truckers’ page and relay the availability to their drivers.

Other states participating in the project are Iowa, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin.

Truckers are required to comply with hours-of-service rules that limit how many hours they can drive. Fatigued driving is a major cause of preventable truck crashes.

“Rest areas fill up at night and truckers often park on exit ramps, which are unauthorized spots,” Rowe says. “This is a safety concern and when we provide safe parking for truckers, we also save lives by getting fatigued drivers off the road.”

Project funding comes from a $25 million U.S. DOT TIGER grant and the states. MnDOT contributed $177,500 to the project’s $1.4 million cost.

In Minnesota, the seven rest areas with the technology will be at Lake Lakota, Big Spunk Lake, Enfield, Elm Creek, St. Croix, Heath Creek and Forest Lake.