This project developed and demonstrated an automated truck stop management system that can determine the number of occupied parking spaces at Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) safety rest areas. The system uses a network of cameras to monitor parking availability at truck stops, automatically identifying available spaces in real time.
The system was installed at three MnDOT rest areas on Interstate 94 (I-94) west and northwest of the Twin Cities between 2012 and 2014: the Elm Creek Rest Area, Big Spunk Lake Rest Area, and Enfield Rest Area. The I-94 corridor—critical to the movement of goods in Minnesota and an important connection between trade centers on the West Coast and multiple marketplaces in the Midwest—experiences a large volume of truck traffic.
The project team used these three installations to calibrate, test, and refine the system, and achieved positive results. On average, the team found that system counts were consistently accurate to within plus or minus one parking space.
In 2014, the information collected by the system was used to notify drivers and carriers about parking availability via a website, in-cab messaging, and variable message signs along I-94. Although these communications mechanisms are no longer active, the system will continue to collect parking data from the rest areas until 2015.
This technology has the potential to improve safety, lead to better trip and operations management by drivers and carriers, and help MnDOT and private truck stop owners manage their facilities more effectively.
The potential to improve safety by reducing driver fatigue and improving a driver’s ability to park safely is one of the project’s greatest benefits. Federal hours of service rules require truck drivers to stop and rest after 11 hours of driving. If they continue, drivers could become dangerously fatigued, be forced to park in unsafe locations such as freeway ramps, or face legal penalties.
By providing information about the available number of parking spaces at each stop, this system can help drivers determine if it is safe to continue to the next rest area or if they should stop at their current location. The ability to determine when and where to stop within hours of service requirements helps drivers and carriers make better overall trip and operations decisions.
The project also provided data on facility use, which could be used by MnDOT and private site owners to determine if existing facilities are suitable for demand. The data can also be used to plan needed improvement or expansion projects.
- John Tompkins, Freight Project Manager
- Nikolaos Papanikolopoulos, Professor, Department of Computer Science and Engineering (CS&E)
- Vassilios Morellas, Program Director, CS&E
- Max Donath, Director, Intelligent Transportation Systems Institute
- Ted Morris, Information Technology Manager, CS&E
- Dan Murray, Vice President
Funding for the project was provided through the Federal Highway Administration’s Truck Parking Facilities Discretionary Grants Program and the Minnesota Department of Transportation. The FHWA grants program helps improve safety on the nation’s interstates by promoting projects that allow trucks to park safely and securely in areas away from moving traffic, instead of alongside the road itself or on ramps.