The Truck Parking Conundrum

A significant challenge that all commercial truck drivers face today is finding a safe place to park. With driver numbers at an all-time high, finding a safe and legal place to park can be a real challenge the later in the evening it gets. Add to that the current trend of corporate-owned truckstops (i.e., TA/Petro, Loves, Pilot, etc.) converting formerly “free” parking spaces to the “Reserved” parking spots. Both of these situations can leave drivers in the uncomfortable position of having to “create” a parking spot on their own, where and when they can.

Not All Truckstops Are Created Equal

Every driver on the road has found their “favorite” truckstops. Some drivers are partial to the TA/Petro chain. Others prefer the Loves or the Pilot/Flying J chains. Still others like to sleep in out of the way spots and rest areas. Whatever your preference, it is safe to say there are more trucks looking for spots at the end of the day than available spots out here.

Too Many Trucks, Not Enough Spots

I don’t believe it’s possible for any driver running at night, not to find that truckstop after truckstop is full when it’s time to park. Since the implementation of the ELD’s, this has made it difficult for some drivers to get shut-down before the dreaded clock ticks to zero. There is a fix. Finish your day by 4 PM. I realize that for many drivers this isn’t feasible.

Smelling blood in the water, Travel Centers of America (TA/Petro) was the first of the Big 3 to offer “Reserved” parking accommodations. Reserved Parking is a pleasant name for a parking spot that costs between $14 and $18 dollars for one night (Check in @ 4pm, Check out by 3pm the next day).

At first, this seemed like a useful option in a pinch. Most of their sites had between 4 and 10 Reserved spaces. At first. Now there are sites with nearly a third of the parking as reserved. Pilot/Flying J followed shortly after. In their defense, i have never been to one of their sites that had more than 10 paid spots. It’s only been recently that Loves has started too get into the game. I have been to 2 Loves locations with paid parking. I think it is safe to assume that all the locations that can, will follow suit.

Reserved Parking vs. Paid Parking (Is there a difference?)

Paid parking is not a new concept. Most truckstops in close proximity to major cities (especially in the northeast and around Chicago, Houston, Dallas, etc.) have paid parking. $15 to $25 per night. So, not different than these reserved spaces, right? Wrong. Nearly all the sites that require money to park will accept a receipt for 60 gallons of fuel or money spent inside the truckstop. This is manageable because drivers can often spend some money on dinner or snacks or get fuel (they do this normally).

Reserved parking is a flat fee upfront to secure the space. TA/Petro has amended their system to accept shower credits and points earned for parking fees. To use the Ultra-one credit for parking a driver must fuel up 1250 gallons the previous month (Gear Lvl 4). Pilot/Flying J and Loves only accept money. The sense from the truckstop employees is if you get here early you can park in a free spot, if not…

Full Disclosure

I personally don’t have an issue with paying to park. It’s a tax write-off and based on what I see happening to these truckstops, it’s going to get worse. This is not a popular position at the lunch counter, I can assure you. My feelings are conflicted. On the one hand, it feels like one more hand in a driver’s pocket. On the other, if I owned a truckstop, I would definitely be charging people to park on site. I know first hand how disgusting some drivers are. The maintenance costs for keeping the lot cleaned and trash collected alone would make me charge rent for the evening. All that said, Paid Parking and Reserved Parking are two separate animals because one can be mitigated by spending money a driver would normally spend and the other cannot.

Managing Your Chains

Untangling The Issue

Anyone with a closed headache rack knows the frustration of tangled, bunched, and buried chains. A few years ago I made the decision to cut all my chains in half making them a bit easier to handle. So my 25′ 5/16″ chains with two hooks became two separate 12.5′ 5/16″ chains with one hook. My 20′ 3/8″ chains with two hooks became two separate 10′ 3/8″ chains with one hook.

It’s madness they cried! What do you do when you need hooks on both ends or longer chains, idiot? Im glad you asked.

The Midlink

A Midlink, as the name implies, allows you to “link in the middle” of two open (i.e. No Hook) lengths of chain. They are manufactured by grade and class (you want G70 and F16) and size (5/16″ – 3/8″ – 1/2″ depending on your chain size). They are available at most securement shops and some trailer repair shops that have a supply store as well. I got mine from Tri-City Canvas in Granite City, IL. It doesn’t matter where you buy them because the size, grade, and rating are stamped on the piece.

What Do I Need?

The Midlink will come with both clevis pins and the two cotter pins to secure them. You’ll need to buy one Midlink for each chain (approx $8.00 each). This list assumes you already have the chains. If not, you can forget the grinder/cutting wheel. Have the shop you buy the chains from cut them first. Most will do at no charge when buying new but, some I have heard of charge a “cutting fee”. Usually no more than $5.00 each.

  • Angle Grinder/Cutting Wheel
  • One Hair Pin (this is an open style of cotter pin)
  • Needle Nose Pliers

That’s it.

Stretch the chain out with the hooks sided by side. Find the middle link and cut through both sides. You lose one link and alacazam! Two chains.

Attach a midlink permanently to the end of half you new chain sections with one of the supplied “straight cotter pins”.

Connect the other end of the chain only when you need the longer chain.

Drop the other clevis pin through and secure with the hair pin. Line up the Chainlink and Midlink. Insert Clevis Pin. Secure with Hair Pin.

PROS AND CONS

There is always good with the bad. Lets start with good!

The Good

  • Chains are half the weight. 
  • Easier to handle. 
  • Much easier to drag out of the headache rack. I have had no bound or tangled chains since doing this. 
  • I have noticed that the types of materials that commonly need more than 10′ of chain aren’t something I do often. 
  • Less extra chain to wrap up after you secure your load.

The Bad

  • It will take a few times for you to remember you have an extra 10 minutes of prep to secure. By this I mean after I cut my chains, I didn’t have to link them for months. When I picked up a load of cable reels (and needed 15+ feet of chain) I found myself scrambling to get them linked up instead of doing it while I sat in line waiting. (Duh)
  • Disconnecting them adds time. Not much with practice but still additional time. Our time is money as they say.
  • I’ll add this last item with an *. I picked up at an aerospace company that will remain nameless. They nearly refused to let me load because their “Safety Guy” had never heard of the Midlink. I waited an hour while he “Googled” it. Other than that I’ve never had a problem.