The Minnesota Department of Transportation is implementing a system for monitoring parking availability at truck stops along a section of Interstate 94.

Three rest areas on an Interstate 94 corridor to the west and northwest of the Twin Cities are equipped with the parking system to tell drivers if parking spaces are available.

The system uses a network of cameras, in-cab messaging and message signs a few miles ahead of the rest area to help truckers decide when to stop and rest. The information is also available on a website so dispatchers can relay the real-time information to truckers.

“So far the results have been positive,” said John Tompkins, the Minnesota Department of Transportation project manager. “We’ve had 95% accuracy in determining the availability of spaces.”

Thompkins says the technology will improve safety, lead to better trip and operations management by driver and carries and help truckstop owners manage their facilities more effectively.

He hopes that providing the number of spaces available at each stop will help drivers determine if they should stop at the closer location or if it’s safe to continue to the next one.

“We know truck parking is a serious issue along the highway system in the country,” said Thompkins. “Drivers on the road for more than eight hours have twice the risk of crashing compared to those driving for a shorter period of time.”

Federal hours of service rules require truck drivers to stop and rest after 11 hours of driving and could face safety issues and legal penalties if they go beyond it.

The parking availability system was funded by the Minnesota Department of Transportation and Federal Highway Administration. The University of Minnesota’s Center for Transportation developed the technology.