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A look at one truck parking project – was it worth it?

truck parking signTruck parking is a real crisis. And that’s not an exaggeration.

However, some places are trying to solve the problem – among them British Columbia.

The province announced several weeks ago that they plan to build a truck parking facility with 150 spaces just southeast of Vancouver.

Planners say it will feature washrooms, showers and a cafeteria as well as security fences and lighting – and cost about $30 million.

However, despite the shortage of spaces, the action in Canada is not receiving universal acclaim in the trucking industry.

One example of that is OOIDA Member David Caddell of Madison, Wis.

“I’m hoping that was a typo,” David said of the cost. “These truck stops that have 100 parking spots with showers, with restaurants, with fuel, convenience store and a bunch of other stuff don’t cost $30 million.

“That’s a total waste of money.”

The cost, however, was not the only thing that bothered David about the story.

“It’s going to be centralized at one spot,” he added. “We need parking areas spread out all over the place, not centralized in one area, two or three hundred miles apart. That won’t work for safety.”

While I’m generally in favor of truck parking being added anywhere we can get it, I did think David brought up some points worth exploring. So I started to dig.

I found one website that had many examples of actual business plans, including one for a truck stop. The plan said building a truck stop would run $2.75 million. However, that was just for a 6,000-square-foot building with gas and diesel fueling, scales and a restaurant. 

This has washrooms, showers and a cafeteria as well as security fences and lighting – so most of the facilities you’d see at a truck stop, except the fueling islands. I don’t think it should run the same $2.75 million, but I think $2 million is a fair figure for what they’re building.

I found pretty solid information indicating parking lots cost from $2,500 to $4,000 a space. But that’s for cars, not trucks.

An average car space is 9 feet by 18, or about 162 square feet. A truck space would be at least 836 square feet, or five times the size of the car parking space.

I would think a truck parking lot would need heavier pavement, due to the increased weight it has to handle. However, I see a lot of truck stop parking lots that clearly didn’t do that, so I stuck with the same cost per square foot of pavement.

What I arrived at was a figure of $12,500 to $20,000 a space a truck parking lot. So 150 spaces would be – and this is pavement only – $3 million. 

That brings me to $5 million. Adjusting for the difference between the Canadian and U.S. dollar brings that $5 million up to $6.75 million – still short of $30 million.

So I tried to look at other factors that could drive up the price.

One is land acquisition. We’re talking about Canada, and I have noticed that real estate prices there are far above prices here in the states. And I mean way higher. But that’s not a scientifically valid statement; that’s me watching HGTV.

Figures comparing U.S. and Canadian land prices proved elusive. However, rural land is cheaper than urban or suburban land, and it makes sense that this facility would be on the edge of a metro area, meaning land would be closer to rural prices. However, I don’t think it can be sufficiently different enough to account for the additional $23-plus million.

So David has a point. The numbers may not add up. This may not be a cost-effective solution.

So let’s look at this from another point of view.

An average blacktop parking lot – if maintained well – should give at least 10 years of service, maybe more.

So I took the total cost of the parking area, and divided it to determine how much it costs for each space for each day – and that’s roughly $59. Assuming that’s Canadian dollars, that would mean $43 U.S.

So let’s go back to David’s concerns – that it cost too much, and that all the parking from this project was in one location, whereas parking is needed in many places.

First, is it worth it to spend $43 dollars a day to ensure that truck drivers have a safe, secure place to park? In comparison with how the government spends some other money, I’m good with that.

Second, yes, this parking is all in one place. They likely need that number in that place. But look at Texas, which has created very nice rest areas with similar numbers of parking spaces in many locations. In my mind, that would make this what we call “a good start.”

And we have to start somewhere. I’d like it to be more cost-effective, and I would like more parking in more places. But for now, I’m willing to call the situation in British Columbia a win.

And I’m glad some truckers will have a safe, secure place to park.

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