Millions of people who live and work in cities purchase goods online. As ecommerce and urban deliveries spike, there is an increasing demand for curbside loading and unloading space. To better manage city curb spaces for urban freight, city planners and decision makers need to understand commercial vehicle driver behaviors and the factors they consider when parking at the curb.
Urban freight transportation is a diverse phenomenon. Commercial vehicle drivers must overcome several obstacles and adapt to various rules and policies to properly navigate the intricate metropolitan network and make deliveries and pick-ups. However, other road users and occasionally municipal planners generally view them as contributing considerably to urban congestio, responsible for unauthorized parking, double parking, and exceeding their legal parking time.
These realities reflect the need for a thorough comprehension of commercial vehicle operators’ core decision-making procedures and parking habits to inform and adjust curb management policies and procedures. However, more robust corroborated literature on the subject is needed. The information used in these studies is typically obtained from empirical field research, which, while valuable, is limited to certain situations and case scenarios. Therefore, to improve the operation of urban transportation networks, it is necessary to study commercial vehicle drivers’ parking behavior in a controlled environment.
This project used a heavy vehicle driving simulator to examine commercial vehicle drivers’ curbside parking behaviors in various environments in shared urban areas. Also observed were the interactions between commercial vehicle drivers and other road users.
The experiment was successfully completed by 12 participants. Five independent variables were included in this experiment: number of lanes (two-lane and four-lane roads), bike lane existence, passenger vehicle parking space availability, commercial vehicle loading zones (CVLZs) (no CVLZ, occupied CVLZs, and unoccupied CVLZs), and parking time (short-term parking: 3 to 5 minutes and long-term parking: 20 to 60 minutes). The heavy vehicle driving simulator also collected data regarding participants’ driving speed, eye movement, and stress level.
Results from the heavy vehicle driving simulator experiment indicated that the presence of a bike lane had significant effects on commercial vehicle drivers’ parking decisions., but only a slight effect on fixation duration times. The average fixation duration time, representing how long participants looked at a particular object, on the road with a bike lane was 4.81 seconds, whereas it was 5.25 seconds on roads without a bike lane. Results also showed that the frequency of illegal parking (not parking in the CVLZs) was greater during short-term parking activities, occurring 60 times (45 percent of parking maneuvers). Delivery times also had a slight effect on commercial vehicles’ speed while searching for parking (short-term parking was 17.7 mph; long term parking was 17.2 mph) and on drivers’ level of stress (short-term parking was 8.16 peaks/mins; long-term parking was 8.36 peaks/mins). Seven percent of participants chose to park in the travel lane, which suggested that commercial vehicle operators prioritize minimizing their walking distance to the destination over the violation of parking regulations.
The limited sample size demonstrated the value of our experimental approach but limited the strength of the recommendations that can be applied to practice. With that limitation acknowledged, our preliminary recommendations for city planners include infrastructure installation (i.e., convex mirrors installed at the curbside and CVLZ signs) to help drivers more easily identify legal parking spaces, and pavement markings (i.e., CVLZs, buffered bike lanes) to improve safety when parking. Parking time limits and buffers for bike lanes could improve efficient operation and safety for cyclists and other road users.
For future work, larger sample sizes should be collected. Additional factors could be considered, such as increased traffic flow, pedestrian traffic, conflicts among multiple delivery vehicles simultaneously, various curb use type allocations, and different curb policies and enforcement. Including a larger variety of commercial vehicle sizes and loading, zone sizes would also be of value. A combination of field observations and a driving simulator study could also help validate this investigation’s outcomes.
Goodchild, A., McCormack, E., Hurwitz, D., Ranjbari, A., Verma, R., Liu, Y., & Jashami, H. (2023). Insights from Driver Parking Decisions in a Truck Simulator to Inform Curb Management Decisions. PacTrans.