Sarasota technology startup takes aim at becoming AirBnB of trucking

A local technology startup has ambitious goals to fix a problem in the trucking industry that costs logistics companies millions of dollars in lost productivity due to a lack of parking.

Tra Williams, founder and president of ParkPro, said for every parking spot available for a commercial truck driver there are 11 trucks on the road.

"If you really think about the scope of that in the industry, critical doesn't describe it," Williams said. "Truckers are being forced to get off the road early just to be able to stop somewhere they can park safely."

He hopes to solve that problem by creating an AirBnB like solution for truck parking that will connect truckers to underutilized parking spots at convention centers and sports stadiums throughout the country.

FleetForce Truck Driving School

Tra Williams owns ten FleetForce Truck Driver Training schools in Florida. His new business, ParkPro, is trying to come up with solutions for secure overnight parking for semi-tractor trucks.
Tra Williams owns ten FleetForce Truck Driver Training schools in Florida. His new business, ParkPro, is trying to come up with solutions for secure overnight parking for semi-tractor trucks.

Williams had no prior trucking experience before buying a struggling Commercial Driver License school in Winter Haven in 2020, he said.

But that hasn't stopped him from seeing quick success in the business.

Since he bought the company and renamed it to FleetForce Truck Driving School, Williams said he's grown the business to 10 schools across the state, including one in Venice and another in Bradenton.

"We are the largest partner with the state as a training provider for state colleges," he said.

Both of his companies are headquartered in Sarasota.

Tra Williams owns ten FleetForce Truck Driver Training schools in Florida. His new business, ParkPro, is trying to come up with solutions for secure overnight parking for semi-tractor trucks.
Tra Williams owns ten FleetForce Truck Driver Training schools in Florida. His new business, ParkPro, is trying to come up with solutions for secure overnight parking for semi-tractor trucks.

He said federal regulations limiting the number of hours a commercial truck driver can be on the road are necessary, but because of those regulations drivers can be forced to stop hours before legally required.

"If you are three hours shy of your drive limit, but you know this is the last parking spot you have for 200 miles, well you have to stop," he said.

A news release from ParkPro estimated the loss of productivity at 12% for the nation's multi-billion dollar trucking industry.

That's where ParkPro comes in, with a technology solution in which Williams plans to connect truck drivers in need of parking with venues that have ample but underutilized parking.

He's also partnered with the Florida Trucking Association, the state's liaison between the trucking industry and the state and federal government, according to the news release.

“Safe, reliable and accessible parking for truck drivers is one of the most critical issues for our industry," Alix Miller, President and CEO of Florida Trucking Association, said in the news release. "We're proud to work with ParkPro on an innovative and immediate solution."

ParkPro free phone app

ParkPro's free phone app will be available for truckers and venue owners early next year, according to a news release from the company.

"We are partnering with associations, large conglomerates and national sports franchises so that we can get instant scale across the nation," he said.

He said one executive of a professional Florida sports team he's been in contact with seemed excited about the idea given the property has empty lots for 260 days out of the year.

He also noted a safety aspect to more available parking.

"We need truckers to be able to feel safe in a well lit assessable space and have access to amenities," he said.

Williams said there isn't a parking problem in America given that the nation has more parking than the rest of the world combined.

"What we have is a shortage of a conduit between those who have available parking and those who need available parking," he said. "That's what ParkPro does."

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This article originally appeared on Sarasota Herald-Tribune: Sarasota company ParkPro wants to be the AirBnB of trucking