The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) announced it has awarded a contract to develop an automated "SmartPark" system to make it easier for long-haul truck drivers to determine where overnight truck parking is available on major highways so they can pull off the road and rest. They often arrive at service centers that are full and are forced to park in unsafe locations.According to the FMSCA, currently no method has been demonstrated for accurately and reliably determining the number of spaces available for truck parking. A method for accurately and reliably determining the number of spaces available for truck parking spaces in real time is needed before truck drivers can be informed of the availability of safe, legal parking while they are on the road, the company says.Foster-Miller, Inc., the company awarded the $396,000 contract, has been given permission to use a service area on the Massachusetts Turnpike for Phase I of the program. The system Foster-Miller proposes will use video cameras mounted at the entrance and exit ramps to count vehicles entering and leaving the facility. Image processing software in the cameras will distinguish between trucks, tractors and other vehicles based on overall length.When the software detects a vehicle entering or exiting the facility, it will signal an offsite data collection and management system (DCMS) via a wireless internet connection. The DCMS will use the data to adjust the vehicle count in real time. Eventually, the system will broadcast parking availability information to truckers.