On March 9th, 2009, New York truck driver Jason Rivenburg pulled into a deserted gas station to rest. He was ahead of schedule to deliver a load in South Carolina and was not allowed at the delivery site early. While resting in his tractor, his murderer crept in after hiding out under the semi-trailer waiting for him to fall asleep. Jason was shot in the head and the killer stole $7.00. Nearly three days later, his body was found and the killer was arrested.
The story of Jason’s law is by no doubt tragic. Shortly after his death, his wife gave birth to twins and began a courageous fight for federal legislation to provide funding for safe places for truckers to park while on the road. After three years lobbying Congress, she was successful.
Crime does not have scruples, and the reality is no matter how much legislation is signed or what amount of money is thrown at the problem, a sleeping truck driver in a truck can become a victim. With new and more restrictive hours of service rules, truckers are being forced off the road to rest (good) but the available parking is limited (bad). Where’s the balance?
People love to hate trucks, but love the service they provide. Pages could be written fruitlessly trying to convince the layman of the importance of trucking. If you are reading this, you probably are one of the people out there with a true appreciation of the industry…but you are not most people.
Conversely, quality of life is important. People who live in residential areas buy homes with an expectation of peace. Trucks are loud. Trucks are dirty. Trucks obstruct views. The most resolved anti-truck people lobby city council meetings for more restrictive ordinances. They start Facebook pages and speak in big generalities. They make claims that trucks are destroying their foundations and exhaust fumes are polluting their lungs. They say all the trucks are “big”. They are always speeding. They all appear to be running overweight. They all idle too long. There could always be some kernel of truth in each complaint, but the sheer voracity of the complainant rarely equals the offense. Most of all, they resent trucks parked in their neighborhood.
Every local truck cop has received a call from a trucker wanting to know where to park. So what can the local police officer do? Here are some simple things:
Take inventory of available truck parking Are there vacant retail lots available for truckers? Many private businesses do not want trucks parked on their lot in fear of “liability”. How about talking with the property owner, work out an agreement that as the truck officer you will personally patrol the lot to keep it free from crime and debris. You will help keep the truckers in line. Call your local congressman and fight for the very funding to create safe truck parking that Hope Rivenburg so tirelessly fought for in Washington.
Review your local ordinances While there is no doubt an ordinance in every municipal code book restricting truck parking somewhere and somehow, are there ordinances granting truck parking? Are the ordinances restricting parking within one mile of a national network highway? Is there available shoulder parking alongside a main thoroughfare or adjacent to an interstate where specific truck parking could be ordained instead of restricted?
Survey current truck parking If your town has available parking, is it well lit? Are there surveillance cameras watching over the lot? A proactive local police officer can make these lots part of routine patrols and teach other officers what to look for. Not only will this protect the good truckers, it will weed out the bad ones looking to score drugs and solicit prostitutes.
Be reasonable in enforcement At the end of the day, police officers have to do their job regardless of their personal feelings in the matter. Having said that, discretion is paramount. There is a difference between a nearby trucking company abusing local streets for their operations and truckers like Jason Rivenburg just trying to get some rest.
In those times when the legit trucker is in the wrong, he will most likely move along upon request without the need for citations. A quality truck officer will then take the extra step to help him find a safe place to park. Half of the job of a policeman may be enforcement, but the other half is still protection.
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