No Parking = Violent Death

The violent death of 35-year-old truck driver Jason Rivenburg of Fultonham, NY underscores the dangers of the lack of truck parking spaces on our nation’s highways. Why was Jason parked there? Because there wasn’t anyplace else to park. The news stories didn’t say exactly where the incident took place, but I know from experience that I-26 has very little available truck parking everywhere along it’s length. When a driver’s available hours of service are running out, it becomes essential to find a place to park in order to not get fined, or take the liability risk. The closer you get to the legal limit, the less selective you can be. I prefer parking in truckstops – they’re generally (but not always) safer, and have at least some basic services available. Second on my priority list are highway rest areas. They usually have restrooms, and maybe some vending machines. Third choice, is anyplace I won’t get ticketed or towed, which seems to be where Jason ended up. The following are excerpts of posts that I’ve made regarding truck parking. The violent death of Jason Rivenburg makes them worth repeating. Without some kind of action by the government, the declining state of the economy means this is going to be repeated ever more frequently. Let’s use some of all those economic stimulus dollars, and build some more truck parking spaces.

This is an excerpt of a post I made on January 13, 2009 to: http://jacksonville.injuryboard.com/tractor-trailer-accidents/trucking-regulations-will-keep-drivers-on-the-road-longer.aspx

Build more truck parking spaces.

Over the last few years, states have become more restrictive about where/when trucks can park to take their HOS mandated 10 hour break. States are closing rest areas (as in Indiana), prohibiting parking on highway on/off ramps (a number of states), removing existing pulloffs (California), and other localities are restricting truck parking in various fashions. (Mokena, IL prohibits parking over 4 hours IN A TRUCKSTOP!). Throw in truckstops closing down, and others charging for parking, (without adding more parking spaces) and it is obvious to anyone that the parking situation is getting really bad. The general idea is to make it as easy as possible for truck drivers to comply with the regulations – which is pretty tough to do if they can’t find a parking space. Anymore, I won’t haul any freight east of I-75 because of the extreme difficulty in finding a safe and legal parking space for my 10 hour break.

There are a number of enlightened shippers and consignees who do allow drivers to park for their mandated breaks, but the majority do not. Where space is limited, this is understandable, but most large companies, with plenty of space, won’t allow trucks to park – even though a driver may be out of hours, and it’s illegal for the driver to go back out on the road. Frequently, it’s their fault you’re out of hours, since they take inordinate amounts of time to load or unload. A quick, although only partial, solution is to require these companies to allow parking. They’ve got the room, but they just can’t be bothered.

Another solution is to utilize the unused areas available at many highway interchanges. Not on the ramps, but the area between the highway and the ramps, or small lots at the ends of the ramps. They don’t have to be huge — Three to ten spaces each — just build lots of them. Drivers like to park close to their morning delivery, to maximize efficiency.

Areas around large cities need much more parking. For anyone who doesn’t think there’s a problem, just go to any truckstop around a major metropolitan area on a weeknight between 10 pm and midnight, and you’ll see what I mean.

This is an excerpt of a post on February 10, 2009

I was recently in Brundidge, Alabama, which is a texbook example. Brundidge is a nice little southern town — that is, if you don’t drive a truck.

Open the following link in another tab or window — you’ll have to cut and paste it into your browser: http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&source=s_q&hl=en&q=31.720000,+-85.829167&jsv=145d&sll=31.719634,-85.828328&sspn=0.006653,0.00957&ie=UTF8&geocode=FUAC5AEd0Vni-g&split=0

Make sure you’re looking at the aerial view. Click the satellite button if not. If you’ll zoom in a bit, you’ll see an intersection with a few buildings to the right. The building at the northeast corner is a truckstop. The one in the southeast corner is a fast food chain. The one immediately south of that is another truckstop. Both truckstops and the fast food are posted “No Truck Parking – Violators Will Be Towed”. Just to the east of the fast food is a small lot with room for maybe 8-10 trucks. Are you with me so far?

Now, zoom out a bit. You’ll see to the southwest of the intersection a very large warehouse complex, owned by “a large national retailer” . This facility likely gets at least a hundred trucks a day – probably more.

Let me pause here a moment and explain about the types and timing of deliveries. There are two basic types of unloading — “live unloads”, and “drops” (aka “drop & hook”). Live unloads can be further broken down into customer unloads, and driver hand unloads. I’ll discuss loading and unloading trucks in a future post. There are three basic types of timing. Deliveries can either be a “by”, “window” or “appointment”.

“By” deliveries are what the name implies: have the freight there by a specific date and time.

Windows are similar, except there will be a “not earlier than” time and a “not later than” time. Some places are *very* particular about not wanting their freight early.

The final basic type is the appointment. Most places give a 30 minute window around the appointment time, although some are more, and a few are less. Missing a delivery appointment is one sure way for any driver to end up deep in the (insert noxious substance here). For busy warehouses, it might take 3 days or more to get another delivery appointment. (Unless they really want whatever it is, in which case they’ll work you in). For some manufacturers, missing a delivery appointment that causes their production line to shut down can result in chargebacks to the carrier that can be enormous. (I’ve heard of one auto manufacturer that charges back $6000 a minute – that’s $100 a second).

Even if a customer doesn’t charge back for late or missed deliveries, most still track on-time service. Particularly in these bad economic conditions, competition in truckload freight is cutthroat. As customers scale back shipments, a carrier with a higher percentage of late or missed deliveries is at a distinct competitive disadvantage.

Now, throw into this mix, the federal hours-of-service (HOS) regulations. These regs are very specific about when and how long a driver can drive. Violations can result in anything from fines on up. I’ll explain these regs in detail in a future post.

As we can see from this discussion, there are many constraints on truck drivers delivering freight. Drivers also have to allow extra time for traffic, scales, fueling, etc. Ideally, for a morning delivery, drivers like to arrive (or at least get close) the night before. This gives you the maximum available hours to run after making your delivery. The problem is then, finding a place to park near your delivery.

In the case of Brundidge, Alabama, parking is effectively non-existent. The “large national retailer” won’t let drivers park there. At all. Ever. Doesn’t matter if you’re out of hours and can’t legally drive out on the road. Still can’t park there. Don’t even bother asking.

If you’ll look back on the map window you have open, you’ll see that the warehouse of that “large national retailer” has lots and lots of space. They could let all the trucks that go in and out of there on a daily basis park there, and it wouldn’t make a bit of difference to them — except they just don’t want to do it.

Now, open another browser window and cut and paste the following link in:

http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&source=s_q&hl=en&q=42.698611,+-84.641667&jsv=145d&sll=37.0625,-95.677068&sspn=48.374125,78.398437&ie=UTF8&geocode=FXOHiwIdfXj0-g&split=0

This link takes you to the Lansing, Michigan distribution center of a large regional retailer — Meijer, based in Michigan. At all of their warehouses (at least the ones I’ve been to) they have what is known as a “bullpen lot”; in other words, a place for trucks to park, so drivers can take their mandated 10 hour breaks. If you zoom in a bit, you can see it’s quite a large lot that they provide to drivers delivering to their warehouse.

Kudos to Meijer for being good corporate citizens, and being more truck-friendly than most. If they can do it, why doesn’t the “large national retailer” (with probably 100 times their profits) do it? Personally, I think it’s because they just don’t care. It wouldn’t cost them much to do it, it would improve their delivery service levels, as well as make it easier for drivers to comply with the HOS regulations. Then, instead of saying “*&^* large national retailer”, drivers would just say “large national retailer”. I could understand it if they just didn’t have the room, but they do, and they still won’t. Even their security guards on the gates have told me they wish they would. This is why there needs to be some regulatory relief put into place that would mandate companies with adequate space to allow truck parking.

If you’re a regulator, or safety lobbyist and you’re reading this post, how about making something happen?

Update:

There has been a memorial fund set up for Jason’s wife Hope and their two year old son and unborn twins. If you would like to donate to the fund any Trustco will take donations or you can mail a donation: Thank You.
Memorial Fund For The Family of Jason Rivenburg
Trustco Bank
1900 Altamont Avenue
Rotterdam, NY 12303

http://www.wspa.com/spa/news/local/article/truck_driver_found_dead_in_truck_in_calhoun_county/15345/

The above link is announcing an arrest has been made for this heinous crime.

Update 2

http://www.dailygazette.com/news/2009/mar/10/0310_murder/

The above link has details about the 3 men arrested.

Comments and questions welcome.

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3 comments so far

  1. A member of Jason's Family on

    I wanted to let you know that Jason’s family is working at getting legislation that would require truck stops to have adequate lighting and cameras and that other secure areas be strategically placed for truckers to wait to unload or rest. A secure area could cover a certain area. It would not have to be in every city or town, but it would have to be a reasonable distance for the trucker.The government requires the truckers to stop, they should provide for their safety.
    I am mailing a letter to our Congressmen and Senators today requesting a meeting. We are also getting petitions signed. Several of us have friends and relatives in other states and we will be sending them petitions to get out. I hope to have that going by the end of the week. I want to make sure I have names and addresses of their legislators on them so they can mail the petitions directly to them if they chose.
    As you can imagine things are a little busy here right now but I intend to follow through with this. I do not want anyone else to go through what we are going through right now. If it saves one life it will be worth it.
    Thank you for allowing me to share this with others.

  2. Mia on

    I am so sorry to hear about this murder. I live in Lexington, SC, about an hour away from the St. Matthews. I always have had a soft spot for truckers even though I don’t know any personally. Truckers are the backbone of this country and everything we have, we have a truck driver to thank for that. They have a tough job and don’t get the thanks that they need. I just read in the paper that they have made an arrest, so hopefully these murderers will be put in prison forever or get the death penalty.

  3. emma on

    Wonderful post Truckie D.
    My condolences go out to Jason’s family and friends.


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