Drivers

Jason Rivenburg's Widow Takes Cause for Truck Parking to Capitol Hill

March 16, 2010

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"These men and women, they need this law," said Hope Rivenburg yesterday at a Capitol Hill event promoting a bill to improve the parking situation for truck drivers. Rivenburg is the widow of driver Jason Rivenburg, who was murdered

In support of

a year ago this month while parked at an abandoned gas station in South Carolina, a place drivers frequented because they could not find space at established rest areas.

She was in Washington to raise awareness of the need for more federal support in the ongoing effort to give truck drivers more options, and safer options, for parking when they need to rest or to comply with the hours of service rules.

On hand at the event were Reps. Paul Tonko, D-N.Y., and Erik Paulsen, R-Minn., co-sponsors of a bill called "Jason's Law" that would create a pilot program to invest $120 million over six years in new parking areas, giving priority to corridors that have a severe shortage of spaces.

Hope Rivenburg of Schoharie, N.Y., the mother of three children with Jason, said her husband had talked to her about how hard it was to find safe parking, so she was aware of the problem before he failed to call in on his last trip. She decided she was going to do something about it during the search for him, before she learned that he had been killed.

Truck drivers who spend weeks at a time on the road are expected to sacrifice much, she said.
"They should not be asked to sacrifice their lives."

The sacrifice is measured in time away from family. Melissa M. Rohan, Associate Director of Government Affairs for the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, said members of OOIDA spend more than 229 days a year away from home. OOIDA is supporting the bill.
Also supporting the bill is American Trucking Associations. David Osiecki, Senior Vice President of Policy and Regulatory Affairs at ATA, noted that the shortage of safe parking puts drivers in a tough spot.

A driver who is tired or out of hours but can't find a place to stop has to make a very difficult decision, he said. "Keep driving in order to find a safe parking place or pull of the road on a shoulder or a ramp where they are putting themselves or other motorists at risk. Or, as in Jason Rivenburg's case, park in an area where the security is questionable. Professional drivers should not be put in the no-win situation that they are in today."

Meanwhile, two trends are exacerbating the problem. States are closing roadside rest areas as a cost-cutting measure in this tough economy and, Osiecki noted, in the longer term the demand for parking will grow. He cited an estimate that there will be 1.8 million more trucks on the road by 2020.

"Jason's law will give states additional resources to tackle the problem," Osiecki said.

Tonko and Paulsen want the bill to move any way it can. Tonko said he'll offer it as a stand-alone measure but can see it being rolled into another, larger bill such as the highway reauthorization legislation that might move this year or perhaps as part of an omnibus funding measure. Jason's Law has been referred to the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. There is companion legislation in the Senate.

Besides OOIDA and ATA, supporters of the bill include: the Teamsters union, the American Moving and Storage Association, the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance, the Truck Safety Coalition, Truckers and Citizens United, the New York State Motor Truck Association, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety. There are 36 co-sponsors in the House.

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