What might well go down in history as the biggest trucking story of 2009, at least as goes drivers’ efforts to push for industry change for the better, is that of Jason’s Law, named after N.Y.-based driver Jason Rivenburg after he was robbed and gunned down while parked at an abandoned grocery in South Carolina. I’ve written about it here several times in various contexts; sorry if this background is a big repetition. The bill would provide dedicated funding for the expansion of safer, more secure and available truck parking facilities along the nation’s roadways, generally.
I approach it today because it seems to have come to at least a turning point in industry acceptance, a big boost for the hundreds of drivers who’ve been pushing for its passage from the beginning almost a year ago. When Congressman Paul Tonko of N.Y. held his Tuesday press conference with Jason Rivenburg’s widow, Hope, I immediately took note of press releases containing messages of near unconditional support for the bill from not only the largest drivers organizations out there — the Teamsters Union and Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association — but also the American Trucking Associations, representing motor carrier companies and their state organizational affiliates.
“ATA is disturbed by the recent efforts of some states to balance their budgets by cutting funds for safety rest areas,” the last organization wrote. “Not only are safety rest area closings an inconvenience for all motorists, but they also jeopardize highway safety.”
Two of the subjects of my Truckers News Exit Only column last year played a significant part among the community of drivers in pushing the legislation, fuel hauler Allen Smith of the AsktheTrucker.com site and Convenant Transport driver Desiree Wood, a driver who was something of a newbie to trucking over the past few years but who gave new meaning last year to the phrase driver advocacy, being from somewhat to very instrumental in the growing debate over issues in areas as diverse as driver training, alternative fuel use and gender in the driver/hauler’s profession.
While Wood says she was “glad to see press articles” after the press conference she wanted to remind the Law’s supporters that “an article of support is not action. Don’t permit yourselves to be complacent, thinking these organizations are doing the work for you.” The politicans’ attention, she says, was grabbed by the tragedy of the Rivenburgs, and “now it’s up to the rest of us to make calls and tell our Reps ‘We need this bill!'”
“Many of our elected officials are on Facebook and Twitter,” she adds. “I’m personally challenging everyone to take 30 minutes today and use your favorite article from the press conference to tweet your Rep or share on their Facebook page, make calls and send emails. Ask your friends and family to help. The door of opportunity just opened to be heard.”
Smith, on his BlogTalkRadio.com show in late February, hosted Tonko, who told the audience of mostly drivers that he was “feeling very strong about the support we’re getting” and that he was hopeful about its passage as it was all about making inroads in the increased “safety of the nation’s truck drivers, which corresponds to the safety of the general public.” You can listen to the archived show here.
And as for the legislation itself, it now has seen both House and Senate versions introduced and a growing array of consponsors (HR 2156 and S 971 are the bill numbers; at present support from a total of 37 mostly Democratic cosponsors has been seen in the House; only 2 Democrats in the Senate). If passed would authorize Highway Trust Fund monies over six years to fund the following projects:
- Constructing safety rest areas that include parking for commercial motor vehicles.
- Constructing commercial motor vehicle parking facilities adjacent to commercial truck stops and travel plazas.
- Opening existing facilities to commercial motor vehicle parking, including inspection and weigh stations and park-and-ride facilities.
- Promoting the availability of publicly or privately provided commercial motor vehicle parking on the National Highway System using intelligent transportation systems and other means.
- Constructing turnouts along the National Highway System for commercial motor vehicles.
- Making capital improvements to public commercial motor vehicle parking facilities currently closed on a seasonal basis.
- Improving the geometric design of interchanges on the National Highway System to improve access to commercial motor vehicle parking facilities.
To express support or find out how you can get involved in the legislation, follow Wood’s advice and call your Rep, visit the main site for Hope Rivenburg here or contact supporting organizations