Out of the tragic story of Jason Rivenburg’s murder comes a proposed bill spearheaded by his widow that aims to protect other truck drivers from a similar fate. Jason was a truck driver who had stopped at a gas station in March 2009 while he waited to make a delivery. Jason had stopped to rest so he could remain in compliance with Hours of Service regulations that require truckers to stop driving after 11 hours. He was shot and killed while he sat in his truck. He left behind his wife Hope, then pregnant with twins, and a son who was almost two at the time of his father’s death.
Jason’s Law was reintroduced by Congressman Paul Tonko on May 11th. The bill, known as H.R. 1803, calls for safe truck parking facilities across the United States. Jason’s Law would create a $20 million (per year, for six years) grant program that would help alleviate the parking shortages by providing funding for safe, accessible rest stops for truckers. It would also pay for expansion and safety improvements of existing rest areas. Hope Rivenburg plans to begin lobbying Members of Congress on Capitol Hill to cosponsor the bill. Two years ago a similar bill was introduced but was set aside due to debates over healthcare. Jason’s Law already has bipartisan support from Republican Rep. Eric Paulsen, which supporters believe will aid the bill’s success this time around.
Problems with and Solutions for Trucker Safety
Problem: Truckers who arrive early for a delivery have no place to wait. Truckers may arrive ahead of the scheduled appointment, but most shippers and receivers do not have a waiting area for the truck, nor do they allow for shipments to be received earlier than the appointed time. This was the case for Jason, who was ahead of schedule and waiting for his appointment in the parking lot of a gas station at the time of his death.
Jason’s Law’s Solution: Requiring shippers and receivers to let driver stage inside their facilities up to 12 hours before and/or after the appointment would give truckers a safe place to stay and would take more trucks off the streets.
Jason’s Law’s Solution: For businesses not equipped with the space or facilities for trucks and their drivers, the “bull pen” concept is an option. An association of the area businesses or a dedicated tax based on the number of docking doors a business has could fund an area close to the industrial district that is secure and has basic amenities where trucks could stage to wait to deliver or pick up a load.
Problem: Many rest areas have been shut down in recent years. This is a loss not just for truckers, but for all Americans who drive long distances or take road trips. The National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP) estimates
- The absence of rest areas increases shoulder related accidents by 52 percent due to vehicles parked on the side of the road.
- Motorists’ use of rest areas reduced accidents by 3.7 percent, representing a benefit of 148 million dollars for the country.
Problem: Truck drivers are then forced to park in private truck stops. While many truckers utilize private truck stops to shower and get a bite to eat, they may not be the best places to rest due to disturbances involving
- Drug dealers
- Thieves, both stealing and selling stolen goods
- Other people disrupting the rest that is mandated by the Hours of Service regulations and is vital to fatigued drivers
Jason’s Law’s Solutions: The federal government could allow states to take on commercial partners to develop rest areas. This would remedy the issue of truck stop owners and other businesses that cater to truckers seeing rest stops as competition. A partnership between the government and private business owners might alleviate some of the problems that keep truck drivers from getting rest at private truck stops. Factors within this government and commercial relationship could include:
- A revolving loan for truck stop owners to upgrade security, install cameras and lighting, increase parking spots and utilize other safety measures.
- Businesses could partner with the state’s department to create auxiliary lots. These lots could be less than a half mile from the highway, be secure and safe and be maintained by the businesses.
Jason’s Law’s Solution: Develop signage to guide truckers to off-highway parking. Operating expenses for a tractor-trailer are at least $2.00 per mile, so drivers won’t go far off route to park. With signage that indicates exactly where/how far parking is, truckers would be more likely to redirect to those safe places.
Future of Jason’s Law
Jason’s Law will be located within an amended version of SAFTEA-LU within the Transportation Bill. Funds for the bill would remain within the Republican Party’s “no new spending” as they would come from an existing congestion mitigation air quality account.
Click here to sign the petition to the United States legislation for Jason’s Law.
Click here to visit the Facebook page of Jason’s Law.
If you or someone you know has been injured or killed in a truck stop or rest stop or due to lack of safe parking, we can help you find justice. Contact The Trucking Attorneys today for a free consultation.
Last Updated: May 31, 2011