A truck parking crisis

Tragic tales illustrate what can happen when truckers can’t find a safe place to park.

May 2020

Mark Schremmer

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Every day, there are truck drivers who are unable to find a safe place to park.

The truck stop they planned on parking at is full. With the time on their hours of service ticking toward zero, truck drivers are often faced with the unenviable choice of driving past their hours or parking in an unsafe manner, such as on the shoulder of the highway.

The truckers who get in these situations are often told they should have planned better. However, those involved in trucking know that it takes only one crash, storm or other unforeseen incident to take a great plan off course.

Simply, the reality is that truck drivers need more safe places to park. Over the years, the lack of truck parking has escalated to a crisis.

Finally, a solution may be near. In cooperation with OOIDA, Reps. Mike Bost, R-Ill., and Angie Craig, D-Minn., introduced HR6104, the Truck Parking Safety Improvement Act, in March.

The bill would authorize $755 million for truck parking over five years.

“Congressman Bost and Congresswoman Craig have shown they not only understand truckers are experiencing a crisis but have the mettle to address it through groundbreaking, bipartisan legislation,” said OOIDA President and CEO Todd Spencer.

Craig said truck drivers deserve a safe and secure place to park when they run out of hours or just need a break.

“Right now, there is a lack of places for truck drivers to safely stop, forcing them to pull over to the side of the road, or continue driving, both of which are risky,” Craig said. “That’s why I am proud to be working with my colleague, Rep. Mike Bost from Illinois, to increase truck parking spaces, increasing safety for folks transporting goods to and from Minnesota’s Second Congressional District.”

A lack of truck parking can be much more than an inconvenience.

Too often, it has led to tragedy.

Killed for $7

Joshua Rivenburg was only 23 months old, and twins, Logan and Hezekiah, were 13 days away from being born when their father, truck driver Jason Rivenburg, parked at an abandoned gas station in St. Matthews, S.C.

Jason was turned away for arriving too early with his load of milk at a distribution center in Elloree, S.C. Without a place to park, he stopped at the abandoned gas station to take a nap.

Soon after, Jason, age 35, was robbed and fatally shot over $7.

Hope Rivenburg was left to raise her children alone, while Joshua, Logan and Hezekiah have grown up without their father.

“They want to know why,” Hope told Land Line in 2016. “At their young ages, they want to know why someone took their daddy away. And I can’t tell them that, because I don’t have the answer.

“They say, ‘We wish Daddy was here.’ We all wish Daddy was here.”

The 2009 tragedy has served as a rallying cry for why truck drivers need safe places to rest. In 2012, “Jason’s Law” was passed as part of the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21 Century Act.

In 2016, Hope attended a Truck Parking Coalition roundtable discussion at OOIDA headquarters in Grain Valley, Mo.

“I feel like progress is being made, but not enough,” Hope said. “I think there were a lot of great ideas in there today. There were lots of great ideas floating around that were coming from the drivers who live it.”

Fittingly, the Truck Parking Safety Improvement Act was introduced on the 11th anniversary of Jason’s death.

‘The next thing I know, I was shot’

Similar to Jason Rivenburg’s story, OOIDA life member Jerry Matson was turned away from the Oakland Coliseum after arriving too early with his delivery of a Caterpillar Entertainment Generator.

At the instruction of stadium employees, Matson parked about a half-mile away.

Around 10:30 p.m. on Dec. 15, 2015, Matson awoke to the sound of banging on the driver’s side door of his tractor and the window being smashed. Moments later, Matson was shot in the lower right abdomen by a .45 caliber firearm.

“I remember grabbing his hand,” Matson told Land Line in 2017. “The next thing I know, I was shot.”

Jerry’s wife, Janet, said doctors told her the bullet was just a “hair” away from hitting a major artery.

He received multiple surgeries and was hospitalized in California for about two months before being able to travel back to his home state of Indiana. For the next six months, he received physical therapy twice a week.

‘I couldn’t find any safe place to park’

Unlike Rivenburg and Matson, truck driver Glen Hamblin elected to keep going after being unable to find a safe place to park.

In 2016, the Utah trucker fell asleep at the wheel and crashed into a concrete barrier while delivering a load of potatoes in North Carolina. The impact of the crash caused the engine to be thrown out of the vehicle, which caught on fire. Hamblin was taken to a local hospital with several cuts. Amazingly, however, he escaped major injury.

“I want to see photos from the wreck,” Hamblin told Land Line in 2016. “I want to know how I survived.”

Hamblin still had an hour left to drive on his hours of service, but he could feel himself becoming drowsy.

“I was looking for a rest area, but I couldn’t find any safe place to park,” he said. “On the East Coast, if you’re not parked before dark, then there is no parking. Every physical spot is taken.”

At the time, Hamblin said the wreck spelled the end of his trucking career.

“I’m not going back to driving a truck,” he said. “It’s too hard to drive for someone else. And quite frankly, I don’t want to take the chance of something going wrong again. I’m worried that every time I’d get in the truck I’d still see that barrier.” LL

Mark Schremmer

Mark Schremmer, senior editor, joined Land Line in 2015. An award-winning journalist and former assistant news editor at The Topeka Capital-Journal, he brings fresh ideas, solid reporting skills, and more than two decades of journalism experience to our staff.