Wednesday, March 17, 2010

US Freight Truck Drivers Need Better Roads And Safer Parking

ATA want improvements to parking and infrastructure
Shipping News Feature

US – One year ago Jason Rivenburg, a New York freight delivery driver was murdered in cold blood for $7. He was forced to park in an abandoned gas station in South Carolina because no properly lit and equipped facilities were within reach whilst he waited to unload his cargo of milk. Now “Jason’s Law” is to go before Congress and the American Trucking Associations (ATA) are lobbying hard to ensure that the Secretary of Transportation, in cooperation with appropriate State, regional, and local governments, allocate funds for new safety rest areas and the expansion and improvement of existing safety rest areas that serve the highway system.

Yesterday politicians and the murdered driver’s widow, Hope, gathered at an ATA press conference to publicise the matter. Hope has campaigned tirelessly to ensure others are not put in her position after a 23 year old was imprisoned for life in December following the senseless crime. The Congressman who introduced the legislation, Paul Tonko, a Democrat was supported by a Republican colleague Erik Paulsen and the motion has garnered bipartisan support with a companion bill being introduced in the Senate by Democratic Senator Charles Schumer. Together the bills would ensure the provision of grants to construct safety rest areas including commercial vehicle parking, promoting all available and suitable parking on the National Highway System using intelligent transportation systems and other means, general improvements to existing facilities and generally upgrading and extending facilities closed on a seasonal basis.

ATA Senior Vice President Dave Osiecki said he was disturbed by the recent efforts of some states to balance their budgets by cutting funds for safety rest areas. Not only were safety rest area closures an inconvenience for all motorists, but they also jeopardized highway safety. He pointed out there may be an additional 1.8 million trucks on the US roads by 2020.

“Professional truck drivers must have access to safe, legal parking to get the rest they need to safely deliver America’s freight.

“Drivers want to comply with the federal Hours-of-Service regulations and they want to get off the road when they get tired. Without readily available safety rest areas, professional truck drivers often have to decide whether to keep driving to find a safe parking place, or pull off the road onto a shoulder or ramp, putting themselves and other motorists at risk. Professional drivers should not be put in this ‘no-win’ situation.” Mr Osiecki concluded.

At a separate meeting with Congress testifying before the U.S. House of Representatives Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies, ATA Senior Vice President Tim Lynch put the case for the huge investment required to improve the highway infrastructure which the organisation believes is now not fit for purpose. According to the ATA America’s aging infrastructure is in desperate need of repair and expansion. Congestion costs, caused by inefficiencies in the system, are rapidly approaching $100 billion annually. Eliminating bottlenecks on highways and at ports and border crossings would greatly enhance America’s competitive positioning.

Unlike the current outcry from equivalent UK organisations such as the Freight Transport Association and the Road Haulage Association their US counterparts seem happy to accept an increase in fuel tax – provided the incoming funds were ring fenced to fund the improvements they demand. Mr Lynch also pointed out that the US transport laws included prohibitive weight regulations which lagged behind the rest of the world. His full statement to the assembled committee can be read here.

Photo : Jason Rivenburg with his two year old son.