Widow of slain trucker pushes for safer rest areas
In 2012, Hope Rivenburg saw the results of her hard work pay off when the U.S. Congress approved the Transportation Reauthorization Bill. Under Subtitle D, Sec. 1401 – also known as “Jason’s Law” – the bill authorized federal funding for the construction of safe rest areas for truckers.
Three years earlier, Rivenburg’s husband, Jason, was shot and killed as he napped in his truck at an abandoned gas station. The widow promptly began a campaign to raise awareness about the scarcity of safe pull-over areas for weary truck drivers, gaining support for her cause by visiting Washington, D.C. to speak with lawmakers.
A difficult road
Jason’s Law was first introduced in the U.S. Senate in 2009, but it failed to clear the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. The legislation was introduced again in 2011, by U.S. Rep. Paul D. Tonko, D-NY. Tonko’s House Resolution 1803 became part of the Transportation Reauthorization Bill, which allocated $6 million in funding for the creation and restoration of safe rest areas for truckers.
One of the provisions of the legislation requires the U.S. Department of Transportation to assess the availability of truck parking in each state and develop a system for evaluating whether that parking is adequate. But Hope Rivenburg is not content to sit idly and wait for the results of that study. She’s launched her own Nationwide Truck Parking Research Study, the results of which she’ll discuss at The Truck Driver Social Media Convention, Oct. 11-13, in Kansas City, Mo.
Trucking companies know that electronic driver logs will soon be required by law, likely taking effect sometime after a final rule is issued in late 2014 or early 2015. EDLs ensure compliance with Hours-of-Service Regulations that are intended to keep truck drivers from driving too long or without enough rest in between runs. But truckers are often faced with a difficult decision: Violate HOS regulations in search of a safe place to park, or pull over and park illegally, or in a dangerous spot?
Some states have closed highway rest areas in order to save money, further reducing options for tired truckers who need sleep. At some rest areas, police may ticket drivers who exceed the maximum allowable parking time, or truckers may find no other option but to park illegally on exit or on-ramps.
Supporters of Jason’s Law say it will not only keep truckers safer – and in compliance – but it will protect all motorists from crashes caused by drowsy drivers.
You can share your observations about truck parking safety by participating in the Nationwide Truck Parking Research Study.