For any trucker who thinks getting involved doesn’t make a difference, there’s a lesson to be learned in Lancaster, OH.
Recently, a group of truckers in the south-central Ohio town organized to fight an ordinance that would have outlawed parking their rigs at home.
Now, the truckers are working with city officials on a new compromise ordinance. That plan addresses complaints that led to the proposed parking ban by restricting idling, but at the same time letting truckers bring their rigs home.
The conflict started after a local resident complained to the city about a nearby truck that idled for long periods of time. City officials spoke with the trucker in an attempt to resolve the dispute between the two neighbors, but were not successful.
In response to that one complaint, Councilman Harry Hiles introduced Ordinance 6-03, which would have made parking a truck on your own property a misdemeanor. The new rule would have banned parking commercial vehicles weighing more than 13,000 pounds anywhere in a residential district.
Truckers who live in the city have few alternatives to parking at home. Steve Davis, president of the city council, says Lancaster has no truck parking areas within the city limits. Individual truckers could make arrangements with owners of commercial parking lots, and there is a truckstop, but it is 10 to 12 miles north of town, he said.
OOIDA member Randy Anderson, a Lancaster resident who led the effort against the ordinance, first got wind of the plan when his wife spotted a notice about it in the local newspaper. After calling the local city clerk, the trucker called OOIDA.
OOIDA’s executive vice president, Todd Spencer, and Angel Burnell, who works in the association’s administrative offices, spoke with him.
Anderson gathered a copy of the ordinance and a list of the councilmen, and sent the information to OOIDA. Soon afterward, OOIDA sent out letters to more than 40 truckers who live in the town, encouraging them to oppose the ordinance by showing up at the council meeting April 14 and by writing their council members.
Anderson not only sent a letter to his councilman, he either called or sent a letter to each member of the city’s ruling body. He encouraged all truckers he spoke with to do the same.
The letter and calling campaign rallied the troops. Council president Davis put the number of truckers at the April 14 meeting at 20. And, he said, they presented their case very well.
“We had a number of owner-operators, a number of truckdrivers who represented themselves extremely well and collectively gave a very forceful presentation as to some of the problems they would experience if the ordinance were to be adopted in its current form,” Davis said.
“They weren’t mean-spirited or being rude; there wasn’t any kind of picketing or demonstration or anything like that,” he added. “They just very politely and professionally gave all the councilmen a great deal to think about in terms of how they would be adversely affected by passage.”
In contrast, no one spoke up in support of the bill at the April 14 meeting — not even Councilman Hiles, its sponsor, who was absent that day.
When the council met again at a public hearing April 28, the effect of the truckers’ efforts was evident.
Cause and effect
The Lancaster, OH, City Council voted against the proposed parking ban during its public hearing April 28. City Council President Davis said the vote was 8-0, with one council member — the sponsor, Councilman Hiles — absent.
About 15 truckers attended, Davis said, telling the council they were concerned about the security of their rigs if the vehicles were parked too far from home. In addition, they said they would face higher costs for parking and for transportation to and from remote parking.
Now, the council is working on a compromise ordinance.
Searching for alternatives
Anderson had suggested to council members earlier that instead of targeting trucks, the city should tackle noise problems on a case-by-case basis.
“I told him, the people beside me have a swimming pool. Are we going to ban swimming pools because their kids make a lot of noise?” Anderson said. “Or are we just going to handle each incident separately, and if it’s a nuisance, then handle it that way.”
“I’m not going to apologize to anybody in town that I drive a truck, and that I have the right to bring that truck home,” he said.
One suggested compromise was an excessive noise or excessive idling ordinance. The council agreed. Rather than banning parking, the council now is considering limitations — but not a ban — on idling.
“At this point, they are looking at bringing new legislation up in regard to idling, as opposed to parking of the commercial vehicles,” Cori Neil, clerk of the council, said.
The town does have a noise ordinance. However, when Davis asked recently if, in the five years since the city passed its noise ordinance, if anyone had been cited under that law, he was advised no one had.
The new ordinance, Davis said, “would limit the amount of time that a truck could be left to idle while they’re warming up for their run.”
“We took testimony … from a number of drivers regarding the duration required for idling under different circumstances, taking into account the nature of the rig and weather conditions,” he said.
The truckers seemed satisfied with the compromise.
“The truckers were all in agreement,” Anderson said. “I really don’t think a person needs to sit and idle his truck in a residential district for hours. That doesn’t make any sense.”
Even the couple whose complaint spurred the proposal were satisfied that a new version of the ordinance was needed, Davis said.
“Most people thought that we had gone after a gnat with a baseball bat, and that the solution via the ordinance was much broader and more draconian than the problem required,” he added.
A draft of the idling proposal was passed out April 28. A city committee will work off that draft. Later, the council will likely conduct another public hearing to discuss that proposal with Lancaster truckers.
“We will certainly involve the industry in that process,” Davis said.
Anderson said he was pleasantly surprised by the way city officials worked with the truckers.
“I thought this thing would probably go through, but they listened to our side,” he said.
More important, he said, was that the truckers stuck together, working to change the ordinance with OOIDA’s help. Besides, he said, the council’s action doesn’t necessarily mean the ruckus is over.
“We’ve still got to keep our eye on it,” he said. “They could always bring something back up if guys start abusing the situation.
“We’re going to make sure we keep abreast of what’s going on and let the guys know if they try to slip something in.”
by Mark H. Reddig, associate editor
Mark Reddig can be reached at email@example.com.