Text Size + -
4/23/2003
SPECIAL REPORT: Going home a crime - Say it isn’t so

Participation pays off for Ohio truckers as they fight proposed parking ban

Ask any trucker what he looks forward to most after a long haul, and he’ll say going home.

But if a proposed ordinance in Lancaster, OH, passes, that could be harder for truckers who live in the town to do. In fact, it could even be a crime.

But the community’s truckers are not taking it lying down. Led by OOIDA member Randy Anderson, they have taken action, contacting the city’s council members and throwing their weight against the proposal.

One complaint, many results

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, who represents the city’s 5th Ward, introduced Ordinance 6-03. The proposal would prohibit parking commercial vehicles weighing more than 13,000 pounds anywhere in a residential district – including the truck owner’s driveway or yard.

If truckers are not allowed to park at home, they have few alternatives. Steve Davis, president of the city council, said Lancaster had 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.

The ordinance would make parking on your own property a misdemeanor.

Truckers take action

Anderson, an OOIDA member who lives in Lancaster, first got wind of the ordinance 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 sent a letter or called each member of the city’s ruling body. He has encouraged all the truckers he has spoken with to do the same.

The letter and calling campaign rallied the troops. Steve Davis, president of the city council, put the number of truckers at the meeting at 20. And Davis 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.

More truckers had planned to come to the meeting on the 14th, Anderson said. However, he heard that the council had delayed the vote on the ordinance scheduled for that date. So the Lancaster trucker called his fellow drivers and told them to show up on the 28th instead, when the council had scheduled a public hearing on the proposal.

While he expects a good turnout of truckers at that hearing, Anderson says “We’re probably going to have our share of opposition also.”

Alternatives

Anderson has suggested to council members that instead of passing an ordinance targeting trucks, the city should consider one that enforces noise problems of all kinds 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. Don't ban everybody in town's swimming pool just because one neighbor's making too much noise. It's the same way with motorcycles or anything else."

Anderson said one possible compromise was an excessive noise or excessive idling ordinance. And 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 got a surprise.

"I was advised no one had," he said.

Officials are responding to the truckers’ efforts. While one councilman told Anderson “something” was going to be passed, Davis said it’s by no means certain that the ordinance will pass, and both Davis and Anderson said changes in the proposal are very likely.

"I'm real positive right now that we might be able to get this thing at least not written the way it is now," Anderson said.

Davis concurred.

"I suspect the ordinance will undergo revision," he said. "Also I suspect the councilmen will want to take some time to comprehend and perhaps even learn more about the situation before they would cast a vote on such a serious issue."

"A number of the nine member body are very concerned about the ordinance that has been put before them," he said. "I suspect the ordinance will be very hotly debated by the public and also by some of the nine members (of the city council). It will probably see its way to many redrafts before it would become law, if in fact it ever does become law."

The council president expressed concern that the proposal would give truckers a negative image of the community.

"I certainly wouldn't want your readership to get the impression there is such a chill wind blowing in Lancaster."

No vote is likely to be taken on the 28th, Davis said. And if the ordinance were to pass, the earliest it could be made law would be June 11, Davis said.

Sticking together

Anderson hopes to have even more truckers at the next hearing on April 28.

"I hope we have about 50 there, and their families," he said. "We have a lot of drivers here in town I didn't know we had.

"It sounds like we'll have a pretty good turnout, and this is the one we need to be at."

While he and other truckers are open to some kind of compromise, Anderson said. The town already has a ban on trucks parking in the street, and the Lancaster trucker said he understood why it was necessary in a town with such narrow streets. But the truckers are sticking together on their main point.

"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," Anderson said.

--by Mark H. Reddig, associate editor

Mark Reddig can be reached at mark_reddig@landlinemag.com.

Comments

Aug/Sept Digital Edition