Florida town restricts truck routes, parking

| 4/11/2003

Two ordinances passed April 10 in a Florida city would restrict where trucks drive and park.

The City Council in Palatka, a northeast Florida community south of Jacksonville, voted to restrict truck traffic to only certain routes within the city. The council also changed an ordinance on truck parking. The law previously banned overnight truck parking in residential neighborhoods; Thursday's vote extends the rule to 24 hours, unless the truck is making a delivery.

Betsy Driggers, the city clerk in Palatka, told Land Line the truck route ordinance was mainly targeted at traffic following U.S. 17, which travels through the city and is the only crossing over the St. John River in 60 miles. Logging trucks picking up loads on the east side of the river use the bridge to get to drop-off sites on the west side of the river, she said, and many use side streets to avoid traffic and stoplights along the highway as they pass through the city.

“We get a lot of log traffic through here,” Driggers said, which creates maintenance problems for the city's government. The city's residential streets are not built for the big trucks, and Palatka doesn't receive any tax money from the trucks to repair its side streets.

“I know that they pay federal taxes, but we don't see any of that money,” she said. “That's all going to repave U.S. Highway 17. That's all state money. What we're trying to do is protect our infrastructure. ”

Driggers, a former owner-operator, said she understood why truckers wanted their rigs close to home.

“I can certainly identify because I used to own them myself,” she said. “I know what a problem it is trying to keep your things secure.”

 But parking a rig at home is no guarantee of security, the city clerk said.

The city does have some truck parking, across the St. John River at the local farmer's market, Driggers said.

“There are spaces up there you can lease.”

In addition, “there are several businessmen in town who have been talking about providing space. I believe one has already done it.” That area, she said, is at a local industrial park. 

A number of truckers live in the city, Driggers said. And not all are happy with the new rules.

“We've had a few complaints,” she said, but “most people understand.”

--by Mark H. Reddig, associate editor