Utah trucker challenges city hall and wins, for now

| 3/6/2008

Of the 50-plus truckers ticketed recently for truck parking ordinance violations in Roosevelt, UT, crude hauler Justin Jorgensen was the only one who showed up to court ready to fight.

His diligence paid off because the charges against him were dropped after Roosevelt City Attorney Clark Allred – in preparation for the case – discovered there wasn’t an ordinance on the books preventing truckers from parking their tractors in their driveways.

However, there is an ordinance in Roosevelt against vehicles licensed to tow or carry more than 26,000 pounds from driving on public streets unless they are on designated truck routes. Jorgensen’s house isn’t located on a truck route, but he said there is an exception in the ordinance that states you can’t travel off the designated truck routes except to travel to and from where it’s being garaged by the most direct route.

“I sat in court for 45 minutes before the bailiff came and asked me, ‘What are you doing here?’ ” Jorgensen said. “I showed him my paperwork and he said, ‘I don’t have you on the schedule,’ so I went to the clerk’s office and was told, ‘oh, that case was dismissed yesterday – the city attorney dismissed it.’

Jorgensen said the sad part of it all is that the other truckers have apparently paid their tickets even though there is no ordinance.

“The city doesn’t have an ordinance for parking in my driveway, but they wrote the citation anyway,” he said. “There’s a guy that I work with and I talked to him personally about this and he was ticketed for the exact same thing I was – parking in his driveway. But he’s a law-abiding citizen and didn’t know any different and he paid it.”

Having an ordinance on the books which allows truckers to park at their residences, but making it illegal for them to drive on public roads to get to their residences is a classic “Catch-22” as far as Jorgensen is concerned.

“It doesn’t make sense – telling me I can legally park in my driveway but I can’t legally drive it there is like telling me I can own a gun, but I can’t ever take it out of my house,” he said.

He said this all began nine months after he moved in to his house and a neighbor complained that he didn’t want the neighborhood looking like a “commercial” area.

Jorgensen said he thought he had everything covered before moving into his house more than one year ago, because he asked several people in area law enforcement whether it was legal for him to park his tractor at his house. He said they all said yes.

“Before I bought my house, I asked a state trooper about this because he was also a part-time sub for Roosevelt City and had access to the information,” Jorgensen said. “I asked a county cop, dispatched out of the same office as Roosevelt City, and I asked a Roosevelt city officer if there would be any problem with me driving my tractor home. They all said, no, as long as it’s parked in the driveway because there is a public street parking ordinance where you can’t park on a public street for more than two hours unless you are loading or unloading.”

Before being ticketed, Jorgensen said officers came to his house on two different occasions to tell him he couldn’t park his truck at his house. The second time the officers visited his house, Jorgensen said he asked them to write him a citation so he could fight the ticket in court. While he waited for his court date, he parked his tractor at the yard where he drops his trailers every night.

“I quit parking in my driveway for a little while after a police officer threatened to tow it because I can’t afford to have it towed because that’s how I provide for my family,” he said. “That’s my business. I’m an owner-operator, an independent, and that’s the only truck in my fleet that I own. I maintain my vehicle right here at my house – it’s the only shop I own. Everything I use to maintain my vehicle is right here in my garage at my home.”

Roosevelt is a rural oil field community and everything that is brought in or out of the town is hauled primarily by truck, Jorgensen said.

He said at least 60 percent of the residents in the community are either directly involved in driving trucks or are involved in some type of trucking-related business.

“Roosevelt is predominately an oil field town and trucks are what keep oil fields alive,” he said. “Whether it crude trucks or water trucks or flat beds or whatever, trucks are what support the oil field.”

– By Clarissa Kell-Holland, staff writer