Virginia State Police recommend hotels, better trip planning for truckers

| 2/2/2009

Out of hours and no place to park to take a 10-hour break: That is an all-too-familiar scenario truckers face daily out on the road.

Truckers who pass through Virginia are pretty much out of luck if they run out of hours in the state. There is a two-hour parking maximum at rest areas, and some truck stops only allow parking for up to four hours before drivers are forced to move on.

However, Corinne Geller, a spokeswoman for the Virginia State Police, told Land Line Magazine on Friday, Jan. 30, she has the solution for truckers facing these Catch-22 predicaments: Get a room.

“They (truckers) need to make alternative arrangements like finding a hotel room,” Geller said. “It’s not our responsibility to make sure they are in compliance with the hours of service. … So that responsibility sits on the driver to know his or her route and know where there is a place to park.”

For truckers already struggling to stay afloat, they say forking over extra cash for a room is not a luxury they can afford right now. And most say they don’t want to leave their truck and cargo unguarded overnight, either.

Joe Rajkovacz, regulatory affairs specialist for the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, said it’s easy for the VSP to say “it’s the driver’s responsibility to properly trip plan,” but it’s usually not that simple.

“That statement ignores situational realities that a driver has zero control over – for instance, just leaving a shipper or receiver who has abused a driver’s time, and now they are up against the clock,” he told Land Line on Monday, Feb. 2. “Safety considerations cannot be the sole domain of the driver while everyone else in the supply chain or law enforcement gets to act in a contrary manner.”

Trucker Lyman Lincoln of Huber Heights, OH, was forced to pay nearly $187 after he received a ticket at a rest area in Radford, VA, in November 2008.

He told Land Line on Friday he knew there was a two-hour maximum and spoke with the rest area attendant about his dilemma. He said the attendant advised him where to park as to “not block any car traffic.” Then Lincoln hopped into his sleeper berth to rest.

About 1 a.m. a state trooper knocked on his door, asking him to “move on.”

“I told him I had already discussed the situation with the attendant who didn’t have a problem with me parking there, but the trooper said the attendant couldn’t supersede state law,” Lincoln said. “I told the trooper he shouldn’t be able to supersede federal law by asking me to move my truck when I was on my mandatory 10-hour break.”

In the end, faced with having his truck towed and jailed, Lincoln moved on down the road, following another driver who directed him where he could park.

Lincoln said he called the next day to complain to the VSP about the ticket and received a letter stating they were investigating the matter. Then he received a letter back a month later stating they had investigated his claim, but couldn’t tell him the outcome. Lincoln said he then called the magistrate’s office about the ticket amount, but never received a call back.

Then in January, while at a weigh scale in Illinois, Lincoln said he found out the state of Virginia suspended his license because he failed to “obey a highway sign.”

Geller said the VSP is not being unfair to the trucking industry by enforcing the two-hour law at rest areas and not allowing truckers to park on ramps or shoulders. It’s a matter of safety.

“I am not trying to sound callous about it, but we have to enforce the laws and look out for the greater public safety,” she said.

Rajkovacz disagrees when it comes to tired truckers who are forced to drive on at risk to themselves or others or be ticketed.

“If it’s truly about safety, then why mess with truckers trying to comply with federal regulations regarding hours of service,” he said.

– By Clarissa Kell-Holland, staff writer