Truckers, lawmakers push ‘Jason’s Law’ for safe parking options

| 3/16/2009

Less than a week since a petition started circulating, nearly 3,000 people have signed an electronic petition titled “Jason’s Law,” urging lawmakers to provide safe truck parking for the nation’s truckers.

This comes after Jason Rivenburg, 35, of Fultonham, NY, was fatally shot on March 5 while parked at an unlit abandoned gas station off Interstate 26, south of Columbia, SC. He was taking his break there because he was scheduled to deliver a load of milk to the Food Lion Warehouse in Elloree, SC, early Friday morning. He wasn’t found until early Saturday morning.

Rivenburg’s wife, Hope, who is pregnant with twins and who has a 2-year-old son, and other family members met with U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko, D-Amsterdam, this past weekend about what might be included in possible legislation to address the truck parking problem.

Tonko was scheduled to meet Monday, March 16, with staffers from the House Transportation and Infrastructure committee to discuss possible legislation.

“Obviously, we are going to be open to any kind of information flow that the industry shares so that we can respond in respectful measure to the loss of Jason Rivenburg’s life,” Tonko told Land Line Now on Sirius XM.

Many truckers are being forced to park in unsafe areas because rest areas and truck stops are full after dark. Some states, like Virginia, are looking to close more than half of their rest areas because of budget woes.

Ricky Baker said he remembers seeing Rivenburg’s rig on the night he was shot because he remembers seeing the cab light on, in contrast to the “dark hole” where he was parked. 

Baker, who owns R & B Auto Repair and Collision in Swansea, SC, had just returned from a tow run in the nearby town of Orangeburg, where he tows cars and trucks that have been abandoned for weeks at gas stations, when he saw the truck sitting there.

Less than two days later, Baker received a call from the Calhoun County Sheriff’s office asking him to bring one of his heavy wreckers to a murder scene involving a truck at the gas station.

“It’s a red Peterbilt, isn’t it,” was Baker’s response to the sheriff’s question.

Baker and his fiancée, Tonya Arnold, donated $500 to Rivenburg’s widow, Hope, after Frank and Donna VanderVeen, who owned the truck, came down to pick up the truck. Baker said when the VanderVeens walked in that morning, he said something told him he was meant to help Jason’s family.

“We weren’t trying to get any publicity. This was something we felt like we had to do, and that’s just what we did,” Baker told Land Line Magazine recently. “We’ve been blessed with a successful business. I have heard from truckers who heard what we did and called to say thank you. But this hits close to home when you have family that drives truck, and you have drivers who do 18-wheeler towing for us.”

As Baker helped the VanderVeens tape up the shattered driver’s side window, he said he also offered his towing lot as a “safe haven” for VanderVeen’s drivers to stop at while on their weekly run through the area.

“If you’ve got a guy that’s got a layover, tell him to come to our facility here,” Baker said he told VanderVeen. “I want to make sure they get a safe haven. … They don’t have to come down here and park in a dark hole.”

– By Staff Writers Clarissa Kell-Holland and Reed Black