Thursday, May 23, 2013

‘Everything is impossible until somebody does it’

Last month our OOIDA Board of Directors met for the annual spring meeting, and one of our guests was Tom Kearney, freight operations program manager for the Federal Highway Administration in Washington, DC. He traveled to OOIDA headquarters for the meeting. Kearney isn’t just any guy from FHWA. He is the manager of the administration’s truck parking program and has been charged with the congressionally mandated truck parking survey.

By congressionally mandated, I mean in the new highway law known as Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century – or MAP-21 – it directs Congress to do a truck parking survey and comparative assessment. Not suggests. It orders Congress to do it. And the part of MAP-21 we are talking about here is Jason’s Law.

Of course, truckers know who Jason was. He’s Jason Rivenburg, a young trucker from New York who arrived too early at his delivery point in South Carolina and who was turned away. Instead he found a place to park in an unlit, abandoned lot where he was shot and killed for seven lousy bucks. That was March 2009 and what happened to Jason has put a human face on the dilemma of the safe parking scarcity for truckers.

At the OOIDA board meeting, we talked to Tom Kearney about Jason Rivenburg. We spent the whole day offering input that he felt was “vital” to developing solutions to issues that are critical elements to safety. When Kearney was here, he said he was scheduled to meet with Jason’s widow, Hope Rivenburg. And he did.

In late April, Kearney met with her at the Albany, NY, office of U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko, D-NY, who sponsored the Jason’s Law bill. Tonko wants FHWA to move along with their survey “in a timely manner” and partner up to make Hope’s survey the “baseline for future parking capacity studies.” Hope agreed to work with Kearney on gathering info critical to pushing ahead for safe parking. Kearney will pair her results with the research of FHWA. 

The FHWA truck parking survey – and comparative assessment is expected to begin this fall.
Hope’s project is already off the ground. She is urging the truck driving community to complete a 33-question online survey outlining their daily struggles to find safe truck parking while out on the road. Hundreds of drivers have already completed it.

The worth of this collaborative effort must be noted. There are many voices that need to be heard regarding this dilemma and a number of options to consider. The lesson is this: Putting all this together and coming up with reliable input and statistically measurable data is a tough task. Coming up with solutions that will work is even tougher. But it can be done.

As the saying goes: Everything is impossible until somebody does it.