Thursday, June 9, 2016

Remembering Rene Tankersley who was all about ‘fixing it’

It was 12 years ago on June 9 that Land Line Features Editor Rene Tankersley was killed in a car-truck crash on the way to work. She was only 42 and a tireless advocate for truck drivers. Her work here earned us our first national gold medal in editorial writing.

Prior to her career at Land Line, she worked for The Trucker in Arkansas, her home state. She would remind people that she was born in California, but her folksy humor and approach said Arkansas all over and she was proud of that.

Rene had a huge backlog of cases she became involved in where truckers where wronged. She was exhaustive in her research, and investigators often relied on her for information.

One of the stories she wrote about was when a trucker was pulled over in Louisiana in March 2000 by a state trooper and fined for passing the scales. The egregious part that riled Rene all up was that the OOIDA member, Gary Ring, had to pay $2,000 on the side of the road or be impounded. Rene was furious, and was the first reporter to talk to Gary. She became a supporter.

One of her stories reported that the state was bringing in $10 million annually in revenue through the fines – without a hearing process. “And this has been going on for 10 years!” she would shout with her Arkansas accent, stomping her foot. “We have to FIX it!”

Rene had high hopes for every case like this one, and she followed Gary’s predicament closely. When he filed against the state of Louisiana, she covered his fight.

As the case progressed, attorneys joined on, were kicked off, and at least one died, says Ring’s counsel, Madro Bandaries. Still, even with the case appearing before the state Supreme Court and the Louisiana Court of Appeals three times each, Ring and Bandaries never let up. Until she died in 2004, Rene Tankersley never did either.

Now, 16 years later, the State of Louisiana is paying $250,000 to settle the case. And the law is off the books, says Madro, who recently told me Ring wanted a court-approved donation of several thousand dollars to go to OOIDA in her name. I called him up.

“I wish Rene was around for this,” Gary said. “She really worked so hard on this with me. We did get something done and got some laws changed.”

We learned this week from Madro that a check is on the way to OOIDA’s Foundation.

Gary Ring wants it to be known as the Rene Tankersley Contribution. Case closed. Happy ending, wrongs righted.

I can just hear her saying “Well AMEN TO THAT!”