Thursday, August 18, 2016

Missing the point

More often than I like to admit, I come across articles from the mainstream media that attempt to explain local issues with truck parking. Few get it right. Some never mention hours-of-service regulations. Others do not even realize the parking capacity issues despite federal attention in the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act.

A recent truck parking story on managed to fire up all cylinders regarding truck parking. Although the journalist did cover many of the major talking points regarding the issue, he let the people he interviewed highlight everything that is wrong with the situation. It was a good technique.

The story is about trucks parked along the shoulder of Interstate 287 in Mahwah, N.J., and how law enforcement and the city are getting fed up with it. As one would imagine, truckers told a completely different story.

Mahwah Chief of Police James Batelli complained about wasting resources on a revolving door of trucks parking on the shoulder. Batelli blamed the state, but not in terms of parking. Rather, he wished the state would do more engineering studies to make shoulders less dangerous, completely missing the point.

When reached out to the New Jersey Department of Transportation, the agency noted that they have not heard from Mahwah officials. This lack of communication is something I reported on when covering North Bend’s parking issue in Washington State. NJDOT then stated there are several private rest stops throughout the state and that it is illegal to stop on the shoulder. Again, the point flies right by.

And check out this excerpt from the article:

“Mahwah Mayor Bill Laforet argues that truckers choose the 287 shoulder for ease, instead of taking the time to get on and off Route 17.”

Yeah, he totally accuses truckers of being lazy rather than acknowledging a potential issue with a lack of parking, thus missing the point. In his defense, Laforet did mention truckers need a place to park but the price of real estate makes that difficult.

Meanwhile, a trucker interviewed by pointed out the problem with hours of service and running out of time to find a legal spot. The South Dakota driver took it a step further and mentioned if you don’t arrive at a truck stop by 1 or 2 p.m. in New York or New Jersey, good luck finding a spot.

In other words, truckers don’t want to park along the shoulder as much as law enforcement or the mayor think they do, but they have no option. That is the point.

The Jason’s Law truck parking survey supports this point. New Jersey ranked at the very top of the list of states with parking shortages. An Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association member who lives in Mahwah and wished to remain anonymous confirmed this. He told Land Line that there is virtually no parking in the area. He mentioned that the two truck stops in town have very few parking spaces.

The silver lining: In a follow-up article, the mayor of Mahwah seemed to get the point. He had reached out to NJDOT and urged them to do something. A similar situation happened in North Bend, Wash., after communication had broken down between the city and state. NJDOT’s response: “…the department had nothing to add to their original statement that it is unlawful to stop on a highway unless for an emergency.”

This was in NJDOT’s original statement: “It's important to remember that it is unlawful to stop on the shoulders of state highways except for emergencies, which makes this a law enforcement issue.”

At least everyone else got the point.