The murder of a truck driver, and his family's dedication to the job he loved so much, is driving legislation through Congress to improve safe parking for truckers. Nicknamed "Jason's Law," House bill H.R. 2156 and Senate bill S. 971 aim to create a pilot program to increase truck parking facilities.
On the night of March 5, 2009, truck driver Jason Rivenburg was traveling through South Carolina on his way to deliver a load of milk. Just 12 miles from his final destination, Rivenburg pulled his Vanderveen Trucking tractor-trailer off the road into the only place available at the time, an abandoned gas station in Fultonham, for a little rest before making his early morning delivery, according to his family.
That's when tragedy struck. Rivenburg was shot twice during a robbery attempt. He didn't survive. Police have charged two men with the murder. According to the Daily Gazette in Schenectady, NY, Rivenburg was killed around 10:30 p.m. Thursday night, but his body was not found until Saturday, the day his family expected him home in Scholarie County, NY. The 35-year-old left behind a wife, Hope, a two-year-old son, Joshua, and twins, Logan and Hezekiah, who were born shortly after his death.
"Jason always said not to say ‘I can't; you do not know unless you try,'" reads a statement posted on the family's website. "We are trying; it is too late for Jason, but hopefully we can save another family from going through this horrible, senseless act. Please keep passing the word on about ‘Jason's Law' and doing whatever you can to help get this legislation passed to protect all of the truckers out there."
Rep. Paul Tonko (D-NY), in introducing the bill to the House, told the story of Jason Rivenburg. "There are few resources telling truck drivers, who are often unfamiliar with a local area, where a safe place to rest might be. Moreover, there are few safe places to rest in the first place," he said. "Mr. Speaker, we must do more to support these incredibly important men and women. Moving our freight and goods is essential to keeping this country and our economy progressing. We must ensure that as we demand mandatory stops and on-time delivery, that we provide adequate support systems for our Nation's truck drivers. Mr. Speaker, I ask that my colleagues support the life and memory of a truly hardworking American man and support Jason's Law."
The bills have been sent to committees for debate, but the American Trucking Assn. (ATA) is not waiting.
"ATA supports this critical legislation and urges quick action in Congress," said Gov. Bill Graves, ATA president & CEO. "The parking shortage for commercial motor vehicles comprises the safety of drivers out on the road and requires a comprehensive solution involving all interested parties."
The bills will allow the Secretary of Transportation along with state, regional and local governments, to direct funds to improve rest areas along the National Highway System, ATA said. According to the trucking organization, the money would allow construction of rest areas that include parking for commercial vehicles; opening existing facilities to commercial vehicles, including inspection and weigh stations; promote the availability of appropriate rest areas; and provide money for capital improvements to facilities currently closed on a seasonal basis.
The bills come at a time when many states are considering closing rest stops to save money. Virginia is considering closing 25 of 41 rest areas in the state and several other states have similar proposals.
"Jason's family and friends are asking for your help to bring attention to the dangers our nation's truck drivers face to our legislators," the family also said. "Perhaps if truckstops were required to provide adequate lighting, cameras and if delivery sites provided secure waiting areas, crimes of this nature could be prevented."
If you're interested in helping get this bill passed, there is a link on the family's web site where you can sign a petition to deliver to Congress.