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A former New York Department of Transportation (DOT) Motor Carrier Investigator and Federal Level Three Commercial Truck Inspector is "astonished to hear stories of how local law enforcement officers routinely wake up interstate drivers who are engaged in Federally-mandated rest under the Hours of Service (HOS) section."
James P. Lamb, Chairman of the Small Business in Transportation Coalition (SBTC) [smalltransportation.org] is calling on law enforcement agencies to practice community oriented policing, and calling for "rogue law enforcement officers" who willingly violate people's rights to be "held accountable for such violations as matters of law and justice."
Lamb and his SBTC organization held a meeting with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Adninistration (FHWA) in Washington, D.C. on Thursday, August 14th to discuss "a role for FMCSA with respect to Jason's Law (Sec. 1401 of the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act "MAP-21") and the Safe Truck Parking issue." SBTC presented a policy letter to representatives on "issues that affect transportation professionals in small business," noting "We seek to promote and protect the interests of small businesses in the transportation industry."
Jason's Law was passed by Congress and named after truck driver Jason Rivenburg, who was murdered during a robbery while sleeping in his commercial truck at an abandoned gas station in South Carolina, because of the truck parking shortage. His widow Hope Rivenburg tirelesly lobbied Congress for years to get the law passed. It was finally approved by both houses of Congress in June 2012, and provides funding to states to establish infrastructure and facilities for much-needed commercial truck parking nationwide. Few states have complied with the mandate, however, leaving the truck-parking shortage problem unresolved.
SBTC had sought the meeting with the FMCSA and FHSA "in the interest of stimulating our discussions on this issue and formalizing an industry-government partnership in this and other areas grounded in identifying, solving and reconciling industry and public safety problems." Askthetrucker.com reported that the "SBTC called for Industry-Government Partnerships to identify, solve and reconcile industry and public safety problems and the creation of a Special Dual-Agency Safe Truck Parking Task Force."
On July 22, 2014, SBTC Chairman Lamb issued a document titled "Respecting the Sanctity of Sleep- Introducing the "COMMUNITY-ORIENTED" APPROACH, decrying the fact that truck drivers are being woken up by law enforcement officers out of their ten hour mandated sleep time with no legal cause. "In most instances, this practice essentially amounts to an unlawful vehicle stop and constitutes unwarranted harassment in violation of the trucker's civil and due process rights," Lamb said.
Lamb was featured along with Martin Hill and Kenny Capell of DontWakeMeUp.org on the "Truth About Trucking Live" Radio show with Allen & Donna Smith on August 7, 2014 to discuss these issues. The program can be heard and downloaded here or in the player below. [Their facebook post on the episode is here.]
Grave injuries to Saturday Night Live comedian Tracy Morgan brought the issue of fatigued truck drvers into the limelight earlier this year after a limo Morgan was riding in was struck by a Wal-Mart big rig, killing fellow comedian Jimmy McNair and seriously injured several others as well. Morgan is reportedly having a very difficult time recovering and has filed a federal lawsuit against Wal-Mart and the truck driver, who has been criminally charged with "vehicular homicide and four counts of assault by auto." Forbes recently reported that Wal-Mart investors have plenty to worry about regarding the suit, in addition to their sinking profits.
Kenny Capell of TN faces a criminal "obstruction of justice" charge in Georgia for refusing to show his ID to officer Leigh A. Parsons, (Badge #7554) who woke him up out of the sleeper berth for no reason. His trial is scheduled for October 11. In the SBTC document, Lamb explained, "Sometimes, it's not so toned down and there are downright verbal confrontations- and in certain instances, the trucker even gets arrested for "obstruction of justice" if he protests the timing of the enforcement action. That's "justice" you ask? Well, not really." [Update: After stalling for a year, the Georgia prosecutor dismissed the charges against trucker Kenny Cappell. Also see the front page of DontWakeMeUp.org for details.]
Commercial drivers who are disturbed unlawfully without cause can file a SLEEP INTERFERENCE COMPLAINT with the SBTC here.
Lamb's document "Respecting the Sanctity of Sleep stated, in part:
"As a former New York Department of Transportation (DOT) Motor Carrier Investigator who used to perform Federal Level Three Driver Inspections throughout New York State, I am astonished to hear stories of how local law enforcement officers routinely wake up interstate drivers who are engaged in Federally-mandated rest under the Hours of Service (HOS) section of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs) and demand identification for no legitimate reason and under color of law. In most instances, this practice essentially amounts to an unlawful vehicle stop and constitutes unwarranted harassment in violation of the trucker's civil and due process rights.
During my years in state government DOT service, I would have never even thought to wake a driver up merely to conduct a DOT inspection. Our normal operating procedure was to stop vehicles already in motion at a weight station in the normal course of state government business and deal with them one-by-one as they rolled in. Waking drivers up was not something we were ever trained to do and it appears such a practice is being engaged in by rogue law enforcement officers in an arbitrary and capricious manner, constituting an abuse of power.
Recently, thanks to veteran professional driver & trucker advocate Allen Smith (and his partner-in-time wife Donna) of Truth About Trucking, this issue has been getting special attention in the context of the more broad issues being discussed by members of the Industry such as: safe truck parking, driver pay, HOS, driver harassment, and E-logging proposals. Indeed, drivers are quick to point out the sheer hypocrisy of a police officer waking a driver up in the middle of their sleep period to perform such a DOT inspection to determine if the driver is in compliance with HOS.
Imagine, if you will, how that conversation must go:
Officer: "OK, boy, rise and shine- time for a DOT Inspection."
Sometimes, it's not so toned down and there are downright verbal confrontations- and in certain instances, the trucker even gets arrested for "obstruction of justice" if he protests the timing of the enforcement action. That's "justice" you ask? Well, not really. But usually either the courts or the more reasonable administrators of police agencies have a way of sorting things out and setting things right- but only after much unnecessary stress and frustration that could have been easily avoided with a little common sense and, well, courtesy. It's an understatement to say addressing this issue is a long time coming.
.....As the Chairman of the new Small Business in Transportation Coalition (SBTC), I am therefore calling on law enforcement agencies and law enforcement management groups throughout the United States to institute sensitivity training when it comes to taking enforcement action that unnecessarily and unreasonably interferes with CMV drivers' sleep. Just like the "texting can wait" campaigns we see currently in progress in some states like New York these days, SBTC suggests that "enforcement can wait". That driver's log book will still be there when he or she wakes up.
We are also asking law enforcement benevolent organizations to embrace this call for deference to the need to sleep as a matter of promoting public safety and mitigating officer liability. If that driver gets awoken, stressed out over a ticket, and then can't fall back to sleep as a result then the police agency and the officer could be held liable for a resulting accident later that day if it can be proven that the driver fatigue was actually caused by the enforcement action!
We therefore ask organizations that look out for the welfare of officers to similarly put out the call for officers to respect the sanctity of sleep for the operators of long haul, over the road truck drivers. What's more, we think respect for driver sleep should be formally codified in law, rules, and police departmental policies to ensure rogue officers who knowingly and willfully violate the sanctity of sleep are held accountable for such violations as matters of law and justice.
SBTC is currently working with FMCSA in the spirit of industry-government partnership to identify and solve industry problems and their underlying causes. Safe parking is at the top of our list. How can truckers help? By taking individual responsibility in the form of how they conduct themselves in public and how they interact with fellow drivers and members of the communities they are guests in. Only through driver accountability are we to successfully convince shippers and receivers to assume a role in driver safety.
Martin Hill is a Catholic paleoconservative and civil rights advocate. His work has been featured in the Los Angeles Daily News, San Gabriel Valley Tribune, The Orange County Register, KNBC4 TV Los Angeles, The Press Enterprise, LewRockwell.com, WhatReallyHappened.com, Infowars.com, PrisonPlanet.com, Economic Policy Journal, FreedomsPhoenix, Haaretz, TMZ, Veterans Today, Jonathan Turley blog, The Dr. Katherine Albrecht Show, National Motorists Association, AmericanFreePress.net, RomanCatholicReport.com, WorldNetDaily, OverdriveOnline.com, Educate-Yourself.org, TexeMarrs.com, Dr. Kevin Barrett's Truth Jihad radio show, Strike-The-Root.com, Pasadena Weekly, ActivistPost.com, Los Angeles Catholic Lay Mission Newspaper, KFI AM 640, IamtheWitness.com, Redlands Daily Facts, BlackBoxVoting, The Michael Badnarik Show, The Wayne Madsen Report, Devvy.com, Rense.com, The Contra Costa Times, Pasadena Star News, Silicon Valley Mercury News, Long Beach Press Telegram, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin, L.A. Harbor Daily Breeze, CopBlock.org, DavidIcke.com, Whittier Daily News, KCLA FM Hollywood, The Fullerton Observer, Antiwar.com, From The Trenches World Report, and many others. Archives can be found at LibertyFight.com and DontWakeMeUp.Org.
Motorist puts police in their place at suspicionless internal checkpoint December 2, 2012
[Must see video- Featured on PrisonPlanet.com].
Cop at Suspicionless Checkpoint Starts Barking Orders, But Then Flees from Camera [Featured on LewRockwell.com.]