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Trucker's widow wins support in push for more safe rest areas

November 11, 2011 | 12:22 pm

TrafficA truck driver’s killing has led to proposed federal legislation aimed at providing more safe rest areas for truckers.

A transportation bill headed to the Senate floor includes Jason’s Law, named after New York truck driver Jason Rivenburg, 35, who was killed in 2009 by a robber after he pulled his rig into an abandoned South Carolina gas station used by truckers as a rest stop. The robber got only $7, and Rivenburg left behind a son, then 23 months old, and a wife, then pregnant with twins.

Within days after her husband’s funeral, Rivenburg’s widow, Hope, met with her congressman, Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.). They then joined with trucking industry groups and others to mount a lobbying effort to make safe truck-parking facilities a national priority.

She and other family members have traveled to Capitol Hill, visiting lawmakers’ offices, and have used Facebook and Twitter to rally the public to call their representatives.

They scored a victory this week when the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee passed, with rare unanimity in a hyper-partisan Congress, a must-pass transportation bill that includes a provision to make the building of safe truck-parking facilities eligible for more federal funding.

In an interview, Hope Rivenburg called the committee action "very exciting," adding: "It is so nice to see that our representatives in D.C. do listen and care."

"We’ve worked on this for almost two and a half years," she said, expressing hope that the legislation will make it all the way through Congress. Similar legislation has been introduced in the House by members of both parties.

The American Trucking Assn. has called funding for safer truck parking more critical as states consider closing rest stops because of budget cuts.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) called attention to the provision during the committee meeting this week, saying it would ensure that "when truck drivers need a place to stop, there’s a safe place."

"We cannot continue to ask our long haul truckers to get a proper amount of rest during their workday under the guise of safety, without providing them a safe, accessible place to pull off the road," Tonko said in introducing the legislation.

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-- Richard Simon in Washington, D.C.

Photo: Traffic on the 15 Freeway in California. With states considering closure of rest areas, trucking groups say funding for safe truck parking areas has become more critical. Credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times 

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