Truckers rally against Warner Robins parking restrictions

chwright@macon.comFebruary 22, 2013 

WARNER ROBINS -- Ron Grenon, an independent trucker based in Boston, said he’s joining a boycott of Warner Robins unless officials remove a ban on long-term parking in city lots.

“I’m not going there, or (I will) tell the customer, ‘It’s going to cost you extra for the inconvenience of trying to find parking,’ ” Grenon said. “And you can thank your City Council.”

Truckers nationwide have thrown their weight against the new Warner Robins ordinance council passed this week, banning trucks from parking in lots for more than two hours without permission from the owner. The truckers are asking city officials to rethink the ban. Councilmen say they want to be clear they’re not against truckers.

“We are a military city,” said Councilman Mike Daley. “We have a logistics center here on (Robins Air Force Base). We’re pro-transportation. We’re pro-trucking.”

Still, the story of Warner Robins’ Tuesday vote has drawn national criticism. Grenon said word has spread throughout the trucking community, and some truckers have pledged to stay away -- though he couldn’t say how many.

Councilman Mike Brashear said he has received 75 e-mails from as far as Wisconsin. Mayor Chuck Shaheen said he’s gotten 25. Truckers have even mistakenly called the Robins Regional Chamber of Commerce about the issue.

Norita Taylor, spokeswoman for the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, said 6,500 of the organization’s 150,000 membership reside in Georgia. The organization put out a notice to its members about Warner Robins’ ordinance.

“There has been situations where people speak up and point out the other side and are successful in persuading municipalities to revise (local laws), but sometimes they are not successful,” Taylor said. She did not know of an official boycott of Warner Robins.

Cushioned in the middle of the state with several large industrial companies, such as Frito-Lay and Perdue Farms in Perry, and the state’s largest Air Force base, truckers are constantly in and out. Sometimes, they opt to take their federally mandated 10-hour rest at local parking lots where other trucks have gathered.

Shaheen said he wasn’t aware the parking was a problem until council members began working on an ordinance.

Daley and Brashear said a parking lot on Ga. 96, where a former Winn-Dixie sits, had become a nuisance that attracted “inappropriate activities.” The city marshal brought it to their attention.

“We did not have the ability to do something about it because we didn’t have anything to regulate that,” Daley said.

Some business owners in the shopping center said they haven’t noticed any activities. Others declined to comment.

“They say there’s prostitution,” said Trish Lower, of Quick Stop Computers. “I’ve never seen anything like that.”

Lower said the ordinance “is foolish.” The truckers bothered no one and helped the businesses in the area, including taking their computers in for an overnight service at her business.

The only problem she’s seen is trash, Lower said.

“But that may not be the truckers,” she said. “There are homeless people” and others who pass through the lot.

Call for compromise

Truckers have said they understand a few bad apples may cause trouble, but a blanket ban isn’t the answer.

Grenon said the city should have tried to compromise before passing the ordinance and suggesting truckers park at the one truck stop in the city, Pilot Travel Center at Interstate 75 and the Ga. 247 Connector/Watson Boulevard.

“I can see them having some rules, but that two-hour thing doesn’t really help because the law says you have to be off the road for 10 hours (consecutively),” he said.

Council members said at Tuesday’s meeting they would reach out to truckers.

To the suggestion of guidelines, Brashear said that can’t happen because the city can’t post signs on private property.

Shaheen responded to an e-mail from Grenon on Friday, stating he didn’t support the ordinance and thinks “we could have come up with a compromise.”

Wendy Parker, a truck industry blogger who is originally from Warner Robins, used her entry this week to ask city officials and truckers to work together, so both parties win. She said trucking associations, businesses and cities manage safe, clean lots in other places. She said her hometown can do it too.

She now lives in Ohio and recently drove through the city with her trucker husband.

“The truckers need the cities as much as the cities need the truckers,” she said. “We have to find a relationship that everyone can be comfortable with.”

Shaheen said he responded to Grenon’s and a few other e-mails because he was being blamed for the ordinance, and truckers had threatened to stay away from Warner Robins.

“We’ve created a bigger problem than we had,” Shaheen said. “We need to come up with a solution to this. They (council) should have come up with a solution before we created another problem.”

Shaheen e-mailed some truckers Friday afternoon asking when they would be free to talk about a resolution.

Brashear said council is looking at solutions for the truckers who park along Ga. 247 waiting to enter the base. A possibility is designating a plot of land, though Daley said the city is not in the truck stop business.

“If someone could bring us a reasonable compromise, we’d certainly be willing to entertain it,” Brashear said.

To contact writer Christina M. Wright, call 256-9685.

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