It’s illegal to park tractor-trailers in the public right-of-way in Pierce County, according to the county code.
Some people say it’s happening anyway and that their reports aren’t being heard.
“Our road is inundated with semi trucks that make the area unsightly, unsafe to walk around, and difficult to see traffic coming and going onto the road way,” wrote Rachel Neville in an email to Pierce County Councilman Dan Roach in October.
Neville says tractor-trailers park near her South Hill home along 128th Street between Meridian and Military Road, affecting sight distance and making it dangerous to pull out of her neighborhood.
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The tractor trailers also affect safety of pedestrians and bicyclists by blocking shoulder use.
“My neighbors and I have contact(ed) the Sheriff’s office multiple times over the past few months,” Neville continued, “and the request seems to be ignored and never handled. The semi parking is only getting worse and word is getting out that drivers can park along this road with no enforcement.”
Deputy Ron Carter is the Sheriff’s Department’s only commercial vehicle enforcement officer and said that the department is doing the best it can to enforce the ordinance.
“It’s not that the ordinance isn’t being enforced and tickets aren’t being written,” he said.
The problem, Carter said, is that most drivers aren’t aware of the law, especially if they’re traveling out of state and just passing through the area.
“They might not be in touch with local politics,” he said.
County engineer Brian Stacy said most of the drivers likely live close by and don’t have anywhere else to park.
An ordinance passed by Pierce County Council in 2014 prohibited semitrailers, tractor trailers, truck tractors, box trucks or commercial vehicles weighing 16,001 pounds or more to park within the public right-of-way or residential area between the hours of 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.
The time restrictions made it difficult for Carter, who only works during the day, to enforce the ordinance. That left reports to go to patrol officers, who might have other pressing matters to respond to.
“They have a lot on their plate,” Carter said.
The council returned to beef up the law in November as complaints increased.
“We were trying to do a soft approach, and it didn’t seem to work,” said Councilman Jim McCune, District 3.
Council amended code 10.24.035 to prohibit tractor trailers from parking in a public right-of-way or residential area for more than two hours at any time of day. Exceptions are made for drivers who are actively loading or unloading cargo.
Violations result in a $100 fine for the first offense and $200 for each additional offense.
Council also added code 10.24.045 to prohibit parking of detached semitrailers in the same areas. Three or more violations of the code and the trailers might be subjected to immediate impounding — an action the county couldn’t so easily take before.
Stacy said it’s unlikely there will be enough manpower to improve enforcement but hopes the new ordinance encourages abusers of the code to park somewhere different.
The changes will go into effect on Jan. 1.
Neighbors: Give parking tickets
Neville insists the changes won’t help if they’re not enforced.
“It seems odd to me that the council would pass an ordinance to address such a problem, yet refuse to enforce it even when the community members are bringing it to their attention that it is a problem,” she said.
Neville reached out to the Sheriff’s Department on several occasions and said she was told the law was difficult to enforce. She contacted Councilman Dan Roach’s office for help in October and was told in an email that council members “hear this explanation on quite a few of our inquiries” and that “it is very frustrating for our members to pass the legislation and not have it enforced.”
Neville was told the county would look into the situation but said she never heard back.
The same happened to South Hill resident Tracie Esher, a neighbor of Neville’s.
After the issue was brought up by residents at a homeowners association meeting, Esher offered to file a report to the county, calling the traffic division and sending an email to Councilwoman Pam Roach on Oct. 23 that received no response. A follow-up email sent on Nov. 9 also went unanswered.
“I see the semi’s most often in the early morning when I leave for work (6:00am) and later in the evening,” Esher said in an email to The Herald. “I believe that the drivers live close enough to walk from their truck home, but do not have space to park them where they live. It’s unfortunate, but as a citizen, I should not have to look at these semi’s parked all along the ROW when it is against the law to do so.”
In June, three people spoke at a Puyallup City Council meeting about tractor trailers parking near their homes on Todd Road, which is on the boundary of Puyallup and Edgewood. Residents said they see up to nine trucks parked there any given night.
“We now need to have the officers do their jobs and start writing the tickets that you would expect to get if you’re going to park in a no parking area,” one resident said. “Tickets need to be written, semis need to be told ‘no parking, be on your way.’”
Residents are encouraged to call their Council members about adding signs in problem areas. Esher said she reached out about that, but received no response.
Esher hopes the new rules will do something to help come 2019.
“Something needs to be done about this,” she said.